“A passionately argued, incendiary polemic… Schlosser has a flair for dazzling scene-setting and an arsenal of startling facts” (Schlosser unpaged). This eloquent quotation is taken from “Los Angeles Times” review of the book “Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal” by Eric Schlosser, a brilliantly endowed American journalist, who had been studying and investigating the phenomenon of the fast-food industry and its expansion in the world during several years and produced an impressive outcome of his analysis – the best-seller of 2001, with over 1 million copies sold. In Chapter 10, “Global Realization”, Eric Schlosser asserts that the cultural identity of the countries around the world is greatly threatened and harmed by the brisk demand for fast food and its continually increasing expansion in all countries around the world. However, the intelligent reader should analyze the given material carefully, thoroughly and without hurry; additional perspectives should be analyzed before producing personal final judgment about the validity of the author’s argument.
Empirical evidence of “Global Realization”
It is commonly known that every investigation should be supported and proved by empirical evidence, as it is in human nature to question and doubt every new assertion. Facts and figures are the best proof. They say you cannot fight facts. Being guided by this rule and understanding the seriousness of his accusation of fast food, Eric Schlosser resorts to the presentation of empirical evidence for his righteous anger aimed at fast food. The author makes use of statistics:
A decade ago McDonald’s had about three thousand restaurants outside the United States; today it has about fifteen thousand restaurants in more than 117 countries. It currently opens about five new restaurants every day, and at least four of them are overseas (Schlosser 229).
In addition to the description of the current situation, Schlosser mentions ambitious plans of the company’s leader for a future doubling of the number of McDonald’s, stressing that the major part of the company’s profit is brought from abroad (Schlosser 229). To prove his argument, the journalist has chosen the German food market; he describes the gradual decrease of the number of traditional restaurants in Germany, “serving schnitzel, bratwurst, knackwurst, sauerbraten, and large quantities of the bear” (Schlosser 232). The author describes the changes in the demand for national cuisine, which is one of the major parts of national culture. What is more, he gives the description of a typical fast-food restaurant, drawing the readers’ attention to the fact, that not only national cuisine suffers from McDonald’s oppression, but other elements of national culture are affected: the music tastes, the tastes in clothes: “Teenagers dressed in Nikes, Levis”, “everyone’s tray said ‘Always Coca-Cola’” (Schlosser 234). Finally, the author resorts to the description of a lawsuit against McDonald’s, implying that fast food companies are indecent, and they violate the law (248).
Persuasive strategies applied by Schlosser
At the same time, being an intelligent and educated person, and, what is more, an efficient journalist, Schlosser could not miss the chance to prove his argument with the help of well-disguised indirect methods of persuasion. Being sure that if the global cultural situation may leave some representatives of the audience indifferent, Schlosser tackles personal matter, the state of health of fast-food consumers. He mentions that “obesity is now second only to smoking as a course of mortality in the United States” (Schlosser 241). The problem of being overweight is stressed in the text indirectly as well: “slogan “Big! Big!” Now applies not just to the industry’s portions, but its customers” (Schlosser 241). The author of “Fast Food Nation” may be considered a good psychologist, as he applies one more argument to persuade his audience, it is mainly aimed at those, who do not care about their health. Schlosser states that fast food is especially harmful to children, as American children consume the greater portion of vegetables in the form of chips and fries, and their eating habits are a perfect example of what to avoid and b careful about for the rest of the world (243). Besides, going back to the beginning of the chapter, let us recall, that the example of a German fast food restaurant was described there. The choice of the town and country is not accidental, the author wants to show that even such a stable country as Germany is mesmerized and affected by fast food. What is more, the significance of the choice of Germany may be intensified by the fact that it was Nazi Germany that wanted to capture and enslave the whole world, and now seemingly safe fast food has conquered this country, let alone other countries of the world. To pour oil on flames, the author presents the examples of people’s struggle against McDonald’s in different countries, as if he wanted to invite the readers to the similar actions, he mentions Danish anarchists’ loot of McDonald’s, Indian farmers’ outrages against fast-food restaurants, the bombing of the fast food in Cali, etc. To strengthen his position and to sound more persuasive, the author analyses other printed sources criticizing Mcdonald’s, mainly the London Greenpeace leaflet, stating that some information is reliable, while other is “pure agitprop” (245). The final persuasive technique used by the author of the book is framing: he starts and finishes the chapter with the description of German town Plauen, thus, enveloping all the proofs of the argument the chapter suggests.
