Alex Blaze

Why does McDonald's hate America?

Filed By Alex Blaze | June 15, 2010 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media
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The COO of McDonald's was interviewed by the Chicago Tribune and they got into that French gay ad that Bill O'Reilly compared to al-Qaeda. It's also the ad that got the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce upset since McDonald's isn't running it in the US. Anyway, the Tribune asked whether the ad would play in America, and the COO replied by saying that he's a Christian and by insulting America:

Tribune: A French TV ad featuring a gay teen and his father has stirred some controversy -- not there, but here. Can you talk about that?

Thompson: It is an example that markets, cultures are very different around the world. (For instance), I've never shied away from the fact that I'm a Christian. I have my own personal beliefs and I don't impose those on anybody else. I've been in countries where the majority of the people in the country don't believe in a deity or they may be atheist. Or the majority of the country is Muslim. Or it may be the majority is much younger skewed. So when you look at all these differences, it's not that I'm to be the judge or the jury relative to right or wrong. Having said that, at McDonald's, there are core values we stand for and the world is getting much closer. So we have a lot of conversations. We're going to make some mistakes at times. (We talk) about things that may have an implication in one part of the world and may be the cultural norm in another part of the world. And those are things that, yes, we're going to learn from. But, you're right, that commercial won't show in the United States.

The NGLCC made the same assumption, that France is just so much more gay-friendly than the US and so McDonald's had to run a gay ad out here. But is that really the reason for the difference?

I hear plenty of Americans talking about how progressive and liberal Europe is compared to America, especially on social issues. But it isn't true - Europe's a mixed bag with some countries brutally cracking down on Pride while others legalize gay sex in parks. Even within countries, like France, it really depends on where you live. Urban areas are less homophobic, generally, and rural areas more so. Just like in the US.

I can't find any polling in France on LGBT issues, to see how they measure up, but I'd be surprised if the difference was huge. When it comes to the issues, they don't allow same-sex couples to adopt, they don't allow lesbians to use artificial insemination or gay men to hire surrogate mothers, they don't have same-sex marriage but do have national civil unions, cops play capture-the-fag still, people still don't come out to their families, hate crimes still happen all the time, same-sex PDA is uncommon outside the gayborhoods, and while employment discrimination is banned, that's more because they have strong labor unions and don't have at-will employment (even an attempt several years ago to allow employers to fire people under 25 in their first six months on the job resulted in massive protests that shut down the country for weeks).

There may be a difference at the population level, and that would mostly be because France is a more urban country than the US. But it's still the old world with old ideas that aren't going anywhere fast, especially since the worry here is that the youth are becoming less tolerant of gays, not more.

But the bigger difference when it comes to homophobia is that the French don't much care about protecting "religious freedom" and don't feel as much a need to defer to the opinions of the Church or various churches as Americans do. Their version of the separation of church and state - known as laïcité, which is more accurately translated as "secularism" - has a different justification narrative.

Americans learn about governments that kept people from worshipping as they wanted so they crossed the Atlantic to be free to practice their religion, so we have a separation of church and state to maintain the free practice (or non-practice) of religion. The French Revolution, by contrast, was a people's revolution against various institutions of power, mostly the monarchy but also the nobility and other supporters, including the Catholic Church. So freedom of religion, here, is about protecting people from religious power so that they're free to live their lives as they want.

This is how they get to a place where they pass a law banning religious objects - the veil, crosses, yarmulkes - in school. The school is a government building, and religion doesn't have a place in a government building. It's also why a more recent bill to ban the veil everywhere had trouble getting support from anyone outside the racist right.

The attitude is pervasive - Christian conservatives getting upset with something isn't any reason for everyone else to bend over backwards and accommodate them. They already know where that leads.

While I don't personally care about getting the McDonald's ad in America - anything that could possibly make gay people go and eat their poison made from compressed and processed misery is inherently bad - the COO's excuses are idiotic. Really, they're looking for a no-pain way to portray their brand as part of everyday people's lives (an ever-present symbol in all of your fond memories), and the American rightwing is a lot crazier and a lot more entitled than the French rightwing. That's it. Normal human beings in either country don't care.


