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November 13, 2003

Putting Unwise Legislation Up For Public Vote

Everyone's already read about the McLawsuit over Merriam-Webster's inclusion of the word "McJob" in the dictionary. Kerim Friedman pointed something out that caught my eye:

"What interests me about this story is that although McDonalds raises legal issues in their letter to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, they clearly understand that they have a weak case (the word was coined in 1991 and is already in the American Heritage Dictionary), so they are appealing to public sentiment as well. In their letter, which was CC'd to media organizations and published in an industry trade magazine, McDonald’s CEO Jim Cantalupo says:

the term is “an inaccurate description of restaurant employment” and “a slap in the face to the 12 million men and women” who work in the restaurant industry."

I saw the same phenomenon about appealing to public sentiment at recent hearings in Boston about gay marriage/civil unions and anti-abortion bills. Those who were against gay marriage, civil unions, and abortion wanted the legislature to include those issues as upcoming ballot initiatives. They wanted exactly what Kerim talks about -- they knew that their arguments were weak, so they wanted to appeal to public sentiment (i. e., appeal to public prejudice). Those in support of the gay marriage/civil union bills and those who testified against the anti-choice bills pointed out that if Brown v. Board of Education had instead been made into a ballot initiative for the public to vote on, it probably would never have passed. It was very unpopular at the time, but it was the right thing to do.

Posted on November 13, 2003 at 09:57 AM | Permalink


Oh please, it's a pretty damm accurate description of underpaid fast food workers!

Posted by: Elayne Riggs at Nov 13, 2003 2:35:32 PM

It sure is. Plus, what do you call Wal-Mart employees who pose for Playboy? A McLayout? Or McFired?

Posted by: Trish Wilson at Nov 13, 2003 7:48:44 PM