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October 24, 2006


Hunter Beaumont

Oh snap, now you've done it...insulting Papa like that!

But you've got a point: There is something Americanly twisted about "supporting Africa" by making consumer purchases of stuff we don't need. Instead of spending $150 on a new iPod so we can send $10 to Africa, why not send $150 to Africa?

One question, though: how did you connect U2 to the "Red" line of products?


Is Bono a fraud or an effing genius? Is there a more surefire way to raise money for a good cause than banking on American materialism and shallow pride?

Kevin Cawley

H- I actually had you in mind when I made the title.

I connect U2 because their fraudrockercaptain is the force behind this project. Obviously, you don't need the (LAME) iPod because you already have the black U2 one.


There is more to Bono and Product Red than meets the eye. As Bono has repeatedly said, well before this latest effort (RED), Africa is not a cause, it is an emergency. 4,500 people dying daily due to preventable, poverty-related diseases. At least Bono is doing something about it...G8 Summit, studying his butt off with Jeffrey Sachs, personally donating millions of dollars, time and mobilizing the ONE movement. Closing with Bono, God and history will judge this generation for its response to Africa. We have the historic opportunity to make a difference, to save lives.

Kevin Cawley

donovan-- to answer your question...bono is a fraud and I am a freaking genius.

dodson-- you better buy the ipod and the watch...and the red motorola razr...

Paul Schafer

I am new to your blog. I don't get it. What's the connection again between U2, Bono, Ipods and Africa?

Kevin Cawley


Welcome to my blog. Sorry that your introduction came with my ranting, but I really do think this is ridiculous.

The connection with BONO is that this (RED) campaign is his brain child. You can read about it here.

The connection with U2 (besides the fact that I like to take opportunities to express how much I dislike the charade they call music) is that I find that most of the people who think things like this (RED) campaign are a great benefit to humanity also think 'How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb' was a great album and that Bono writes "deep" lyrics.

My .02 (1/356 of which I donate to recovering U2 fans)

Paul Schafer

Are you saying he is just a wolf in sheep's clothing?

Wes Crawford

There was a related piece posted at McSweeney's the other day called "Postcards from 'The Edge'":

Kevin Cawley

Paul-- ABSOLUTELY NOT! I have nothing against Bono or his motives or anything.

I was simply trying to highlight the irony of this campaign-- selling luxury items under the pretense of eradicating social injustice.


The outcomes of Bono's efforts may be controversial but the fact that he is a genius that understands how to devise strategies that align the incentives of otherwise strange bedfellows is non-negotiable.

Apple wins, Armani wins, GAP wins, Africa wins, and the consumers who would buy the stuff anyway and now can feel good about themselves win.

Though the Onion picked up on beautiful irony of the whole deal ...


The Onion must read your blog! What an honor!

I was at the Temple of Consumerism (Mall of America) the other day (which, incidentally, has a storefront church inside) and saw the Gap stuff and the red iPods and had similar thoughts to yours.

This is a surefire way to build consumer loyalty in certain markets. If only consumers weren't so stupid.


cawley....isn't 'rebel sell/nation of rebels' a cool book? i'm not sure i can *completely* follow all of it, but it's fun to see you've read it, too. do you keep up with the blog? andrew potter (coauthor) writes it...i can't say that it's always *strictly* on-topic, and sometimes he posts articles in french (crazy canuck), but it's good nonetheless.

and...ummm...i kinda like u2. oh musical tastes aren't as refined as yours. least...i *think* i like them; maybe i just think i *should* like them--just like radiohead.

M Taylor

Kevin, I can see some legitimacy to your criticism that it makes consumers feel like they care about social justice when all they really are doing is feeding materialism. But you've bought clothes before. You have bought a computer. What benefit were your purchases to anyone but the company you bought them from?

I don't know where you're at politically, but why would you criticise a plan that seeks to bring opportunity to Africa instead of only bringing handouts? I think Bono (and to a lesser degree these companies) are to be commended for actually doing something that attempts to bring economic opportunity to Africa and in the process relieve suffering.

Another important thing to recognize: many of the people who are buying these products would not otherwise be sending those funds to aid people in Africa. This is tapping into resources and actually doing some good with those resources that would otherwise only be lining the pockets of corporate America.

I just don't see the problem. Maybe if Axl Rose did it you'd like it more. ;-)

Kevin Cawley

Matthew-- thanks for your thoughtful comments. I appreciate that you "get the joke," so to speak, but have valid thought and criticism in response.

A few quick thoughts before I go to work, and I would love to hear your thoughts-- or anyone else's-- when I get back tonight.

1. The way you frame the statement, "a plan that seeks to bring opportunity to Africa instead of only bringing handouts" seems to suggest only two options-- at least in this situation: a) buying an ipod (which is to say, empowering people), or b) merely giving handouts. Is it possible to work to empower people without buying these specific items? A way that would be more cost efficient, for example?