For fun, here's another McDonald's ad from that series. The mother tells her daughter that it's the second time - one, two - she forgot her backpack at school, and if she does it again she loses her video games (not McDonald's?) for a month. In the restaurant, the mother says she forgot her wallet and the daughter gets all insolent: One....

Can you imagine the outcry if, instead of going into McDonalds, they went into a bar and the mother put a cigarette in her 7-year-old daughter's mouth and said, "I think I left my lighter at home!" Same joke, both practices terribly unhealthy, and yet people don't have much to say about the commercial up there telling parents to give McDonald's filth to their children.


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Well, the outrage over the French commercial doesnt surprise me. Look at what happened with the Australian commercial for the fried chicken that got everyone here all bent out of shape... while back in Australia everyone was like "So? What's the big deal? Stupid Yanks..."

Because, you know, as a culture, Americans are stupid. The COO of McDonalds, the talking heads who decry the ad... quite frankly, everyone involved in a "debate" that has nothing to do with anything beyond our wanting to stick our cultural nose someplace it's not requested nor warranted. We've had better GLB ads running over here: it's not like Mickey Dee's doing something groundbreaking.

I don't get the comparison between the Australian ad, which people were mad at because they thought it was racist, and the French ad, which McDonald's won't show because it's too gay. The connection that I do see is that both corporations - KFC and McDonalds (aren't they owned by the same company?) - are trying to localize their branding while nultinationalizing their profits. "No, this ad is only for these people, so don't look at it on YouTube and draw conclusions," they say. "But everyone should give us their money." I don't see much reason to let them have it both ways. But in terms of the substance of the ads, they're fairly different.

And Americans aren't stupid. Misinformed, definitely. Distracted? yes. Conservative? OK, but I would contend that we're far less conservative than most people think we are (see "misinformed," above). But actually stupid? I haven't seen much evidence of that one. And you're going to need more than a few hundred Americans' reaction to a KFC commercial to convince me that Canadians are biologically smarter than Americans.

The Australian ad was racist because *we* made it racist, not because it necessarily was. Now we're making this ad "oh my god so gay it's a threat to our children"... something that clearly the French dont think is that big a deal. But hey, *our* values trump everyone else's, right?

And when I say that Americans are stupid, Alex, trust me on that one. As a society, we are -- and I can say that with full knowledge of life in both countries. We (now speaking from my American side) believe we can do no wrong because everyone else is wrong. We "saved" Europe in WW2 and therefore *they owe us*. Our cultural hubris, it seems, is limitless... and *that*, I consider stupid.

That's a bizarre reading of the ad situation. You argue that you're against cultural imperialism as a reason to not criticize KFC moving into the Australian market. KFC is already being imperialist... and yet they don't get criticized. I contend that in the age of YouTube they have to make their ads work in more than one market, and that means that Australians can watch American ads and call them racist based on their history (like they did when that Russian skating team dressed up as aboriginals).

We can argue about that ad all day, though, but it doesn't turn the situation into one where a defenseless foreign company (which happens to be American) is being attacked by cultural imperialists in the US (who weren't calling for a boycott or anything other than, "Look at this racist ad!").

And the French ad is also not a case of cultural imperialism - no one's saying that it shouldn't show in France (not the COO, not Bill O'Reilly, not the religious right...), they're saying that it shouldn't show in the US. And the NGLCC isn't saying that it should show in France, but that it should show in the US.

(Plus I'd argue that it's kind of hard to portray the French as passive recipients of evil American cultural imperialism. They have their own long history as an imperial power, so they're definitely not defenseless little victims.)

I don't get the WWII comparison. Who says that the French owe us for anything in this situation? Some people were saying that around the Iraq War (which wouldn't be cultural hubris anyway), but not McDonalds ads.

Further, I don't think you get to choose which days you're Canadian and which days you're American. In other threads you often pull the "I'm Canadian" card, and so really I'm just reading this thread as a Canadian saying that Americans are stupid. Folks in Indiana have jokes about how stupid Kentuckians are, and every group gets to feel their moment of superiority by calling other people stupid, I guess. It's not going to die without you or me, but at least you could recognize that that's how your "Americans are stupid" statements are going to be read.

So: Canadians are stupid doo doo heads! There, we're even.

