The Blog

We Are The '80's!

Live Aid then, and now.

11:00 PM, Dec 16, 2004 • By ED DRISCOLL
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Along with the cash, thousands of western workers and journalists began to enter Ethiopia. Mengistu knew a good thing when he saw it and used the combined tidal wave of money and sympathy to prop up his regime. He required that relief workers convert their western tender to the local currency at a rate favorable to his junta, which tripled its foreign currency reserves, allowing it to buy arms and materiel. Mengistu's troops also commandeered aid vehicles and fed themselves on the incoming foodstuffs. As Wolf notes, "it became clear that a significant proportion of the relief food in Tigray--the epicenter of the famine--was consigned to the militia. The militias were known locally as 'wheat militias'."

The money allowed Mengistu to string out his war efforts for six more years. Between starvation and outright murder, the war cost more than 100,000 Ethiopian lives.

DURING THE SHOW, The Who performed their '70s anthem, "We Won't Get Fooled Again." The Boomer and MTV generations frequently forget how often they get fooled again.

While Live Aid was spectacular television, it was just another in a series of Big Events from people who believed that throwing money at a problem eventually solves it. Eerily, it forecast how the left would interact with Iraq: Substitute Mengistu for Saddam Hussein and it's amazing how all the rest of the players stay the same--the BBC, the United Nations, and celebrities who believe that despots can be reasoned with to do the right thing. We won't get fooled again? Of course you will.

Ed Driscoll has been writing professionally since 1995, on topics ranging from technology to pop culture to politics. Sadly, he no longer wants his MTV. For more of his writings, see eddriscoll.com.