Monday, March 23, 2009

Angela Shanahan, McDonald's, anti-Americanism, Academics, Lefties, Legal Wars and the Pleasures of Junk Food Writing

It was inevitable, I guess, that as soon as McDonald's announced it was going to get into the education game, and this gambit was criticized as a cheap and easy ploy to get into the minds and hearts of young buyers, that along would come a loon ready to defend corporate honor.

Cue Angela Shanahan in the Daily Terror, who manages to scribble a column rife with nonsense under the great double edged header Despite its food McDonald's is a great corporate citizen.

Which sounds roughly equivalent to Despite killing at airport, bikies great family orientated citizens. Or Despite selling cigarettes (insert name of any cigarette peddler you like) is a great corporate citizen. Or Despite leeching every last cent from addicted gamblers, pokie machine peddling clubs are great members of the community. Or how about Despite selling alcohol to rugby league players until they're legless, pubs are wonderful places for the family.

But as you might expect the agile Shanahan knows the source of the trouble. It's not just Adrian Piccoli, the state education spokesperson suggesting Maccas should stick to burgers, while the Government should stick to educating children.

No, it's those elbow patched, mindless leftie academics who've cast a shadow on the corporation's altruism. And why would they do that, when we all know McDonald's is a household name for corporate selflessness?

Doubtless we'll be subjected to the usual knee-jerk anti-big corporation and anti-Americanism that seems to surface every time the McDonald's name is discussed.

Indeedy, so here we go. If you want a short and amusing summary of McDonald's legal wars, the invaluable Wikipedia does the job under McDonald's legal cases, with a handy pointer to their most infamous battle, against environmental campaigners Helen Steel and David Morris for distributing leaflets entitled "What's wrong with McDonalds". (The full story, usually known as the McLibel case, is an exemplar of ham-fisted corporate ineptness, and also ended up producing a couple of nifty documentaries dedicated to the absurdity of what went down. It's detailed in Wikipedia, under McDonald's Restaurants v Morris & Steel, but I also have a taste for the movies Fast Food Nation and McLibel).

And before anyone accuses us of being selective in our reporting, let's not forget the more recent McDonald's, burger bashing of Morgan Spurlock in Super Size Me (2004), which even got itself nominated for an Oscar as Spurlock tries to eat McDonalds for every meal for a month and suffers the inevitable consequences.

Yep, there's no doubt Shanahan is on to something here:

McDonald's is one of the biggest but most responsible corporations in the world, whether you like its burgers or not.

Yep, so what better time for a nation in the grip of an obesity epidemic to allow a corporate giant to peddle its wares to young hearts and minds via education, thereby ensuring the dear young things grow up on a healthy diet of burgers (not to mention the exciting new salad bar range, or the even more exciting new line of fresh healthy green organic coffee grown to exacting environmental standards in far away places).

Funny how McDonald's became such a wonderful responsible corporate citizen, after it realized it was totally on the nose as an outfit, its products lampooned, and its sales curve starting to slide the wrong way on the roller coaster ride of modern capitalism.

It seems Angela Shanahan has benefited from the resources offered by Ronald McDonald House to sick children.

Fair enough, but that doesn't excuse her column's final line:

I'm not a fan of McDonald's restaurants but the Ronald McDonald houses at the Children's Hospital are enough to convince me that McDonald's is an exemplary corporate citizen.

Actually, it doesn't work that way, and if you're not a fan of McDonald's restaurants or the food they sell, why bother to stick up for their right to peddle their wares in the guise of a noble foray into sponsoring education? They've always hungered for ways to get into the education market, and get into young customers as early as possible, so that sweeet sugar and flour and oil hit can get them addicted to junk food for life.

But here's the really funny thing. McDonald's move to make Maths Online tutoring available free to schools and students (it used to cost $40 a month) has been praised by federal Education Minister Julia Gillard, the Australian Secondary Principals Association, and the Catholic Principals Association.

What a bunch of  anti-American anti-corporate mindless leftie thugs! Talk about sceptical academics looking a gift horse in the mouth.

Yep, it seems apart from that wretched Nationals Adrian Piccoli (even his name sounds anti-American, like those Country Party folk of old ), the main criticism has come from the New South Wales Parents and Citizens Federation. What a bunch of tuck shop do gooders, with their 'won't somebody think of the fat children' shrieks and cries.

Well I swore off McDonald's a long time ago (and anyway preferred their rivals Burger King), and I don't much mind if they want to sponsor McMaths as a way to corporate redemption, but if they're really serious about it being an utterly selfless non-promotional activity, how about they remove the McDonald's logo and the words "Proudly provided by your local McDonald's restaurant" from the home page?

There's some sort of glitch there, some issue, some problem? Oh you've spent billions trying to fix the golden arches in the minds of customers, so you do want a little bang for your buck? You do want the little children to come unto you and devour your burgers and your fries and your very tasty nuggets? 

And you wouldn't mind them noticing how generous you are, a generosity that you can only afford because little children will come unto your restaurants, because ponces and pretentious gits like Angela Shanhan slag off the food you offer? (Well she does say 'despite the food' and 'I'm not a fan').

Dearie me, what a dilemma. But whatever you do, don't fix the food, keep it cheap and nasty, 'cause that's how we love it. Yes, a generous sponsorship, that seems the best way forward.

That's what we'd expect from an exemplary corporate system, following the very best examples of modern American selling. And you have Angela Shanahan as your very model journalist defender, though how she managed to type what she did without snorting a little chemical laden diet coke onto her keyboard with suppressed laughter (or was it anti-leftie rage) still amazes and amuses ...

It seems she's prepared to take the benefits offered by a McDonald's charity without endorsing the restaurants or the food. And then she has the cheek to criticize others for their anti-big corporation and anti-American ways.

Next time you write about McDonald's Ms Shanahan, how about starting your column something like this:

I was munching on a McDonald's quarter pounder the other day, its succulent meat and ketchup juices dribbling down my chin, the warm inviting scent of the cheese wafting through my nostrils, and as the intense pickled cucumber and sesame seed flavor kicked in on my back palate, generating a miniature orgasm of ecstasy,  I began to wonder just why there was so much anti Americanism in the world when as a culture it delivers such culinary marvels so quickly and so cheaply to enliven the lot of ordinary peasants and school children throughout the known world ...

Mmmm, says Homer, slobbering at mouth, burger ...

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