Bob Geldof: “arrogant… pompous… smug”

The BBC/Band Aid row rumbles on. Rageh Omaar yesterday took the opportunity to write a fascinating and timely piece about the inevitable politicisation of aid that happens in all conflicts. It’s worth reading in full, but here is the crucial point:

Let’s get some things straight: humanitarian operations in the midst of large-scale civil wars where territory is held by rival powers are almost always politicised and misused. The idea that this never happens and that NGOs are never put in situations where, in order to get the aid delivered, they have to work with and often through the powers that control the territory where the suffering is taking place is a ridiculous fantasy. It’s happening now, in Congo; in my own country, Somalia, where al-Qaida-affiliated groups have dictated how the World Food Programme delivers emergency food; and also in Zimbabwe, where I have just spent two weeks talking to aid workers having to work through government bodies in delivering aid to prisoners of Mugabe.

Bob Geldof wasn’t too happy with Omaar’s suggestion that the BBC story might be accurate and wrote a riposte today. Geldof might have a point but, frankly, I got lost in the forest of abuse. His 1500-word article was little more than a series of personal insults aimed at Omaar:

“how arrogant you are, how self-important…”

“your pathetic interpretation of press freedom…”

“your pompous guff…”

“your smug certitudes and thin pieties…”

“You people, you self-important mediators of ‘news’…”

It’s great to see such an important debate reduced to name-calling.
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2 responses to “Bob Geldof: “arrogant… pompous… smug”

  1. Couldn’t agree more. I thought the From Our Own Correspondent piece had intriguing and disturbing points, but lacked the follow-through that would make it worth getting fussed up about 25 years on – as Martin Plaut admits himself at the end of the piece. Presumably, where he finishes by saying “The aid workers who did so much to help those suffering back then had not asked those questions either. But perhaps they would not have saved so many lives if they had.” he means the overthrow of the Mengistu government by the Tigre rebels might have saved more lives than feeding the starving directly. Put another way, our democratically approved taxes help to support or bring down governments. Why shouldn’t aid be ultimately expected to do the same? Sadly this stupid spat only serves to deter people from engagement and philanthropy.

  2. That’s a pretty average effort from Geldof. In some quarters, Geldof himself is criticised for being many of the things he accuses Omaar of being. I hope he realises this sooner rather than later, because this sort of carrying on does far more harm than good.

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