Big Mac, Attacked 

Big Mac, Attacked 

Big Mac, Attacked 

What the foreign papers are saying.
July 3 2000 9:30 PM

Big Mac, Attacked 

With stirring prose, a leader in Britain's Independent stood up for an embattled establishment Saturday:

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It is time to throw up the barricades to defend one of the great institutions of the modern world from the forces of reactionary rural hypocrisy. If liberalism is measured by the unpopularity of the cause, this is the standard to which true liberals should rally: the red flag with the two yellow arches stitched on it. We come to praise McDonald's.

June Thomas June Thomas

June Thomas is managing producer of Slate podcasts.

The reason for the rhetoric was the trial in Millau, France, of José Bové, the "Robin Hood of Roquefort," accused with nine others of destroying a half-built McDonald's last August. The attack took place after the United States imposed 100 percent tariffs on some European specialty products—including Roquefort cheese—in retaliation for Europe's ban on hormone-treated U.S. beef. Bové, whose sheep provide milk for Roquefort, has become a poster child of the war on globalization, and Millau has been transformed into "Seattle-on-Tarn." According to the International Herald Tribune, he embodies a "worldwide struggle … of farm versus city, authentic food versus junk food, local versus global, European versus American."

In its defense of America's most famous culinary export, the Independent took a populist tack:

Global capitalism brings benefits to everyone. For the few, it supplies Rocquefort. For the many … it supplies the Big Mac. … The French pretend not to like McDonald's because they are snobbish about food. The British pretend not to like it because they are snobbish about sharing their restaurants with the mass of their fellow citizens. Both nations should throw off their snobbery and learn, if not to love, at least to accept and welcome the Golden Arches.

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Even in the French press, it was hard to find whole-hearted support for Bové's position. The liberal French paper Libération detected a worrisome nationalism in his rhetoric. Its editorial concluded:

It is extremely important not to allow the "sovereignist" right to exploit identity politics to legitimize xenophobia, intolerance, and national autism.

Also opposing Bové, the Financial Times pointed out some inherent contradictions:

His movement runs on the internet and the cellphone yet vilifies the science and the multinationals that created them. It seeks alliances with groups whose members are largely the beneficiaries—as citizens of the rich, powerful and globally competitive French economy—of globalization.

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In Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald denounced the "21st century Robespierre" as a hypocrite:

What Bové does not say about his crusade is that he is also fighting to retain his and his fellow French farmers' privileged access to one of history's richest veins of unearned wealth—the European Union's agricultural subsidies. French farmers swallow up more than 22 per cent of the multi-billion-dollar agricultural subsidies provided by the EU to European farmers, which have a massively distorting effect on global markets and severely penalise Australian farmers.

Perhaps "malbouffe" (junk food) caused the outbreak of simile fever associated with the case. The Times of London called Bové a "French Gandhi" and the "Asterix of the Larzac plateau"; Le Soir of Belgium portrayed the trappings of "Bovémania"; and Libération said, "the mustachioed, mediagenic man from Larzac is seen by some people as a sort of 'Asterix vs. World Inc.' "

Don't pray-pray with your language: A piece in the Jakarta Post described Indonesia's struggle with another aspect of globalization—the rise of "Indlish": Bahasa Indonesia, the official language, liberally sprinkled with English words and phrases. Linguistic infractions range from combining "an Indonesian prefix, suffix, preposition or possessive pronoun with an English word" to using English terms for concepts—"checks and balances" and "accountability," for example—that haven't yet made it into Bahasa Indonesia. The government of Singapore recently launched a campaign to eliminate "Singlish" (Singaporean-English with a smattering of Chinese dialects) finding the trend toward expressions such as "Can or not?" ("Is it possible?") and "Don't pray-pray" ("Don't play around") to be a nuisance. Although Indonesian experts don't think a similar campaign is necessary yet, Indlish can be exclusionary. Although it is widely understood among the educated and urban elite, it is less comprehensible to the 12.3 percent of Indonesians who never went to school and the 30.5 percent who didn't graduate from elementary school. At a time when the country is threatened with regional and religious schisms, one scholar reminded readers that the adoption of Bahasa Indonesia was one of the factors that unified the country. She told the Post, "Our language is our self-identity."