- McLibel -

wake up Marc

Posted by: chris ( usa ) on July 10, 1998 at 10:06:05:

your reply describes Mcspotlight as merely presenting points of view. If that is the goal then obviously there is no problem. However, if you attack an entity with intent to make them conform to your own ideals (ie. active protests, slandering on T.V.) then there is a problem. If Mcspotlight is merely trying to "heighten awareness about a PERCEIVED problem", then why the need for organized groups, court trials, etc..? The entire campaign to attack a fast food company is unworthy while there are more serious problems that affect all of us which we can not choose to avoid as easily as not patronizing a fast food place. All of our ability to debate and disagree is a step to common ground which could lead to positive progression. It seems wasteful to use our ability on two peoples "PERCIEVED PROBLEM" which is self inflicted. Why Mcdonalds? Why not crime? Why not corruption?

McSpotlight: Chris, you would do well to read the story of the case. Here in the UK, the burden of proof lies on the defendants in the libel laws. This means that, if a company feels that it has been libelled, all it has to do is issue a writ - and the people/groups accused of libel have to prove that it isn't libel. It's a turnaround from the normal court procedure - "innocent until proven guilty" - in a libel case, the party accused of libel have to prove their innocence.

McDonald's have used this to their advantage on many occasions to stifle valid criticism - the company has enough money to buy a really good lawyer, throw out a libel writ and watch their poorer opponents lose the case - not because they are wrong, but because they do not have the money and resources to fight the case fairly.

The diet that McDonald's encourages is widely perceived to be a threat to the health of a national populace in the long term, as well as being a waste of planetary resources. Their treatment of staff contributes to the low standards of staff treatment in the whole fast food industry. It is a perfectly fair thing to raise these as valid points of debate. Except that McDonald's can then just throw out a libel writ, placing the burden of proof on your shoulders.

This is what happened - a small London-based green group printed two thousand leaflets pointing out that McDonald's food wasn't good for you, that they targeted their advertising at children, that they paid their staff low wages. All of which has been said by "big" organisations. This leaflet would probably have vanished unnoticed, but McDonald's tried their usual tactics of issuing libel writs - despite the fact that a) the leaflet was out of print and b) the people being sued had not had any part in writing it - they were merely being sued for handing it out. They had the choice - be sued for handing out a leaflet they felt was true, or apologise and back down in the face of intimidation.

That's where the McLibel case came from - it was started by McDonald's, and went to court because the two people concerned cared more about freedom of speech and principle than they did about their own comfort.

Furthermore, many of the problems you say are more serious are contributed to by the actions of multinational companies like McDonald's. For example, the Brazilian rainforest is being destroyed at a staggering rate to provide land to grow soya. Soya which is fed to the cows that end up as McDonald's hamburgers (see the witness statements of Sue Branford and George Monbiot in the witness statements page). Third World starvation is worsened by the fact that a significant part of the grain they produce is exported and fed to Western beef cattle. The original purpose of the leaflet was to raise awareness about this. And the groups and campaigns were set up not to attack any one company, but to defend the little people against the bullying of a corporate monster like McDonald's and their flotilla of lawyers.

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