There’s a lot of news stories I missed commenting on in my absence. I’ll get around to several of them eventually because there’s a lot to be said that’s still relevant, but today I want to touch on one that got a lot of attention on the front end, but I didn’t see much on the back end.
I’m talking about the lawsuit that was brought against Taco Bell several months ago, claiming that their “meat” was only, oh what was it, 35% beef. I think that was the number. Naturally, all the sharp-toothed, fast-food-o-phobes leapt upon their soap boxes to preach modern day faux-morality at anyone who’s ever run for the border because “look at how HORRRRRRRIBLE and EEEEEEEVIL this company is for selling their DISGUSTING food to all you morons!”*
*[You may not agree with my characterization there, but make no mistake that a quick browse through the comment sections on any story relating to that lawsuit, or any group or gathering around a similar issue, will show you exactly what I’ve shown you here. Perhaps some other time I’ll rant on the pungent hypocrisy of the healthy-food-as-morality crowd.]
I was very happy–very, very happy–to see Taco Bell not only stand their ground but hit back. And quickly. Within hours of the lawsuit being announced, Taco Bell spokespeople told the world, “Our meat is 88% beef, with the other 12% being spices and flavor enhancers, and we’ve never said different. All this information has always been available on our website.” And of course the next day they ran a huge defense ad in several papers, which wasn’t the expected (or at least what I expected) “defend against these accusations but try to act like we’re just talking about what great food we make” defense. Oh no. It was a full-on, white-glove-back-in-the-face retort. In effect, this action called out those who filed the suit as media whores who only took action to make a name for themselves. And let’s be honest–that’s what it was. Sure, there are concerns over some of the “enhancers” in the meat actually being significantly unhealthy, but I submit that that is not the point.
“But doesn’t it matter that Taco Bell is adding dangerous things to their meat?”
Yes, it does matter. On a different level. Notice that the lawsuit was NOT about the danger of silicon dioxide, it was about the percentage of a meat product that must be actual animal flesh to be classified as “meat.” The suit said it was way below that legal limit. It was not, directly, about what the other percentage specifically consisted of.
And, as I’ve said, Taco Bell hit back.
Yet that’s only half the story. The other half is that a few months later, the firm behind that lawsuit quietly dropped it. I don’t have their detailed explanation in front of me, but there are some pretty strong implications when, one day, you stand before the world and say, “THIS RESTAURANT IS LYING TO US ABOUT THE FOOD THEY SERVE!!!” and then the next day you do your best to vanish into the shadows. That says to ME that Taco Bell was right on the money when they said that this firm had no research on hand to demonstrate the factual basis of their claims, and that attempts to acquire it were unfruitful. So they try to disappear quietly. Drop the suit and sneak out the back door. The only problem with that is that the media frenzy up front damaged Taco Bell’s reputation. Say what you want about the restaurant–such an action is not fair, and not right, because its basis was unjustified and dishonest.
So Taco Bell took another action that solidified them as some of my heros . . .
Aw, snap! “Hey! You started this mess, now set it right!” Taco Bell could have so easily breathed a sigh of relief and then ran a tasteful ad campaign about the “quality of their ingredients,” never mentioning the lawsuit, and attempt to slowly repair their damaged reputation. But THIS . . . THIS is a call out for accountability. It is NOT right or justified that our legal system lets you smear someone like that and then try to duck out when it’s obvious that the points upon which you’ve built your case don’t actually hold any water (or are a flat-out lie and you knew it). This is, after all, the country where you only need to make an accusation of child molestation to anyone you don’t like and their reputation and credibility are damaged for life. How much easier is it to, in the same spirit, make false claims about an easy-to-hate-in-this-healthy-culture restaurant?
Unless they’ve done so and I’m ignorant to the fact, Taco Bell has never gotten that apology. But in my eyes, they don’t need it. They stood their ground and didn’t take any crap, and I applaud them.
Please no “taking a crap” jokes in the comments, though, please.
Speaking of the comments (assuming I’ll actually get any), let me head off a couple of the ones I expect.
“Why would you stand up for a nasty place like Taco Bell?”
–Putting aside the subjectivity of the quality of a restaurant in general, let me emphasize that this is not borne out of a love for Taco Bell (though the Cheezy Gordita Crunch is like heaven in a taco shell). This comes out of a desire for integrity. If Company A is really bad and deserves to be taken down, then do it honestly. If they’re really so bad as to warrant action like that against them, then the opposition should proudly stand on the truth. When said opposition needs to lie or exaggerate or fabricate to create the ground upon which they intend to stand to fight that “evil” corporate giant, then they’re equally corrupt. I fully understand the modern state of mind, among our Morgan Spurlocks and Michael Moores, that says that the end justifies the means, even if the means are made up. I disagree with that. If Taco Bell is so bad that it needs to be slapped with a high-profile lawsuit, then surely that lawsuit can be about something factual and concrete.
“Um . . . Taco Bell is really bad for you.”
–If you even THOUGHT about writing a comment to this effect, then let me emphasize that you’ve missed the point. This is not about health–it’s about integrity, and I made that distinction very clear. But then again, if you thought about a comment to this effect, what I’ve just said is likely to fall on deaf ears. It’s the Spurlock-fan circular reasoning: “Fast food is bad for you! Eat it and you will surely die!” “I’m not too sure it’s THAT bad for you.” “Yes-huh! Haven’t you seen Super Size Me?” “Actually I have, and let me point out all the reasons that Morgan Spurlock is an idiot or a complete liar, and most of what he said in that movie has no factual basis . . .” “Well even if he is lying, the message of the movie is important because fast food is bad for you! Eat it and you will surely die!” and so on.
My end point in all of this is not to stand up for fast food. If I saw justification to join the pitch-fork-and-torch-wielding masses, I would. But what I see is a bunch of people picking an easy target in an attempt to make a name for themselves. Taco Bell refused to take this sitting down, and that makes them awesome.