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The Day the Music Failed

Justin Schlosberg | 04.01.2006 19:20 | G8 2005 | Analysis | London | World

A reflection on 6 months after the Live 8 concerts, the broken G8 promises and the silence of the campaign leaders.

When Bob Geldof proudly announced ‘Mission Accomplished’ at the end of the G8 summit 2005, he inscribed in history the pointlessness of his entire Live8 campaign and made the musicians that took part look like puppets dancing on the strings of the gathering world rulers. Six months on and even the meager promises that were made have begun to falter, the rhetoric has been downgraded, the media interest has faded, and another WTO round has ended in barely any compromise from those who hold the purse strings. In Europe and America, our crippling subsidies and tariffs continue unabated whilst our governments preach the miracle of Free Trade to those who can’t afford it. Just as our carbon emissions spew out unchecked, with Tony now faithfully echoing George’s promise that technology will solve everything. Are we all strapped in?

Whether or not you believe music can be a vehicle for social justice, with Live8 it certainly became a giant PR stunt – inadvertently protecting the very policies and principles it was pretending to fight against, sold as a mass Government brand aid. Come to think of it, Geldof wasn’t the first. New Labour has long sought to use naughty little rock stars as their public mascots. When Oasis and the rest of 1997’s Britpop heroes wined and dined at no.10 like true rock n roll rebels, no amount of cocaine sniffing in the bathroom could hide the fact they had just been crowned pawns. Poor Bono wasn’t invited that time: his Irish passport excluded him from the ‘Cool Britania’ brigade. But he got his turn at the 2004 Labour Party Conference where he assured us that Blair and Brown were the John and Paul of Global Development and that it was his job as Rock Star to ‘shout at the barricades!’. In other words his job was definitely not to aid New Labour’s desperately needed image repair in the ever-worsening aftermath of the Gulf War.

But never has popular music been so fruitlessly exploited to feed the egos of the rich, powerful and famous as it was at last year’s Live8. The world’s poor looked on as the stars and ‘Gold’ pass-holders feasted backstage on enough food and drink to fatten a starving village. If its predecessor LiveAid was the day the music changed the world, this was the day it rocked on and off for a few hours, and then shamed the world. The ’10 out of 10’ mark for Debt and Aid that Geldof so proudly gave his G8 mates now stands against Save the Children’s ‘2 out of 10’ appraisal of their delivery. The headline-grabbing ‘50 billion’ turned out to be a double count. The complete debt cancellation for Africa has only been granted to 18 of the 60 countries that actually need it, according to organizers of the Make Poverty History campaign. Perhaps worst of all, damaging economic small print was not removed from the aid and debt packages – something that makes all this sound like another Free Trade grab rather than anything fair, least of all charitable.

Ok so maybe Bob didn’t know he was being duped. Maybe he was ‘misled’ just like all those poor innocent Tory MP’s in the run up to the Gulf War. But before he patted Tony on the back and fell victim to New Labour’s latest web of spin, perhaps he should have listened to the response of organizations on the ground like Action Aid. As the conference closed, they already knew that the g8 was a failure to deliver on reducing world poverty in any significance measure. And perhaps he would have done well to speak out himself against the broken promises, instead of going so uncharacteristically quiet whilst the reality unfolded, only to come out of the woodwork sporting a true blue grin and shaking hands with the new Tory Leader, David Cameron. So it looks like ‘the day that rocked the world’ hasn’t changed much. Celebrities are still trying to help the poor and New Labour is still working on its public image. The lesson is that it takes more than swearing in public to be rock n roll and it takes more than rock n roll to make poverty history. Perhaps Bob and Bono should stick to what they do best – raising money – and leave the awareness stuff to people who aren’t afraid to offend their powerful friends.

Justin Schlosberg
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Rating the hippy millionaire politicos

06.01.2006 23:50

The politics were bogus -- a complete sham, intended to deflect attention from the real protests going on in Scotland. But getting Pink Floyd back together was a pretty big deal. On pop music -- 10 out of 10. On politics -- 1 out of 10.

Chairman Meow