Know What Famine Victims Don't Need? Rock Stars

Slate columnist: In fact, they might be doing more harm than good

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 29, 2014 12:50 PM CDT

(Newser) – Rock stars have been joining together on behalf of Africa's famine victims since the days of Live Aid in the 1980s, but these well-meaning ventures might actually be making the problem worse, writes William Easterly at Slate. For one thing, celebrity relief concerts tend to reinforce the stereotype that Africans are "passive and helpless," and desperately awaiting Western saviors to swoop in save the day. They also help obscure one of the main reasons these famines keep occurring—dictatorships.

"If autocracy is the problem, the insulting stereotypes perpetrated by celebrities make the problem worse rather than better," writes Easterly. "These stereotypes make it harder to recognize how much Africans deserve (and are already fighting for) greater political and economic rights to actively determine their own destinies." If rock stars want to truly help, they might be better off drawing attention to Ethiopian dissidents who are in prison for pushing democracy. In the meantime, "aid continues to support the autocratic oppressors in Ethiopia instead of the oppressed." Click for the full column.

A 1985 Live Aid ticket for JFK stadium in Philadelphia is displayed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.   (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
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