YouTube simply makes it easier for us to complain about an ad that's not meant for our market, whether KFC or McDonalds or anyone else, no matter what size. The only "cultural imperalism" going on here — aside from McD's wish to take over the fast food world — is our insisting that the French or the Australians think just like us. An ad made for *their* market that we dont like is cause for hysteria across the Web... all because it's not American. I mean, please, OReilly finds it worth sniggering over like a six year old and then worries that it might be seen by innocent children and how awful is that! Just by showing the damn thing on his show, he's done the job for McDs. I dont know about you, but I'd call that pretty stupid.

>> "Further, I don't think you get to choose which days you're Canadian and which days you're American".

Sure I can. It's one of the perqs of dual-citizenship. I can be just as frustrated by Canada as I can by the US. It's just that Canada, unlike the US, has the polite tendency to leave its stupidity within its own borders and not inflict it needlessly on the rest of the world. And this being an Americo-centric blogsite, that frustration will find its way out far more than if, say, this was about Canadian politics. You dont get to pick and choose how I'm going to respond, sorry. :-)

Who has insisted "that the French or the Australians think just like us"? I think that's where the disagreement is coming from here - I haven't seen anyone insisting that the French or the Australians need to think or do anything.

I'm not saying that cultural hegemony doesn't exist, but just that this is a pretty poor example of it. Especially since the entire debate on the McDonald's ad is whether or not it should be shown in America.

Hey, I feel better about the whole "Americans are stupid" thing now that I called Canada stupid. I see how international conflicts start now! I had a few more zingers about how stupid Canadians are (and a few about those weaselly dual-citizenship folks), but I'll save them for another day. :)

Oh, c'mon, Alex! Remember when the KFC ad ran, and people were hysterical because they put American values on it, claimed it was racist, and then reminded everyone — even as you did in your prior post — that, because of things like YouTube, these companies should be a little more aware of how their ads would be seen outside the market for which they were intended. That's not saying they should think just like us?

As for the debate turning on whether or not the McD's ad would be shown in America... it already has. McD's doesnt need to buy the airtime because all of us, both left and right, happily did it for them; it's not an unknown entity anywhere. And the Religious Right is saying the same thing about it that the PC Patrol was saying about the KFC ad;. It's simply the other side of the coin. McD never intended for it to run here: we asked, which is the same thing as the RR fretting about the possibility... which unto itself is no different from some people fretting about how supposedly racist the KFC ad was. We're all living in fear (granted, for different reasons) about what might happen if an ad that we (whoever "we" might be at the moment) think is "bad" appeared here, and in both cases, we casigated the advertisers for something for insensitivity that's based strictly on how "we" see things.

Again, isnt that saying "they should think like us"? Silly Aussies cant see how racist that ad is? Silly French cant see how homo-positive it is? Why cant they be just like us?

So by using the statements of one man in the McDonald's corporation you can draw a conclusion that "McDonalds Hates America"

Hmmm sounds like the same logical fallacy employed by neoconservatives when they say the "terra-ists hate our freedom"

Gosh guilt by association never gets long in the tooth eh?

Further, all the talk of how wonderfully idyllic and "progressive" Europe is should not fail to also mention how those same "progressive" have managed to drive the continent into bankruptcy as we are now seeing in Greece, Spain, Italy, France, Germany.

Let us see how "progressive" a nation is when the infrastructure crumbles and daily necessities overtake coerced political-correctness.

I think the tongue-in-cheek nature of the title speaks for itself, but it's really not the same thing as "terrorists hate our freedom." Because the latter is about making people stop asking why bad things happen, and while the former is about vilifying someone.

And it's not "guilt by association." That's not what that phrase means.

France and Germany are nowhere near bankruptcy. Spain and Greece are, and Italy's expected to get there soon. The problem wasn't that they were too "progressive" (which is a particularly American political ideology), but that the rich folks there spent the people's money like there was no tomorrow, especially in Greece, and they hid the debt, etc. There are plenty of rightwingers out here just as there are in America, and plenty of center-left people willing to buy into fiscal conservatism.

Are you kidding?

Greece was spending 14% over GDP in social and corporate welfare programs.

Really does not take a Keynesian Economic rocket-scientist to figure out that paying out more than you take in revenue is a sure fire way to bankruptcy. Guess sitting on your rump taking "Holiday" and thus not contributing whatsoever to capital formation is just not a sound long-term financial strategy.