2. Though I see your point that Africa is receiving benefit from people who would otherwise not be giving money, this is actually one of my primary points of critique. As the argument goes-- they're going to buy it anyway...That's fine. And I obviously have no problems with Apple or the Gap donating a portion of their proceeds to a worthy cause.

My problem at this point is this: if you were going to buy the iPod anyway, then it's not about Africa. It's about your consuming-- even if it's for a gift, for someone else's consuming.

So don't make it about Africa. If the main justification for this campaign is that people were going to do this anyway and don't care about Africa-- then why give them specifically branded products that announce to the world, "I care about Africa..." -- when, it appears you are arguing that they don't?

All that to say, I don't think I would be causing such a stink if the products in question were the same as any other product, and not specifically branded under this campaign-- which, in my opinion, intensifies and propels consumerism-- not compassion and concern for justice.

3. I'm not a huge Guns N' Roses fan, but your point is valid-- if Meneudo put this campaign on, I would support it even if it was overtly unjust ;-)


A question. Does anyone know how much money was spent on the "Red" campaign advertisements?

M Taylor

Kevin, I don't have any problem with people helping Africa with their purchases that they were going to make anyway. In fact, I don't care nearly as much about peoples motives for the purchase as I do about people being helped. So I just can't see a problem with "making this about Africa" the way you do in point number 2.

Why make it about Africa? Because if you do, and people respond with their dollars, then other companies will see the economic advantage and will also be motivated to do similar things. Those incentives can then cause more companies to do a whole lot more good with they dollars.

I hear your point about there being room for other ways to doing it between handouts on one end and this type of thing on the other end. But why not allow something like this to work its magic while you come up with a better option in between?

Also, I think another thing that makes me glad just to see SOMETHING being done is the mind-boggling scope of the problem of AIDS in Africa. There are countries where there is nearly no one between the ages of 30 and 45. I think we're only beginning to see the effects of this disease there. So to see something at work is refreshing even if it isn't perfect.

Now if Meneudo would just get involved we could have this whole thing cleared up. Ricky Martin you're our only hope.

Kevin Cawley


At the bottom of your logic, are you saying that the end justifies the means?

M Taylor

To a degree, yes, I think the ends do justify the means, at least as it pertains to this issue. But it is more about something versus nothing. I'll gladly take this "something" from non-Christians and their spending of discretionary income rather than doing nothing while we wait around for the best plan. And then, if we're going to demand higher, purer motives, let's demand that from the church, rather than from your average non-Christian materialistic American.

Wouldn't you agree that this is better than nothing Kevin (or anyone else still reading this comment thread)?

Kevin Cawley


As a Christian, NO. I don't think that I can or ever will say that the end justifies the means. Ever.

Would you make the same argument for the fragment of gambling proceeds that are donated to education?

People are going to gamble anyway, right?

What if I found a way to have a portion of internet porn profits donated to the third world? People are going to look at porn anyway, right?

M Taylor


Okay, I agree that not all ends justify the means. I didn't mean to communicate that in ALL situations the ends justify the means. There is a limit. But the big difference between this (RED) campaign situation and the examples you give (gambling and internet porn) is that there is nothing inherently wrong about buying a shirt, a watch, or an iPod. So there's a condition of the heart or motives involved in this that you'd like to be pure. Great, I'd like them to be pure as well. But there's no varying degrees of purity of motives when it comes to your examples.

I think there is a way to see this as just propoganda for celebrities and feeding of materialism, but to only see it that way is an incomplete view.

David Grachek

I appreciate all of your posts.

Matthew, as a Christian I believe that the ends can justify a means. The means of course is where the compromise is for the Christian. I am willing to forego all of the spoils in this world, because I know that in the "end" I will live eternal.

Yes, why doesn't someone give $150 to Africa rather than a $10 profit? That question occurred before the (RED) campaign, though. I don't think Bono is trying to value himself for anything more than he should. Bono is at least attempting to make a difference. Is (RED) the best solution for the horrible situation in Africa? Doubtful, but at least it's an effort.

What about the poverty and injustices here in America? If this (RED) campaign does no more than to begin people thinking in lines of conscientious purchasing, perhaps their train of thought will turn to one of more social concern.


It seem that the gap makes the clothes being used in the red campaign in Africa. What i want to know is how much does th Gap pay the african workers who sit all ay sewing these clothes.I bet they only get 10 cents an hour. Although I must say i do think its decent of them to give half the profits of every red item sold unlike the Ipod company that gives a whopping 17 bucks outa 80. Im sure that the ipod company will make more money givin the 17 then keepin it for themelves.

Danielle Mitchell

Hi, im writing a general short story baseing its content on materialistic corporate schemes.
I was wondering if anyone knows the timeline of a donation from the time we donate to...well where ever it goes. (im not convinced it actually reachs where it should be going)
if you have any insite or would like to lend a helping hand please feel free to say what you like.

danielle, canada


I started reading all the posts, got a third of the way down and gave up. Lets skip the comment. Keep it simple. Lets look at the intent. Have some bloody faith, and just do it.

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