Rant: Jive 8

(antiGUY) Forget Africa, I'm dirt poor and ran up my credit card debt, why don't we hold a concert so that people will pressure my credit card companies to forgive the money I owe them? Think it will work? I don't either but that's the basic premise of Live 8.

"We don't want your money, we want you!" Sounds good but it's kind of counter productive. They should have gone for the money because at the end of the day if Live 8 succeeds, the people will be stuck paying for it anyway. Don't get me wrong, what's going on in Africa is nothing short of tragic and they need all the help they can get but staging a global concert with the aim of putting pressure on the leaders of the free world to help is on the far side of na´ve. Bono does far more on his own with his activism and by meeting with world leaders and discussing the issue and he doesn't need a media event to help him in that goal.

If these celebs really care about third-world poverty, I have a better solution than getting free PR from a "benefit" concert that when you look at it benefits the stars and the media companies that broadcast it more than the people they are trying to help. I propose that all of these rock stars, actors etc that care so deeply about this issue set aside 20% of their income to help pay off third-world debt. It wouldn't solve the problem but it would be far more effective than espousing platitudes at Live 8.

Instead of throwing good money after bad, why aren't these rock stars pressuring world leaders to solve one of the core roots of the problem? Corrupt governments. As the "Oil for Food" scam showed us, giving money to despots doesn't really help the poor.

And how much did Viacom donate to debt relief? They showed enough commercials during their 8 hour coverage of Live 8; surely most of the money for those advertisements is going toward relieving third-world debt. I mean, they wouldn't want to profit off of this benefit event would they? Making money on the backs of the poor? They care about the message so much that they decided that instead of offering a commercial free broadcast to highlight an issue near and dear to their hearts, they decided to show a lot of commercials and use the money earned to pay off third-world debt. Yes and Guns N Roses is releasing "Chinese Democracy" next week.

While we are at it, Viacom should be barred from ever broadcasting an event like this again. Their coverage was atrocious. Instead of allowing the viewers to watch the performances we were instead deluged with silly "segment" pieces and banal banter from VJs. One genius VJ told viewers how they needed to get "educated" then proceeded to introduce a clip by Sir Elton John, except the footage jumped to the Dave Matthews Band. I know this is a symptom of the short attention span problem at MTV. Far be it from them to show a full 3 minute video without putting crap audience segments in, but to broadcast a full 3 song performance from a band during an "awareness" concert, that won't fly. The band's might as well have just shown up at MTV's studios and did interviews to talk about the problem instead of playing. Sir Bob, next time why don't you do a Pay Per View and earn some money directly for the cause and let people watch the damn performances?

But the silliness of this event goes beyond that. Yes it was a noble goal, but let's get serious here for a minute. Did we really learn anything new from this event about the plight of the third-world? I think the only thing I learned was that Billie Joe Armstrong is no match for Freddie Mercury. Try as he might.

Live 8 was a nice distraction from the missing girl in Aruba but come the next morning most people will have moved on. The world leaders are going to do what they are going to do. In fact, they already were, long before this media event.

In 2001 the Bush administration began pressuring international financial institutions to provide more "grants" (eg free money) than loans. Today, grants are up to a 45% ratio against loans. The United States and Great Britain have also jointly launched a $40 billion debt relief program through the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and African Development Bank. *

Bono does deserve some credit for making the leaders of the free world take a serious look at this problem. But that came from meeting with the leaders, not from playing "Sgt Pepper" with Sir Paul McCartney. Live 8 was great for music fans (if they didn't try and watch the performances on MTV or VH1) but it's doubtful it will have any real impact on third-world debt relief. I again say that these celebs that care deeply about this issue should step off the soapbox and pledge some of their own money to the problem. Sure it won't solve the problem, but a couple million bucks from Madonna's bank account will feed a lot more people than her performance at Live 8 did.

*Weekly Standard "Pro Bono" by Fred Barnes - June 27, 2005