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McLibel Overturned: Strasbourg Denies McJustice
by Matt Reichel
February 17, 2005

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Earlier this week, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg overturned the infamous McLibel ruling. In McLibel, a British activist couple was sued for basically stating what everyone in this world already knows to be true. That is: McDonald’s food is horrendous. It is undeniably horrible for one’s health to frequently eat at the world’s largest restaurant chain. I have traveled extensively through four continents, and talked to people of many political stripes: conservatives, liberals, communists, anarchists, right wing idiots, etc. In this time, I’ve never heard anyone try to claim that McDonald’s food is anything other than crap. One needn’t even bother with digging into the numbers: 99% of this world wouldn’t even ask me to show them nutritional information in order for them to believe that this food can pose a threat to one’s well-being. In fact, this can be considered one of those self-evident truths: there are very few things about this world that we can take for granted, I will admit, but the fact that the burger monolith serves out disgusting, pre-processed, dirty and dangerously addictive grease is one such thing.

In order to provide a gleaming example of how justice works within the capitalist system, the British courts allowed the monolith to win its case against the two small fry. The reason for this was that McDonalds spent over 10 million pound in legal fees: thus their representation was much better than that of the defense, who had no legal representation but themselves. It turns out that justice is a commodity, and, at the right price, you can do practically whatever you want. How else could the world’s largest restaurant chain get away with being a public health threat? Luckily, everyone in their right mind realized the whole process was a bit on the ridiculous side: why spend 10 million pounds for the purpose of being awarded 40,000 pound in return? Obviously, McDonalds ought have their head examined. No one argued with the fact that this was a “public relations nightmare” for the burger giant. The only real question to be answered was: “Did the British Court go too far in demonstrating to the world how meaningless justice is in the face of big amounts of money?”

Fortunately for humanity, Strasbourg thought so. If, at any moment, any person in this world could possibly face a legal challenge from a global monolith, this clearly represents a severe danger to the health of democracy and global justice. Capitalism can’t work with irresponsible government: then we are left with nothing but silliness. As such, humanity needs institutions that have grander ideas in mind: basic concepts of human dignity, human rights, and global justice. As legislatures throughout the world, from London to Brussels to Washington DC, are safely tucked away in the pocket of big business, it’d be nice to know that there’s something left for individual people and their diversity of interests. This is the intention of international justice: to apply principle that can be used as an a priori defense in the interest of humanity. As Europe becomes increasingly unified, it is absolutely necessary that institutions of international justice demonstrate their health, lest Europe become just another despicable corporate breeding ground like the United States.  


Big Brother would be reigning free in a world where one had to watch what they say about McDonalds. Now that we can critique McDonald’s safely again, it is absolutely necessary that we do so: and think about all of the ways that they have screwed up the world.

First, they have turned a huge chunk of the United States into big, fat idiots. While this may seem like a visceral stereotype, it is, nonetheless, a stereotype grounded in some degree of reality. The secrets out: everyone knows that Americans are fat. This is an obsession of Europeans. It is not altogether rare to hear things like: “I need to drop a few kilos: I don’t want to end up looking like an American.” Often, the fat guy at the bar who doesn’t speak French too well is assumed to be an American: he’s fat, and he’s foreign, thus he must be an American. The mathematical process of deduction easily provides for this conclusion. A good percentage of the world’s fat population comes from the United States. Americans are stereotyped as fat, lazy idiots who are ambivalent to world affairs and most intellectual discourse. For these stereotypes (which are all at least half true), we can give much of the thanks to the McDonald’s Corporations.

Secondly, McDonald’s has destroyed the otherwise beautiful landscape around us. Instead of rolling hills and grasslands, we see obnoxiously large billboards advertising the all night drive thru at the next exit on the interstate. Instead of a pleasantly French view from the top of the Arc de Triomphe, one must deal with the eyesore of the golden arches along the Champs Elysées. As one arrives into town via train at Paris Gare du Nord, one is confronted with the largest of the chain’s restaurants in town, while being affronted with the sign advertising “Free Wifi.” They have to offer the benefit of free internet at McDonalds throughout Paris, for fear that otherwise no one would come, because many French people have this fear of turning themselves into big, fat American idiots.

Thirdly, McDonalds makes people hate Americans. As with all of the other corporations that now rule the world thanks to conservatives who have allowed them to take over Washington D.C., these American brands create a sense of distrust and dislike of all American people. We are (in addition to being big, fat idiots) considered arrogant, rude, and un-interested in the diversity of viewpoints and perspectives that exist throughout the world. While many people are perfectly capable of “Separating Americans and the American government,” this task is understandably difficult. Even the best Americans, i.e. those who have never set foot in a McDonalds, receive the occasional and unfortunate mistreatment due to animosity over the sheer extent of American corporate logos.

Fourthly, McDonalds has helped turn many Americans into walking corporations. Again, its not just McDonalds: it’s also Starbucks, Burger King, AOL Time Warner, Disney, Viacom, and on and on and on. It is becoming increasingly difficult for Americans to think outside of the corporate world box: where one studies in college for the purpose of obtaining a degree in finance so that later on one can hold some job with a fancy title wherein one does nothing of particular importance for a corporation whose rational goal is to take over the world (it makes no economic sense to want anything but the biggest share possible: so the ultimate goal is of course world domination). These bland and un-interesting pawns overpopulate the halls of most major American universities today, and can’t even be bothered with the “General Education” requirements of LAS, and the thought of having one of those crazy professors who ask big questions like: “Who serves to gain from free trade policies like those underlined in NAFTA and the FTAA?” Why else would College Republican organizations be so involved in protesting the Ward Churchill’s of the world? People using their brains are a major roadblock to the euphoric, corporate world-view. You can’t be a critical thinker and live in this euphoria all at once. It’s one or the other.

This is essentially why McDonalds sued two global activists: these activists were thinking people, and that is incompatible with McDonalds’ hope to conquer the world. There’s something with intellectuals where they fear global monoliths, and ask all sorts of questions of these monoliths about nutritional content and treatment of animals. They really screw things up for McDonalds and their decreasingly few competitors for world dominance.

Luckily, Strasbourg has shown itself to be all about these well-thinking individuals. Thus, we can again tell self-evident truths about McDonalds and the threat it poses to the health, safety and sanity of the world population. Let me re-numerate: McDonalds is guilty of turning the population of the world’s only superpower into a bunch of big, fat idiots, McDonalds has helped to destroy the otherwise beautiful landscape around us, McDonalds has made people throughout the world hate Americans, and, lastly, McDonalds has helped to turn Americans into walking corporations. This was supposed to be the end of the world as Frances Fukayama described it: where we all bask in the wonderment of liberal McPeace. Fortunately, a good portion of the global population would rather use their brains than talk about silly things like the “end of history.”

Matt Reichel is an American expatriate and graduate student in Paris specializing in international relations theory. He can be reached at:

Other Articles by Matt Reichel

* The Brussels Lobby Youth
* The Neoliberal EU Treaty: French Labor Says No
* Lessons from the Heckling of Lula
* France’s Fallujah: The Battle of Cote D’Ivoire