The analysis of outside sources
However, no matter how educated or intelligent a person may be, it often appears to be difficult to stay unbiased. This is why the validity of the argument, suggested by Schlosser should be proved or refuted with the help of other sources related to the topic. Such is the article “Global Brands” by O’Keefe. The author presents information about one more global company, Tricon Global Restaurants, while Schlosser focuses on McDonald’s mainly. The author agrees that globalization is the only way for the companies like Tricon to grow further and to be successful (par. 5). The valuable detail, presented in the article is that Tricon understands it is impossible to open restaurants based on the American model and be successful. “It has to adapt to local tastes and negotiate to change cultural and political climates” (O’Keefe par. 8). Thus, fast food companies practice blending of American and national cultures. Just as Schlosser in “Global Realization”, O’Keefe mentions the high popularity of fast food among Chinese children, for whom Tricon offers special kids’ meals and playgrounds. However, this article presents a positive aspect of fast-food companies: the usage of local ingredients and the offer of a place of employment for people. The final sentence of the article is symbolic: “I don’t think we’re viewed as a different culture; I think we’re a part of the culture” (O’Keefe par. 23).
Schlosser tackles the problems connected with fast food’s expansion in many countries, China among them. In his turn, the author of the article “China’s Big Mac Attack” introduces the notion of “cultural imperialism”, but he explains that it is not so dangerous as it may seem (Watson 121). Watson reveals the secret of the universal appeal of McDonald’s using, probably, the most authoritative example, Chinese fast food, if we take into account principal differences in indigenous cuisine and American food. Consumers are attracted by the habit and affordability of fast food. Besides, again sounds the idea about children, who are considered “full-scale consumers” of fast food (Watson 126). Taking into account the peculiar social and demographic situation in China, the reason for McDonald’s popularity becomes clear. Watson says that despite “the symbolic load it carries, McDonald’s can hardly be held responsible for the wholesale subversion of local cuisines” (128). What is more, the attitude of the Chinese to McDonald’s as safe, reliable, and their national restaurant is very thought-provoking; it contradicts Schlosser’s argument. The author justifies McDonald’s stressing that Chinese culture is becoming global culture today as well.
Finally, let us consider the third source, the interview of Vandana Shiva, which is of great interest to us, because of Shiva’s radical mood. As presented by Shiva, the situation with McDonald’s in India is close to catastrophe. She is sure that American fast food may damage Indian century-based culture, especially in connection with the sacred status of cows in India. Thus, McDonald’s may be harmful to a national religion. What is more, expansion of fast food is sure to bring harm to poor people of India, as “food which today goes towards feeding the poor… will get diverted to feed the animfast-food will then go into fast food chains to feed, in India definitely, the elite” (Shiva unpaged). Shiva also blames McDonald’s for the exploitation of child labor, asserting that this exploitation is sure to lead to cultural and educational degradation of the population.
Provisional evaluation of Schlosser’s argument
On analyzing Schlosser’s point of view and based on the outside sources studied, it is possible to make a provisional evaluation of the journalist’s argument. First of all, let us mention, that it is difficult to give an objective final evaluation, taking into account the complexity of the problem analyzed. On the whole, the evidence produced by the journalist may be considered convincing and reliable. It is evident, that he did his best to seem as unbiased as possible. The amount of statistics presented in “Global Realization” is rather impressive. The author managed to shed light on the situation of fast food in many countries. Still, the cultural problem could have been disclosed better, as the author paid too much attention to the harmful effect of fast food on our health, not our national culture. Two outside sources supported Schlosser’s argument, adding validity to it. Watson, at the same time, presented the opposing point of view, which also deserved consideration, and could not be disproved.
Concluding, it should be mentioned, that care about national culture should become the first consideration for every person. The threat of fast food to our health is unquestionable, now everyone should think about the way how to preserve his/her health and maintain national traditions and customs. However, globalization is inevitable, but we must take the only positive outcome of globalization, struggling against its negative influence. The book “Fast Food Nation” may be useful for people to take their bearings and work out the plan of action in a contemporary globalized society.
O’Keefe, Brian. Global Brands. Vol.144, Issue 11, 2001. Web.
Schlosser, Eric. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2001.
Watson, James L. “China’s Big Mac Attack”. Foreign Affairs 79.3. (2000). 2009. Web.
Shiva, Vandana. Vandana Shiva on McDonald’s, Exploitation and Global Economy. Transcript of the RealAudio Interview. One-Off Productions, 1997. 2009. Web.