by Joel Neidlebaumansteinenberg, DP Mid-East Liaison
Tuesday, June 27th, 2011
(UNITED STATES) —As America's skies prepare to light up on the July 4th, a shadow has descended on the nation. Some say it is the shadow of a harmless fast food hamburger; others say it is the specter of one of the world's bloodiest madmen. Either way, there is no denying the release of McDonald's new "McDhafi" burger is causing quite a controversy on the eve of the country's 235th birthday.
Indeed, McDonald's release last week of its self-described "defiant," "resilient" McDhafi burger has hampered the celebration of America's freedom and sparked outrage nationwide.
The burger, according to critics, bears an uncanny resemblance to Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Replete with two thick patties of ground lamb meat, hummus and cucumber spread, an extra-raised pita bun in the shape of a kufi, and ultra-dark purple lettuce ballooning alongside what appears to be gaudy sunglasses burnt in its "face,” the McDhafi burger is either a macabre attempt of fast food’s dip into international affairs, or an blatant nod to the Libyan tyrant and current opponent in war (that is, if the U.S. was at war with Libya, which by no means it is. Who would even assume such a thing..? Lord, what silliness!). These and similar charges McDonald's adamantly denies.
"McDonald's is shocked and saddened at this mass misunderstanding on the eve of our nation's birthday," said the McDonald's corporation in a press release Monday. "McDonald's never intended to mimic the appearance or name of Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi in creating this product. We were merely attempting to reach deeper into the American-Arabian market, not insult this great nation."
Furthermore, McDonald's claims the burger was actually fashioned in the spirit of the Fourth of July, touting the label of "defiant" and "resilient" to honor the U.S. on its birthday. Said McDonald's spokesperson Pierce Humphries to Duh Progressive Tuesday, "(McDonald's) was aiming for a growing, more exotic segment of the America fast food market, as well as celebrate the spirit of America for the Fourth of July. Unfortunately we have created a product many people see as offensive. McDonald's deeply regrets this controversy."
Due to the sharp reaction from consumers, Humphries said McDonald's would be discontinuing its McDhafis immediately.
However, McDonald's has yet to explain how it decided on the name "McDhafi" for its lamb-based burger (the first fast food chain to offer lamb in the U.S.) and why it chose the week before America's most patriotic holiday to release a meal many people instantly perceived as a nod to one of the country’s oldest enemies.
"This is a prime case of what not to do, marketing-wise," said New York Times food critic and business analyst Glenn Collins Monday. Collins said that while there is a growing market for more Middle and Far-East flavored fast food, McDonald's handling of this new genre could not have been worse. "Nothing McDonald's did concerning this new Arabian-flared meal was appropriate," said Collins. “The name of the burger was suspicious, the look of the burger was eerily similar to the real Gadhafi...the U.S. is bombing Libya currently, so the timing of the new burger was atrocious, and the whole ‘defy the world’ slogan, while able to be linked to America's independence and the Fourth of July, can also be put in context for Moammar Gadhafi right now."
Apology Falls Short for McD’s —Damage Already Done
For the two days it has stayed on the market, the McDhafi received mixed reviews. So far Western journalists have been forbidden from entering a McDonald’s to report on the McDhafi’s consumption, however have been able to speak with fast food refugees as they leave the stores and flee back to their cars.
Minneapolis resident Sarah Jackson said she found the McDhafi’s aroma interesting, its appearance a bit comedic, but taste rather bland. “It was a pretty schizoid type of experience,” Jackson told the AP after trying the new and soon-to-be-former burger. “I’ve never had lamb before at a McDonald’s, but I think they could have done a lot more with it, like given it an open-top limousine to ride around in and rally supporters.”
Within short order, the McDhafi has become the brunt of jokes, giving late night talk shows fodder beyond Monday’s 4th of July celebration. But to Libyan refugees living in the U.S., many of whom fled to escape Gadhafi’s brutal regime, McDonald’s miscalculation in marketing is unforgivable. Now a resident of Queens, NY, former Libyan refugee Yusef Musa said he is astonished at McDonald’s decision to release the McDhafi. “I am shocked to see the image of North Africa’s worst madman reflected so callously in something as innocent as a simple drive-through meal,” said Musa to Duh Progressive Monday. “This is a slap in the face to people who have been brutalized by this man and to America.”
Corporate Civil War Looms as McDonaldland Characters Flee, Defect
Even more disturbed by the McDhafi’s creation are McDonald’s own loveable McDonaldland characters. Speaking from an undisclosed hideout in Nevada, Ronald McDonald himself said Tuesday he was terrified by the burger’s introduction and vowed not to return to McDonald’s until the McDhafis are removed from its menus and leave power.
Adding to the fast food giant’s pre-holiday PR disaster is the Hamburglar, who early Monday morning defected to McDonald’s archenemy, Burger King, in a daring midnight flight out of McDonald’s corporate stronghold in Oak Brook, Illinois. Speaking from the safety of Burger King’s corporate headquarters in Miami, the famous baby-faced thief said he could no longer stand to be part of the McDonalds franchise after witnessing the brutality of corporate executives upon those who spoke out against McDhafi.
“The Fry Kids got the worst of it,” recounted an emotional Hamburglar via phone interview Tuesday. “Not to mention what they did to the Fry Girls. They told the marketing executives they thought the McDhafi was a bad idea. Then the next day they were arrested. We didn’t see them for days. We could hear the screams from the cellars in corporate headquarters…The way they looked when they were finally released…I’ll never forget it.”
Such allegation of abuse against its cherished McDonaldland characters the company fiercely denies. “We know we are guilty of a poor marketing decision, but nothing more –certainly not the unlawful detention and cattle-prodding of Grimace and the Fry Kids’ nipples.” said Corporate Spokesperson Humphries Tuesday, curiously unaware that Grimace, cattle prods, and the Fry Kids’ nipples have not been mentioned among opponents’ allegations.
Human Rights Groups Demand Federal Investigation
In Washington there are already rumors of a possible federal investigation into McDonald’s practices surrounding its Independence Day McDhafi. Several human rights groups have publically denounced McDonald’s and demanded its marketing and product development executives face prosecution. Actress and Amnesty International spokesperson Nazanin Boniadi said Amnesty and similar groups are pressuring the Justice Department to investigate the charges of torture against the McDhafi’s dissenters.
“It’s only a matter of time before we get to the bottom of this travesty,” said Boniadi outside Amnesty International’s New York office Tuesday. “McDonald’s can claim ignorance only so far. That fact is that there is mounting evidence that not only did the company knowingly insult the entire free world with this ‘McDhafi’ —which, by the way, is dreadful as far as Middle-Eastern food goes— but that it engaged in a systematic campaign of violence and intimidation against dissenting employees; behavior that is disturbingly similar to what is being perpetrated in Libya right now. There are no excuses for McDonald’s.”
“Make no mistake,” added Boniadi, “McDonald’s is going to be brought to justice.”
UPDATE: Citing the controversy involving McDonald’s McDhafi burger line, Edy’s Grand Ice Cream Company announced Tuesday it has cancelled the pending release of its East African-themed ice cream line, Edy’s Amin, Ultra-Dark.
(yes folks, we had to go there)