Right off the bat, let’s just say McDonald’s is a disgusting company which sells disgusting food and even as a guy who doesn’t mind eating disgusting food, McDonald’s is dead to me. It turns my stomach to even look at the sign, and every six months or so when I start to forget that, I buy an awful, soul-crushing breakfast sandwich and it makes me whimper. Although, yes, their chemical-riffic fries are tasty and I can’t stay mad at them.
But I guess I’m equally disgusted with our media, disgusted every time a horrible story breaks like the one coming out of Cleveland now, in which three women, kidnapped as teenagers, appear to have been held captive for ten years before escaping. I can’t imagine I need to recap it for you, but here’s CNN’s latest, and all you need to do is point your face practically anywhere to learn about Charles Ramsey, the man who helped them escape.
We don’t know very much about the story except that the women are alive, that one of them has a child born six years ago, and that they’d really like some privacy now to be with their families. And we of course know that the media would not like their privacy quite so much. Here’s everybody respecting the shit out of the three women’s privacy now:
Yes, and since they’re focusing more on the health and well-being of the women and the child rescued, the investigation hasn’t yet revealed very much about the details of the awful crime, so we’re back to reporting any rumor or tidbit anyone will cough up. It’s a lot like the story is a deer, and the reporters are simply ripping it apart like jackals. Well, it’s their job, right?
Anyone who will offer the slightest crumb gets an interview. Umm, seems to me the guy had a cat a few years ago, but not anymore. CLEVELAND KIDNAPPER MAY HAVE HAD CAT, POSSIBLY EATEN IT, screams the news.
I was just getting over the general nausea, though, when I saw this blog post: Did McDonald’s Cross The Line In Tweet About Ohio Kidnapping Case?
It’s from the Associate Blog Editor at The Huffington Post, which is the sort of thing that makes me glad I have an actual job. Take a look at the tweet which Mr. Seamus McKiernan believes may have crossed “the line”:
What’s the problem here? What line did they cross? Well, McKiernan takes the scenic route to that point, presumably because there’s no straight line to it. It’s like watching Doctor Frankenstein maniacally try to animate a lifeless corpse, but instead of a lifeless corpse, it’s a complete and utter non-issue, and instead of maniacally, he does it in an unconvincing, long-winded manner.
Right from the article:
“Nothing much to look at here, right? Just a company recognizing the courage of the kidnap victims, and praising a local hero who also happens to be its customer. Actually, on first read, the tweet comes across as well-intentioned.”
Huh. Well, we’d better dig deep into this two-sentence tweet then, right? Rather than settle for a cursory, First Read? Because no, sir, that doesn’t look like much to look at. These first two sentences strike me as a pretty thorough analysis of the two-sentence tweet. But I guess that’s why I’m not the Associate Blog Editor at The Huffington Post, because we’re about to roll up our sleeves and dig through this thing like a shark autopsy.
Not that Mr. McKiernan doesn’t seem to have a vague feeling that this is a non-issue. “Maybe we should leave the story about McDonald’s here,” he muses, and yes, dude. Maybe we should, since it’s a two-sentence story.
Naw, he decides, and he’s going to walk us through the tweet, since it’s not easy for non-Huffpost Associate Blog Editors to understand this stuff:
“Let’s look at the tweet. The first sentence is, “We salute the courage of Ohio kidnap victims & respect their privacy.” This doesn’t raise any flags. For better or worse, it’s become common for corporations to comment on news stories, particularly tragedies, via their social media accounts. McDonald’s in this regard is no different from other organizations and people who tweeted about the story. But what caught my eye was the second part of the tweet: “Way to go Charles Ramsey- we’ll be in touch.” Suddenly, I wondered how much the first part of the tweet existed to usher in the second.”
Well, my goodness. The more he rereads the tweet, the more sinister it becomes. Although, if one sits around rereading the same two sentences over and over, one is very likely to start to feel a little funny about them.
But what cracks me up is, THE FIRST SENTENCE IS OKAY WITH HIM!
So he’s got an issue with “Way to go Charles Ramsey – we’ll be in touch.”
Because it’s a mini-commercial, he decides in an incredibly convoluted manner. And he’s shocked and outraged by it.
Sure. I mean technically, every McDonald’s tweet is a commercial. They didn’t start a Twitter account so you could keep up with their post-graduate trip to Europe. They tweet for PR, and they tweet because you’re crazy not to, if you’re a business in 2013. Can anyone think of any PR issues surrounding the Cleveland case that might make McDonald’s want to say a few words?
Ah, yes, it’s the fact that their name is all over the story. Charles Ramsey mentioned McDonald’s. Ramsey was coming back from McDonald’s, the kidnapper was arrested at McDonald’s, the kidnapper frequently brought way more McDonald’s back to his house than a single man ought to require. All of these are things floating around the news, and I don’t even know which ones are true. But McDonald’s became associated with this horrific story, and I’m sure they weren’t crazy about it.
So, do you think McDonald’s, with perhaps one of the most gargantuan, globe-spanning marketing juggernauts in the history of the planet at its disposal, figured this tweet would drum up some much-needed business? Do you think from a marketing standpoint, this will generate a fart in a hurricane’s worth of cheeseburger sales? Or do you think they were deflecting bad publicity they didn’t ask for, and that they were deflecting it in an uncharacteristically positive way?
Say, they must have thought. You know one thing about the story everybody loves? Charles Ramsey. And you know what Charles Ramsey loves? McDonald’s. Maybe we ought to associate ourselves with him, congratulate his heroism, and imply that maybe we’ll be sending him a load of McDonald’s cards, since it’s the least we can do.
Yes, that’s real, sinister X-FIles shit, there, Scoop. In particular, I love McKiernan’s appropriately low confidence level. “Maybe I’m misreading this,” he admits in his conclusion, but then insists “we should acknowledge that the McDonald’s tweet is inappropriate at best and, at worst, it capitalizes on the sensation of a tragic story.”
Actually, at best it’s McDonald’s deflecting some horrific PR by genuinely, sincerely praising a hero. That would be “at best.” I mean, can you think of anyone besides McDonald’s who might be capitalizing on the sensation of a tragic story? The entire media, perhaps? You, Mr. Seamus McKiernan?
Here’s what I think – you couldn’t think of anything to blog about, so you obsessed over a McDonald’s tweet. Me? I don’t have to think of anything to blog about – I got you, buddy.