The infamous “McLibel” pamphlet: Co-authored by a police officer

In the UK, the “McLibel” case, involving the not-super-flattering claims in the pamphlet above, was one of the country’s longest-running. (And although McDonald’s won, it was a black eye for the company because a court found that most of the claims in the pamphlet were true.) But here’s the fun part, which only surfaced this week: One of the authors of the pamphlet was an undercover police officer attempting the infiltrate the group that put out the flyer. Oh.

In June 1995, McDonald’s offered to settle the case (which “was coming up to its [tenth] anniversary in court”) by donating a large sum of money to a charity chosen by the two. They further specified that they would drop the case if Steel and Morris agreed to “stop criticising McDonald’s”. Steel and Morris secretly recorded the meeting; McDonald’s said the pair could criticise McDonald’s privately to friends but must cease talking to the media or distributing leaflets. Steel and Morris wrote a letter in response saying they would agree to the terms if McDonald’s ceased advertising its products and instead only recommended the restaurant privately to friends.

14. McLibel (2005 version)

Just to reiterate, this is an updated version that includes added European Court and more Eric Schlosser and that stuff. It’s a more recent, and slightly more complete view.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, here it is: McDonalds were apparently a bit lawsuit happy when it comes to people saying bad things about them and after a few people in a particular group distribute a leaflet detailing how horrible McDonalds are, and two people in that group are not going to take it lying down. This decision causes them to embark on a 15 year long legal battle that may challenge the very fabric of the British legal system.

It’s visually drab, obviously. It’s a documentary about two Londoners who don’t like fast food, how visually dynamic could it be? It is however chock full of interesting interviews and peeks into their psyche throughout the case. My favourite part is when Dave and Helen meet with three representatives of McDonalds who are desperately trying to scare the duo into settling. It’s really powerful stuff.