Cards on the table straight away: I'm a U2 fan, a veteran of several nights on the pavement queueing for concert tickets, and Bono is probably the closest I get to having a 'hero'. But I can't let the Telegraph's Shane Richmond get away with his anti-Bono diatribe today.
In case you missed it, Bono was the guest editor of the Independent today, in support of his (RED) project to 'raise awareness and money' about HIV/AIDS in Africa. I'm no fan of the Indy's website… in fact, I often use it as a worst-practice example. But at least they got some red into the stylesheet.
But Shane isn't pleased:
Doubtless there are people who will say that it is unfair to criticise because Bono and the Independent have used this opportunity to raise money for a noble cause. But the cause is irrelevent (sic). Journalists should not be selling products, even if a few pennies from the sale go to charity. … The Independent has crossed the line today. They are pushing their values and then going further and pushing specific products.
First of all… journalists do sell products, Shane. The sad truth is that journalism is about filling the space between the adverts. The newspaper business is about business first, news second. And nobody on the editorial side likes to admit that.
Pop stars 'editing' newspapers is, of course, not the done thing. Which is precisely why it's the right thing to do. Because the 'done things' just aren't working. As the Damien Hirst-designed cover proclaims, '6,500 Africans died today as a result of a preventable, treatable disease'. That's equivalent to two 9-11s, folks.
And Bono isn't stupid. He (rightly) predicts the criticism coming his way:
I am as sick of messianic rock stars as the next man, woman and child. I am also tired of average work being given extra weight because it's attached to something with real gravitas, like the Aids emergency. So I truly try to tread carefully as I walk over the dreams of dignity under my feet in our work for the terrible beauty that is the continent of Africa. I'm used to the custard pies. I've even learnt to like the taste of them.
RED is an attempt to work with the dominant force in UK and Western society – consumerism. If you can't beat it, join it. Quality products produced by reputable and reliable brands, with a clean conscience. 'If you're going to buy a cool new pair of sunglasses / a Gap t-shirt / a new mobile phone / a newspaper this morning, why not buy this one – and even better, you'll help the fight against AIDS.'
And fair play to the Independent. Since its launch, it has made a virtue of its political stance – and its continuing desire to be different. Can I see the Telegraph doing this? No, never, of course not. But that's precisely the point.