There’s a video playing. Five serious types in black outfits and balaclavas stand in front of a yellow curtain, with a revolutionary’s black and yellow flag hanging in the background. Thier hooded hostage kneels in the foreground. The group’s de facto leader reads a list of questions for the camera ending by saying that if his questions aren’t answered by the specified date and time, thier captive will be beheaded. Throughout it all the hostage doesn’t squirm. He doesn’t plead. He appears unfeeling, rigid, maybe even calm. And rightfully so.
Beneath that hood is the smiling face of Ronald McDonald.
The Al-Qaeda style video is a stunt put on by an activist group calling themselves the Food Liberation Army. The Finnish group kidnapped the Ronald McDonald statue from a Helsinki McDonald’s on Jan 31 in broad daylight. The activists pulled it off by pretending to be maintenance men and placing a docket on the front counter.
“I had that happen to me once when I was working up in Philly,” said St. Augustine McDonald’s General Manager Shawn Harris. “The neighborhood kids would hold these scavenger hunts and if you could steal our waving Ronald statue you automatically won.”
The FLA had something a little more serious than a scavenger hunt on thier minds. They staged the video as a call for McDonald’s to be more transparent about what goes into thier food, as well as several of thier business practices.
“We wanted to make our statement in a funny way that imitates something dramatic,” said FLA spokesperson Jani Leinonen.
Shawn Harris likened the video to Alyssa Milano’s tweeted rant against McDonald’s oatmeal earlier in the year.
“I think it’s funny,” said Harris. ” But honestly, they are too serious. It’s just McDonald’s.”
Corporate McDonald’s didn’t find the video very funny. They released a statement saying the video was ‘in poor taste’ and ‘not an appropriate approach to meaningful dialogue.’
This wasn’t the answer the FLA was looking for. On Feb 11 they staged a beheading of a mock-Ronald statue in a Helsinki art gallery. The real Ronald had been recovered by police earlier in the week. Jani Leinonen was at the event unmasked, having already been detained and questioned by police.
“Most of us are in position’s that do not allow us to speak openly about the issues to which we are drawing attention,” he said. “Artists have no strings attached to customers or target groups. That’s why our spokesperson is an artist.”
Leinonen went on to say that he now hopes to talk with Mcdonald’s in a way that isn’t so theatrical.
“Perhaps now we can ask the questions of McDonald’s representatives in a talk show or other less dramatic venue.”