Last week, renowned British street artist Banksy, whose Better Out Than In “artist residency on the streets of New York” is the talk of the town, created a piece called “Shoe Shine.” It’s a “performance/sculpture hybrid … featuring an exaggeratedly impoverished-looking young man shining the shoes of a giant Ronald McDonald” which “will visit the sidewalk outside a different McDonalds every lunchtime for the next week.” Ad Week observed, “It's going to be a long week for McDonald's store managers.”
We hope that’s true for McDonald’s corporate exes, too. This week, the callous corporate behavior of this company is once again on full display in this New York Times/Retro Report video about the McDonald’s coffee case.
Although the HBO documentary film Hot Coffee did a better job showing how corporate America and their political allies used this case to push a so-called “tort reform” agenda to limit corporate liability for recklessly harming or killing people, it does a good job telling the story of what really happened in the case: From the gruesome photographs of Stella Liebeck's third degree burns and skin grafts, to the court exhibits showing the hundreds of similar burns because McDonald’s chose to sell coffee at superheated temperatures, to the fair and thoughtful reasoning of the jury.
This is information the majority of Americans don’t know. The media has done a terrible job informing the public about this case. It's typical, though, i.e., limiting coverage to headlines and soundbites that never tell the real story of why people go to court or why juries – who are the only ones who hear the evidence in a case – decide how they do. For more examples, check out our earlier post on the Center for Justice & Democracy report, Headline Blues, discussing how “new media” trends, which rely on headlines or brief, sensationalized descriptions, are producing an even more distorted understanding of our civil jury. system.
Retro Report did a good job examining the media’s shoddy coverage of this case. Let’s hope we see more of that.