Live 8 and Protests

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  • by Anup Shah
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The global Live 8 concerts were attended by around a million people in total, with many, many more — hundreds of millions, watching Live 8 on television (though certainly many would have attended or watched just to see the big stars).

At the same time, over 200,000 protestors formed a human chain in Edinburgh to protest G8 policies and further pressure for meaningful debt-relief.

As successful and important as the Live 8 concerts were, there have been some criticisms of Bob Geldof and the Live 8 event, with themes including the following:

  • Geldof and Bono have presented Bush and Blair as saviours, seemingly ignoring G8’s role in Africa’s poverty and debt;
  • The Live 8 concert has been criticized for not having African musicians;
  • Geldof told artists not to criticize Bush and Blair on Iraq;

On this page:

  1. Presenting G8 Leaders as Saviors, Not Mentioning Their Role In Poverty and Debt
  2. Live 8 Not Having Enough African Musicians
  3. Geldof tells artists not to criticize Bush and Blair
  4. Geldof’s Gamble May Yet Work

Presenting G8 Leaders as Saviors, Not Mentioning Their Role In Poverty and Debt

It has not gone without notice, that Geldof and Bono seem to be courting the G8 leaders (Bush and Blair in particular) to such an extent that it seems the valid criticism that they and others have had of these leaders about contributing to world poverty had suddenly vanished, just in time for heavy media coverage.

In fact, combined with the mainstream press reporting, the debt relief, aid and other proposals have been spun into treating these leaders as saviors, when, as George Monbiot puts it, Far from challenging the G8’s role in Africa’s poverty, Geldof and Bono are giving legitimacy to those responsible.

This point is something hardly touched upon by the mainstream and Monbiot describes it much better than I could: that while they have done immense work to get these issues out to the public and have helped raise millions in aid they seem to have ignored the details of the debt relief such as the types of conditions that have contributed to this poverty in the past, and that in doing so, are giving the G8 leaders a cleaner image than they otherwise deserve. As Monbiot ends his above-mentioned article, Geldof and Bono’s campaign for philanthropy portrays the enemies of the poor as their saviours. The good these two remarkable men have done is in danger of being outweighed by the harm.

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Live 8 Not Having Enough African Musicians

Some have commented how the Live 8 concert line-ups initially did not include any African musicians and groups (and many are quite political and popular in Africa). Only as an after-thought and after much criticism were a few African groups in the list, alongside mega-stars. It has been this type of attitude (even if it was a genuine oversight) that can be quite offensive due to insensitivity.

Though many African singers appeared as background singers in the end, it was pressure from activist and minority groups that eventually resulted in a few token singers, though typically not on the main stages.

While much could be written on this, this commentary provides some useful thoughts: Bob, you really blew it, Louisa Young, The Guardian, July 3, 2005.

To be fair, it might have been the need to draw in large crowds that could have led organizers to concentrate on the big names, though it seems there could have been room for at least a few from other, diverse backgrounds to take center stage.

There are many, many African singers who are not only very popular in Africa, but very political. That could be one of the many reasons they weren’t there, as the next point discusses:

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Geldof tells artists not to criticize Bush and Blair

Geldof told artists not to criticize Bush or Blair about Iraq, the Telegraph reported.

This would be quite shocking to those campaigning for debt relief and poverty-reduction for years, who feel that Bush and Blair do deserve just criticism, and, while can be congratulated for taking important (but small) steps forward, should not be shown as saviours.

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Geldof’s Gamble May Yet Work

Bob Geldof has even gone as far as saying the G8 leaders are the real stars of the show. The real stars? The same leaders that he and others have criticized in the past of contributing and sustaining the poverty conditions? Perhaps there is method to this madness!

To be fair to Geldof, his approach, while drawing this criticism, may yet prove to be a good gamble: playing on Bush’s own words, it would seem Geldof wants Bush and the other G8 leaders with the rest of the world, rather than against.

It may work. People will hope it will work. For now, it seems that they indeed are moving forward. But, given both Bush and Blair (as well as some other G8 leaders) have recently been losing credibility with their populations, they too are using this as a public relations opportunity. Pop stars going head to head with seasoned politicians in a political game is also a risky bet!

These are not always just criticism for the sake of wanting to find fault with absolutely everything, as some have dismissed such criticism to be. Instead, some of these are important as it goes into the heart of how aspects of our lives are influenced, how societies are presented information and what makes people act or not act.

Also, despite these criticisms, these concerts were probably worth having. Maybe the public relations and spin will make most people think of the G8 leaders as saviors. Yet, at least there will be increased awareness, and perhaps this, combined with other recent events such as the Tsunami relief appeals, and the debates that have entered mainstream as a result, will help people follow up what their leaders say, and hold them to account. Perhaps the mainstream press will be pressured to do the same too.

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  • by Anup Shah
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