The Corpus Callosum

Bono’s Welcome to the Punditocracy

Two things happened to the New York Times recently. For one, they announced that they will place advertisements on their front page. Two, they are publishing Opinion columns written by Bono.

I suspect the two are not unrelated. Which is another way of saying that I suspect the two are related, in this case, by economic necessity.

This brings to mind a minor memory, the telling of which may illustrate a point. I distinctly recall standing in line at a supermarket, while a random glance fell upon a copy of a new magazine: People. Within an instant, I had the thought, “how dumb, no one is going to want to read that.” That was in 1974.

I was wrong. According to Wikipedia: “As of 2006, it has a circulation of 3.75 million and revenue expected to top $1.5 billion.” Clearly, someone does want to read it, at least enough to pay money for it.

I did not even notice Bono’s column when it first came out. The column came to my attention via Dan Drezner’s hatchet job in FP:

The great Bono-as-columnist experiment has started at the New York Times.

And, I have to say, his debut column is a smashing success. In just his first effort, Bono has already managed to combine the worst tropes of Thomas Friedman and Maureen Dowd and fuse them together into some new alchemy of awfulness.

Bono’s debut effort is here.

Drezner challenges readers to explain the theme of Bono’s column, in 20 words or less. He then makes fun of the piece, as though there is no serious theme. Hmmm, he must not have tried very hard. Drezner is a professor of international politics. He knows what he needs to know in order to figure out what Bono was getting at.

Bono writes about being at a party and hearing the Sinatra song, My Way.

The new Irish money has been gambled and lost; the Celtic Tiger’s tail is between its legs as builders and bankers laugh uneasy and hard at the last year, and swallow uneasy and hard at the new. There’s a voice on the speakers that wakes everyone out of the moment: it’s Frank Sinatra singing “My Way.”

“My Way” is to pretend to create economic growth by gambling, while pretending that gambling is business. It fails miserably. Twenty words.

The irony is that Ireland tried to do things, not their way, but the American way. It has not worked; their economy is on the verge of collapse. They probably would have been better off if they had done it their way.

I have a lot of gripes about the NYT. Many pertain to the Op-Ed pages. But I would rather live in a world with the NYT, than a world without it. Bono’s column may not be serious journalism. But he does have a point, and he has a way to get people to pay attention. If he also helps sell newspapers, more power to him.


  1. #1 Sigmund
    January 12, 2009

    I thought Bono’s piece was fine. Nothing brilliant but certainly not terrible. If you visited the country within the past decade you’d realize that Ireland’s economic boom was a bubble waiting to pop. It was all built upon the notion of ever increasing housing prices. A much closer model would be an extreme version of the UK housing market price rises rather than simply copying a US model. I grew up in Ireland before emigrating during the 1980s and hated what this boom did to the culture of my old country. Every single time I returned the constant topic of conversation was always on property prices, buying second houses to let and the associated desperation of younger people who had missed out on a chance of buying a property due to the high prices and were now faced with exorbitant rents to pay the mortgage on some speculators second or third property. Even without the US inspired recession the bubble was going to burst sooner or later.
    Not that it affects Bono anyway.

  2. #2 Cannonball Jones
    January 12, 2009

    Bono as a columnist? The mind boggles. I can only imagines that it consists of him repeating the word “Bono!” over and over again, occasionally interspersed with photos of himself in various poses. Does his ego ever take a break long enough to allow creative output any more?

  3. #3 stumpy
    January 12, 2009

    Bono comes off as preening and pompous, but so what? I’d rather read Bono than neocon William Crystal, who took over as the token conservative at The Times when William Safire stopped writing op-ed. It’s like the contrast between Bill Clinton and George W.: Clinton lied, but nobody died. Bono is preening and pompous, but at least he didn’t help start an illegal war. And anyway, I don’t care what the NYT does to survive. We need the Fourth Estate, as healthy as it can be, or we won’t even have this sorry semblance of a democracy.

  4. #4 maggieO
    January 12, 2009

    i will continue to read the New York Times, but not because of Bono. Yes he is a legend in his own mind. i think the gist of the article was to impress us with the fact that he sang with Sinatra, and has one of his paintings. Woopie doo. Or perhaps he wanted us to believe that he is still one of us and stops by the local for a pint. Maybe no one invited him to a party.

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