Bob Geldof is really interfering with my Christmas spirit. Against my better judgment, I clicked on a Rolling Stone interview with Geldof in which he responded to critics of the “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” lyrics saying, “Please, it’s a pop song. Relax…It’s not a doctoral thesis. They can fuck off.” He went on to say, “If it’s a pop song that can help ease the pain, the agony, if they can die with a little more dignity then, yeah, I’m there. It’s pretty simple.”
As I said on Twitter, Geldof is a walking contradiction that calls his integrity as an artist and an activist into question. He is a songwriter who thinks lyrics don’t matter and an activist that perceives ethics as optional. He contends that if his song helps ease pain and enhances dignity then that matter more than the lyrics. This, of course, completely misses the point that his lyrics cause pain and undermine dignity. His ethics as an activist are also awfully sketchy for someone with such a cavalier attitude (see my previous rant on his failure to work with local initiatives and the lack of clarity with Band Aid’s fundraising).
Luckily, there are many online and offline who are skeptical of Geldof and the rhetoric surrounding Ebola and humanitarian efforts has extended far beyond Band Aid. For instance, TIME Magazine recently announced “Ebola fighters” as its Person of the Year. It’s a large and somewhat vague category of people but one that thankfully does not appear to include Geldof. TIME has instead focused its attention appropriately on doctors, nurses, scientists, caregivers, and humanitarian aid workers, many of which are local to West Africa.
Despite the fact that reading about Geldof makes me feel awfully Grinch-like, it’s easier to move past it when a more sophisticated alternative narrative exists. Still, I don’t think I’m going to take his advice and just “relax”. I think I’ll continue being critical of willful ignorance instead.