While the remaining presidential candidates duke it out ahead of this summer’s nominating conventions and the general election in November, the Syrian refugee crisis has ballooned into a global issue that requires immediate action by Europeans and Americans alike. Or at least that’s the argument U2 frontman and activist Bono gave during his testimony before the U.S. Senate’s State, Foreign Operations & Related Programs Appropriations Subcommittee on Tuesday. That, and as he told the press after the hearing, we should use comedy as a weapon in the increasingly violent fight against ISIS and other forms of extremism. The singer even name-dropped a few comedians for the proposed offensive via laughter.
Bono took part in a congressional delegation led by former presidential hopeful Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) who traveled to several countries in North Africa and the Middle East. Last week, U.S. News & World Report revealed that Graham and his partners were considering a new “Marshall Plan” of sorts that would, like its 20th-century predecessor, provide aid to regions affected by the current refugee crisis and the extremist conflicts that fuels it.
The U2 bandleader echoed these ideas in a New York Times op-ed:
I keep hearing calls from a real gathering of forces… to emulate that most genius of American ideas, the Marshall Plan. That plan delivered trade and development in service of security — in places where institutions were broken and hope had been lost. Well, hope is not lost in the Middle East and North Africa, not yet, not even where it’s held together by string.
And his subcommittee testimony, calling on anyone who would listen to support such a plan were to be proposed at the 2016 London Anti-Corruption Summit in May:
The global refugee crisis is another opportunity for America to lead… In the spirit of the Marshall Plan, America once again has the chance to advance global security through global generosity, and turn this moment of great jeopardy into a time of opportunity. To answer the forces of hate with a future of hope.
After testifying before the Senate subcommittee, Bono made comments to and took questions from reporters who were on hand to cover the hearing. That’s when the 55-year-old singer suggested another possibility. One that, like the Marshall Plan and Sen. Graham’s comments regarding a similar modern effort, has an antecedent in the history of Western nations’ efforts against poverty and war.
— Mashable News (@MashableNews) April 12, 2016
Send in the funny people:
As a possible comparison to what Bono was thinking, The Daily Beast‘s deputy social-media editor, Asawin Suebsaeng, linked to an article he wrote in September about the U.S. government’s efforts to combat ISIS with the help of HBO, Snapchat, and Zero Dark Thirty screenwriter Mark Boal. (Even though Boal and others affiliated with the film had wined and dined the CIA to make it.) In terms of the Islamic State’s adept use of social media platforms like Twitter, the Snapchat connection made sense. But HBO and Zero Dark Thirty? And what about Amy Schumer, Chris Rock, and Sacha Baron Cohen? Why does Bono seem to that think these three professional entertainers can combat religious extremism and the refugee crisis?
Even Schumer wants to know:
Simply put, because comedians and other entertainers have been deployed against global threats before. Whether in times of peace or times of war, comics, musicians, and television and film stars have traveled the world with organizations or on their own volition to bring awareness to certain issues. Or, if possible, try to do something directly about the matter in question.
Since its founding during World War II, the United Service Organizations (or U.S.O.) has followed American troops the world over to provide them and their families with a much-needed morale boost. Celebrities as conservative as Kid Rock and as liberal as Robin Williams have given their time to the group. Sometimes these excursions put the performers who participate very close to the front lines of combat, though their involvement is always indirect. They’re not there to tell jokes to the enemy, of course, but they’re there to entertain the people sent over by the military (en lieu of a draft or conscription, mind you) to handle things.
Then again, sometimes the best course of action is the most direct one, which is probably what Bono had in mind when he named Schumer, Rock, and Cohen as possible combatants in the struggle against ISIS and other extremist forces adjacent to the refugee crisis. Which is why Samantha Bee recently took a crew to Jordan — one of the countries Graham and Bono’s delegation visited during their trip — to film a segment for her TBS show, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.
Bee wasn’t there to cheer up American troops or drop one-liners to crowds of refugees, of course. She was there to shed light on the country of Jordan and the influx of Syrian refugees who’d sought shelter there. Since the conflict began, almost 640,000 Syrians have fled to Jordan alone, though Jordanian officials suspect that number could be more than a million. This puts a strain on the country and its neighbors, which is why Bono thinks the U.S. and Europe should step in and help. 2016 is an election year, however, so public figures like Donald Trump have come out against accepting any refugees from the area — especially if they’re Muslim.
The Full Frontal report revealed just how unfounded the fears of Trump and the Republican governors who uttered similar sentiments were by visiting the very place they were so ready to criticize and ignore. Yet the people working for the TBS show aren’t professional journalists or politicians. They’re comedians, comedy writers, and career entertainers whose main lot in life is to make others giggle for money. People who, as Bono argued on Capitol Hill, can actually do a lot of good for the world.