- Capitalism and Alternatives -

how does one prove one really didnt know?

Posted by: Gee ( si ) on October 07, 1999 at 17:24:20:

In Reply to: McLibel. posted by Gee on October 07, 1999 at 16:04:17:

I can appreciate that the McD behaviour during this case was awful. the major point I was making was that printing a sheet saying 'so and so does these things' is akin to an accusation, and therefore the accuser must be able to show that accusation to be proper if challenged.

So in the rainforest case, yes indeed a single sheet wouldnt contain precise data, but a small footnote naming *some* affected forests would have made the accusation more tenable. Just saying 'rainforests' inst precise enough.

: What was under contest in the WWWM leaflet would be described as "justified criticism" by most people;

That in itself doesnt make it correct ofcourse, but I get the point.

: the most common reaction to the leaflet on the street is "yeah, we know this is true, but we don't care, so what?".

This is the point I raised with lark, that we should question why people dont care.

: Secondly, consider the legal definition of libel; it stands as 'knowing misrepresentation of a person or group for whatever purpose'

This is difficult to show either way. how does one prove one really didnt know? Thats why anyone pickin fault with McDs or any other person/organisation does well to build up a reserve of evidence.

: "Why McDonald's is going to court" leaflet *was* libellous; in that it claimed the McLibel Two were deliberate liars; not something it could ever substantiate.

There is a most valid point - odd how this isnt picked up. The law of an accuser having to show merit for the accusation should be universal.

: Given the fiscal clout of McDonald's, they can use the laws as a threat;

Given the imprecise and deliberately open subjective laws, I am not surprised, sadly.

: Of course, it's a matter of personal opinion whether corporates ought to be able and allowed to practise such behaviour; I feel that multinationals like McDonald's ought to be open to public criticism;

They must - but no more or less than any person should be open to such. the scale might alter the degree of criticism and the extent of evidence required is the same.

: (never mind breaking the law and committing libel themselves!)

They sure do suck - and so do the wishy washy laws that allow them to get away with it. Still - presumably the court found no criminal culpibility for the above crimes - no proof, or they would have been in big trouble (or did I miss something)

: Still, it backfired on McDonald's; an estimated 2,000 leaflets were handed out before the trial; the estimate now is that over 2 million WWWM leaflets have been handed out; making it possibly the most successful protest leaflet in history. This wouldn't have happened if the McLibel Two hadn't had the stamina to fight a near-impossible fight themselves. It wouldn't have had to happen at all if the UK laws treated the rich and poor equally or recognized the importance of freedom of speech for all.

And it certainly wouldnt have happened if the McD management team werent so half brained as to willingly make themselves look like 'big badasses' when they could simply carry on responding to consumer demands like any normal organisation.

: Rex, McSpotlight.


McSpotlight: Some of the points are contestable; which is why you can say them and produce evidence to support them and still be found guilty of libel; the nutrition arguments being a case in point. The jury is still out on that one; although the evidence points to the McLibel claims being true, McDonald's can equally well turn round and say "it isn't proven!"; despite the WHO saying it (as I said before). On a contestable point, the professionals will normally win out over the amateurs; because the pros know the procedures.

(note; since the McLibel trial, more evidence has surfaced of a link between overconsumption of junk food and bowel cancer...the appeal judges concluded that it was "true that 'if one eats enough McDonald's food, one's diet may well become high in fat etc., with the very real risk of heart disease.' The Lord
Justices went on to state that this last finding 'must have a serious effect on their trading reputation since it goes to the very business in which they are engaged. In our judgment, it must have a greater impact on the respondents' [McDonald's] reputation than any other of the charges that the trial judge had found to be true'. [Judgment p264]")

Secondly, McDonald's in court frequently stretched common terms to ridiculous levels. From the McQuotes page;

"David Green, Senior Vice-President of Marketing (USA), stated 'McDonald's food is nutritious' and 'healthy'. When asked what the company meant by 'nutritious' he said: 'provides nutrients and can be a part of a healthy balanced diet'. He admitted this could also apply to a packet of sweets [candy].

When asked if Coca Cola is 'nutritious' he replied that it is 'providing water, and I think that is part of a balanced diet'. He agreed that by his definition Coke is nutritious.

When asked to define 'junk food', Professor Wheelock (McDonald's consultant on nutrition) said it was 'whatever a person doesn't like' (in his case semolina). With disbelief mounting in the courtroom, Richard Rampton (McDonald's QC) intervened to say that McDonald's was not objecting to the description of their food as 'junk food'!

Now, the first of those statements is patently absurd; you could equally well claim that prussic acid (aqueous hydrogen cyanide) is part of a balanced diet, because it provides water; of course, if you drank it, it would kill you...

The second of the claims is obtuse; 'junk food' is a fuzzy term; but everyone really knows that it applies to food high in sugar and fat; not pulses or grains, as McDonald's expert was claiming.

Many of the claims under debate in the courtroom are actually made from McDonald's own data; see the amount of references in the referenced WWWM leaflet that list "McD" as the source of the data.

We have evidence aplenty; much of it from McDonald's themselves; other data is from "authorities" like the World Health Organisation or the office of the Attorney-General of Texas (which ruled that McDonald's was guilty of false advertising because their adverts pretended their food was healthy when it wasn't.)

Why is McDonald's allowed to get away with such sloppy terminology vis-a-vis "nutrition" and so forth if their critics aren't?

And the McLibel Two do believe what was in the leaflet, which is why they were prepared to defend it in court; I know both of them fairly well and they've never said anything else.

Rex, McSpotlight.

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