Technological World

McLibel

Posted on: May 26, 2011

Perhaps the most interesting use of technology is the case of McLibel where two people in the UK were able to fight against McDonalds. Although it took a toll, the internet allowed them to spread the message without McDonalds controlling them.

Helen and Dave- The McLibel Case

They created the site http://www.mcspotlight.org/ which allowed them to post the truth and facts, against McDonalds who was in the process of a trial with the two citizens.

In the end it paid off, the court case is published on their site with the end result:

The verdictwas devastating for McDonald’s. The judge ruled that they ‘exploit children’ with their advertising, produce ‘misleading’ advertising, are ‘culpably responsible’ for cruelty to animals, are ‘antipathetic’ to unionisation and pay their workers low wages. But Helen and Dave failed to prove all the points and so the Judge ruled that they HAD libelled McDonald’s and should pay 60,000 pounds damages. They refused and McDonald’s knew better than to pursue it. In March 1999 the Court of Appeal made further rulings that it was fair comment to say that McDonald’s employees worldwide “do badly in terms of pay and conditions”, and 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.”

As a result of the court case, the Anti-McDonald’s campaign mushroomed, the press coverage increased exponentially, this website was born and a feature length documentarywas broadcast round the world.

The legal controversy continued. The McLibel 2 took the British Government to the European Court of Human Rights to defend the public’s right to criticise multinationals, claiming UK libel laws are oppressive and unfair that they were denied a fair trial. The court ruled in favour of Helen and Dave: the case had breached their their rights to freedom of expression and a fair trial.

Who said ordinary people can’t change the world?

Of course the media had something to say about the case. Helen and Dave opened up in the documentary McLibel about the misrepresentation of them in the media as most of the media use McDonalds as sponsors or support. However the media did vary in opinions:

“when your product is as dull as a hamburger, you need something more if you want to bestride the planet. And what McDonald’s has is a reputation.”

Daily Telegraph

Some interesting facts on the McSpotlight site such as:

McDonald's use meat from 10% of the world's cattle."a very real risk of heart disease" for very regular, long-term McDonald's customers.

 The site has everything from facts about McDonalds, to all the details about the case and their dealings with the media and cencorship.

"There is one word that can describe what this trial is about, and that word is 'censorship'

 In the end the facts were clear as well as the injustice.

“we pride ourselves that we have free speech, but in reality that simply isn’t the case”. Keir Starmer, defendants’ voluntary barrister.

“McDonald’s exploit children by using them, as more susceptible subjects of advertising, to pressurise their parents into going to McDonald’s.” Judge’s verdict

McSpotlight Internet site accessed 2.2 million times in week following verdict.

This is interesting as it highlights how the internet has allowed two people’s struggle with a makor corporation to be known globally. Without this exposure they wouldn’t have been able to spread the message or support.

The most amazing part of the site is the press page which links to the documentary as well as other pages that inform the public on the situation. This site is important because the media’s job is to inform but the internet allowed these two citizens to spread their message regarding intimidation of major companies, the lying of the media and advertising and basically allowing the public to be informed of the TRUTH!

One of the most recent mentions of this caseis in the article in the Business section of the Financial Post, oddly enough in relation to Julian Assange and the wikileaks. It makes sense as both are seen as going against a major power and are simply trying to spread the truth. The article also mentions the use of technology.

 We spoke about how technology has changed the way the media cover stories. We then talked about how technology is changing the way in which lawyers can react to such stories.

Julian Assange is quoted –

“Everyone makes this covenant with the state, that we allow them to have secrets so that they can better rule in our interests. Of course, that’s a covenant which has got to be policed.”

The Julian Assange case mirrors similar aspects of the McLibel case which the writer notes later:

Mr. Stephens has worked on a broad range of freedom of speech issues over the years. Some of his notable cases include successfully defending an artist who reproduced British bank notes in contravention of British law, representing James Hewitt with regards to allegations of his affair with Diana, Princess of Wales, and advising Helen Steel and David Morris — the so-called “McLibel Two” activists who were sued by McDonalds after publishing a pamphlet critical of the company.

At the time of the case the New York Times covered the international issue labelling it as ‘Britain’s Big ”McLibel Trial” Its McEndless Too’. The writer seems fairly hostile towards the case, the first line making it fairly obvious:

Even after two grueling, often grindingly tedious years, the case popularly known as the McLibel trial is very much a study in extremes

The article seems very unimpressed with the case using words such as ‘unamused’ in relation to McDonalds. Stories that could be written could be from the public perspective, the health aspect. The big scary company vs the two underdogs is somewhat portrayed in the documentary. However the case and the situation justifies this.

A good example of media coverage is the CNN international section where they portray Helen and Dave as unemployed activists who got a boost from an ‘epic libel suit’. The bias perspective is obvious from the first sentence. The writer calls the case a ‘Big-Mac bashing quest’. Its clear from the use of language that the writer doesn’t like Helen and Dave but then again, they don’t directly say that McDonalds is better.

In the end the McLibel case is an example of the use of technology spreading the message and allowing the public to participate. Technology allows truth to be spread but there is always the media and the different views telling the public what to think.

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