New Internationalist


September 2002

It’s not easy being the primary symbol of rampant US capitalism abroad. McDonalds is the first point of attack for angry locals.

When French farmer Jose Bové dismantled a McDonalds to protest against industrial food culture and US agricultural policies, he was hailed as a local hero synonymous with Asterix the Gaul, the indomitable French cartoon character with a gigantic moustache who defies imperial Rome.

Faced with a little local image problem, McDonalds, in an attempt to win the hearts, minds and stomachs of the French, has retired Ronald McDonald as the company’s public face and replaced him with Asterix the Gaul.

This is known as ‘glocalization’ – adapting global products for a local market. McDonalds quoting the dictum, ‘Think global, act local,’ now sells rice meals in Hong Kong, veggie burgers in India, and bacon butties in Britain.

Homogenous global culture may be increasingly unpopular, but such cynical glocalization has its own dangers. In 2000, facing a mass Saudi boycott of US food products over American support for Israel, McDonalds, which has 45 restaurants in Saudi Arabia, launched what one might term an ‘intifada-burger’ initiative. During Ramadan, it announced, it would donate 26 cents from each meal to Palestinian children’s hospitals. This appeal to local sentiment backfired spectacularly when US supporters of Israel learned McDonalds was supporting ‘the Palestinians’ and began a boycott of their own.

In the current climate US brands are counting the costs in millions of a Middle Eastern boycott of their products. Across the Middle East, branches of McDonalds are empty.

Meanwhile in Egypt products such as Yasser Arafat Potato Chips, featuring a cartoon of the Palestinian leader with his chequered head-dress, are flying off the shelves. In Bahrain Zamzam Cola, named after a holy spring in Mecca, is replacing Coke as the drink of choice.

What will McDonalds do next to market to the Muslim world? Happy McSaddam theme meals? Afghan Mcfood drops? McDonalds ads in the breaks between Osama bin Laden slots on Al-Jazeera? And what if their more patriotic US customers find out?

Seriously is, for once, rather enjoying the contradictions of global capitalism.

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 349 This column was published in the September 2002 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

Never miss another story! Get our FREE fortnightly eNews

Comments on McJihad

Leave your comment


  • Maximum characters allowed: 5000
  • Simple HTML allowed: bold, italic, and links

Registration is quick and easy. Plus you won’t have to re-type the blurry words to comment!
Register | Login

...And all is quiet.

Subscribe to Comments for this articleArticle Comment Feed RSS 2.0

Guidelines: Please be respectful of others when posting your reply.

Get our free fortnightly eNews


Videos from visionOntv’s globalviews channel.

Related articles

Recently in Currents

All Currents

Popular tags

All tags

This article was originally published in issue 349

New Internationalist Magazine issue 349
Issue 349

More articles from this issue

New Internationalist Magazine Issue 436

If you would like to know something about what's actually going on, rather than what people would like you to think was going on, then read the New Internationalist.

– Emma Thompson –

A subscription to suit you

Save money with a digital subscription. Give a gift subscription that will last all year. Or get yourself a free trial to New Internationalist. See our choice of offers.