Easterly: The 'Sad' Evolution of Celebrity Activism

    John Lennon and Bono. Photo by: David Zack and xrayspx

    John Lennon and U2’s Bono are both musicians-turned-activists. But economist William Easterly says there is a “fundamental” difference between Lennon’s activism and Bono’s.

    Such a disparity “underscores the sad evolution of celebrity activism in recent years,” Easterly writes in The Washington Post. “Lennon was a rebel. Bono is not.”

    Lennon challenged political leaders as he campaigned against the U.S. war in Vietnam, while Bono embraces power, according to Easterly.

    “Bono, by contrast, has become a sort of celebrity policy expert, supporting specific technical solutions to global poverty. He does not challenge power but rather embraces it; he is more likely to appear in photo ops with international political leaders - or to travel through Africa with a Treasury secretary - than he is to call them out in a meaningful way,” Easterly writes in The Washington Post.

    He adds: “While Bono calls global poverty a moral wrong, he does not identify the wrongdoers. Instead, he buys into technocratic illusions about the issue without paying attention to who has power and who lacks it, who oppresses and who is oppressed. He runs with the crowd that believes ending poverty is a matter of technical expertise - doing things such as expanding food yields with nitrogen-fixing leguminous plants or solar-powered drip irrigation.”

    About the author

    • Ma. Rizza Leonzon

      As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.