Not sure quite where you get your figures, but France and Germany are both teetering. France's Debt service is at 25.9% of GDP and Germany is passing austere measures to try and cut its welfare programs since a debt laden economy, i.e. Greece is unlikely to repay in whole or part the bailout funds of which Germany is a creditor.

So please keep advocating the theft from one to the leisure of another. The quicker this abhorrent Keynesian system falls apart the sooner we can move on leaving the wholly unreasonable notion that governments can support generations of welfare-marms.

Further Guilt By Association is exactly what the title infers:

Guilt By Association, also known as the "Bad Company" fallacy in which the actions of one person or group are connected to a larger whole under spurious circumstances.

Both Germany and France still have great credit ratings. Last I checked they were worried about losing their AAA rating because of the Euro's drop in value, but that's really not the same as teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

Your contempt for the working class shines through your comment, so I guess it'd be pointless to argue that "corporate" and "social" welfare are two completely different things (with completely different effects on economies, as poor people who get a little money to help them get by are much more likely to put that money right back into the local economy). And Keynesian economics didn't produce "generations of welfare-marms." That's just not true.

If you want to reject Keynes's description of macro-econonmic systems, that's fine. But where's your alternative solution? How does the economy increase demand for labor if the government doesn't get involved? Or is the ideal system one in which there's 10-20% unemployment in every country? Because the private sector sure as heck isn't going to start generating jobs without help from the government.

Last, that's not guilt-by-association at all. That's guilt-hiring-and-promoting-to-senior-executive-level-position. If someone went to McDonald's everyday and turned out to be a racist, and then people blamed McDonalds, that would be guilt-by-association. But they can't really play the "This guy doesn't represent McDonalds" card when, um, he's doing an interview as an authorized representative of McDonald's.

You can couch theft, ergo Involuntary Charity any way you please, my only contempt is for those who uphold and extol the virtues of STATISM via the confiscation of property, which in this case is in the form of Earned Wages.

But alas, the only retort the STATIST can ever craft is either some vague spurious notion of "racism" or "contempt for the working man" when someone dare say their wages are their property.

Nevermind my own most horrendous shake-up over this past fall which precipitated me selling practically everything that was not edible so as to keep food on the table and the utility bill paid.

Further, thanks to Voluntary charity via a food bank our family was able to bridge the gap with out feeding at the welfare trough until my efforts bore fruit into new employment.

So please, play the violin for the "working" class hero, when in fact it is doubtful you have ever really had to work to survive in your life, yet feel the need to tell the rest of us how to use our wages.

My entire family is blue-collar and somehow through the hard times all the way back to my grandfather who actually lived through the Great Depression, we have never sought nor received coerced Involuntary charity from the Government crack-dealer.

Moreover, oh my how did the world ever survive before Keynes? Lets see the Dollar was worth 12% more in value from 1790 to 1913 and now after almost 100 years of Statist Keynsian economic theory, the Dollar is worth 4 cents compared to the 1913 Silver Certificate.

As I said previously you can roll out all of your talking-points and levy attacks couched in "contempt" for the working class all day long.

The truth is your philosophy fails horribly without the use of violence and coercion.

So much so you have not the spine to commit the theft yourself, and instead opt to hire the Government Mafia to sooth your aching conscience.

Guess what? We are tired of being robbed by a bloated incompetent Central Authority sitting on the Hill, and as more utterly refuse to participate, you and your kind will be left with a choice: either get off your rump and pull yourself up by your boot straps or wither on the vine.

I was going to say - McDonalds food and employment practices seem like the shittiest things they've given to America. They can keep their stupid ad to sell more cholesterol.

Hey, I'll admit it: coming home from the bar some night, you'r hungry, and your choices (down here anyway) is either something *really* gross from the convenience store at the gas station or making a quick run through McD's.

Nope, it aint haute cuisine. But sometimes, when you live in a world defined by McD's, WalMart, and the 24 hour gas station... you take what seems the least likely to do you in. :-)

do i understand correctly that the ceo of mcdonald's believes that the younger your country's population skews, the less likely you are to be a religious country?

while i consider that good news (sorry, father tony), i can't help but wonder how iran (very young population, very religious) fits into that picture.