Does Prince Charles hate democracy?

Heir to the throne Prince Charles has been mouthing off again, this time about the evils of plebeian food. “Have you got anywhere with McDonald’s?” he asked a nutritionist in Abu Dhabi. “Have you tried getting it banned? That’s the key.”
The generally pro-monarchy Daily Telegraph, however, compared the nutritional value of a Big Mac with a Duchy Originals Organic Beef Cornish Pasty, made by the Prince’s own company. Whether you compare them per 100g or by whole product, the pasty has more salt, more saturated fat, more calories and less fibre. Perhaps the Prince is asking to ban the wrong product.
Of course, nutritional value is more than matter of counting fat and calories, but still, this seems to be a pretty clear example of double standards. I’d like to see a nutritional breakdown of a meal consumed at a royal banquet and compare that to a McDonalds meal deal. Think of all that butter and cream, gourmet cheeses, the sheer quantity in the endless courses, and empty calories in the copious glasses of wine usually consumed. Really, it shouldn’t be allowed. Morgan Spurlock should try eating at all the functions Prince Charles goes to in a month and follow one rule: he won’t ask to be supersized but if he is offered more, he’ll say yes. It would make his McDonalds experiment look like a dieter’s picnic. But, hey, it would all be organic, so it must be good for you!
Psychological explanations are always perilous, but since I’ve recently read Jacques Rancière’s Hatred of Democracy, I’ve been seeing examples of the phenomenon he describes everywhere, and this seems to be one of them. Could it be that the apparently moral concern for the wellbeing of the masses, as well as a high-minded disdain for the vulgarising effects of advanced consumer capitalism, is really just the latest example of the historic loathing of ordinary people by elites? McDonalds is demonised, not because it’s particularly evil, but because it’s vulgar, in the true sense of the word.
It may be you have other reasons to despise McDonalds, but I’m not trying to defend that corporation particularly. Nor am I denying that the average person eats less well than he or she ideally should, in the UK and in the US. All I’m saying is that the vitriol in condemnations of precisely those things which are most popular with most people is not fully explained by how bad they are.
Rancière’s thesis might be off the mark in this particular case, but I suspect in general, he’s really onto something.

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13 Comments.

  1. Devin Carpenter

    In America, articles concerning the pseudo-authenticity of George Bush are frequent. People talk of him as if he’s a normal guy, a rancher, someone you’d want to “go have a beer with.” Isn’t McDonald’s this same way? I feel as though you are missing a class. Most of the opponents of McDonald’s food are certainly elite (in so far as all visible opponents of anything have to be elite – otherwise no one would know about them), and frequenters and consumers of McDonald’s are certainly not the elite. But what about McDonald’s itself? It is a multi-billion dollar company with restaurants all around the globe. Is it not, itself, a member of the elite? I’m simply not sure, then, if an attack on McDonald’s is truly an attack of elites on peons, but an attack of elites on a separate elite.

    As for your comparing of a McDonald’s meal to a royal meal, in general I’m sure it is correct (although certainly British royals have personal trainers, more time to exercise then the regular person etc.), but the relevance of this fact would only be if the royals actually KNEW that their meal was worse than McDonald’s. (I wouldn’t be surprised if through arrogance and habituation they thought that this was the most healthy meal they could be having.) Becuase if they didn’t KNOW that there meal was worse than a McDonald’s meal, their attack on McDonald’s can’t be perceived as an attempt to terminate what is “vulgar” (as in both meals are equally bad, but one is lower class) but a termination of bad food that is killing many people.

    I think banning McDonald’s goes against basic tenets of freedom; and hence is a bad idea. But, in America anyway, the position of “ban McDonald’s” isn’t a position at all. In fact, “Super Size Me” came no where close to advocating the ban of McDonald’s or any other restaurant for that matter. Prince Charle’s position seems to me to be a straw man. Is this a mainstream position in England?

    Prince Charles’ attack is on an elite restaurant that, to him, is killing many people each year. I don’t agree with his conclusion (“ban it”), but I don’t think this is a case of the elite having disgust for the “vulgar.”

  2. Andrew Talbot

    Prince Charles is about as up to speed on fast food and popular diet as George H W Bush was on technology and the ordinary plebeian pursuit of grocery shopping when he failed to understand what a bar code scanner did. Both people are members of a remarkably isolated transnational elite that embarasses itself when it tries to play to the pit.

    McDonalds has had to change its menu to reflect popular tastes. The change includes fresh salads that have been a smash hit and have taken corporate performance out of the doldrums that affect much of the fast food industry. If Prince Charles is concerned about super sized citizens he would do better to support McDonald’s efforts to provide a healthier menu at reasonable prices.

    The comments may also be a left handed slam at America, since McDonald’s is a symbol of Americanism today they way Ford once was. As such the golden arches have betimes been a terrorist target. The question remains, what is he objecting to: the fact that Americans are overweight or that they create global businesses that appeal to mainstream tastes and budgets?

    Not being jingoistic (a term not invented here), I generally don’t react much to these sorts of things. I also realize that the USA’s profile in the world has suffered because of the policies of the current Administration (whether one agrees with them or not, this is a fact). That said, I share my countrymen’s disdain for cheap shots, which the Prince’s comments most certainly were.

  3. Andrew Talbot

    Apologies misspelling ’embarrasses.’

    In future I’ll spell check before posting here.

  4. In the UK there is a real debate about control of unhealthy foods. Outright bans aren’t on the agenda but, for example, there are new bans coming on on advertising “unhealthy” foods during kids’ TV shows.
    Maybe Charlie didn’t know his pasty was less helthy than a Big Mac, but when you have that much influence, it’s up to you to know what you know and what you don’t before you mouth off.
    Andrew’s right that America gets blamed for most of our ills in Europe, and that’s lazy scapegoating. But the salad thing – it’s been a great PR success, and it’s added choices, but actually the vast majority of sales at McDonalds remain the burgers and fries.

  5. “but when you have that much influence, it’s up to you to know what you know and what you don’t before you mouth off.”

    Exactly – especially when you have that much influence that is of a kind unrelated to expertise in the subject you’re pronouncing on. Medical researchers pointed this out when Charlie was mouthing off about Gershon therapy. One (I think in the Guardian) emphatically noted that P.C. has access to vastly more attention, ink, air time, than medical researchers do, so he can get masses of people to heed his non-expert opinions on cancer therapy while the experts who say he’s wrong cannot. It’s a double mess – P.C. has far more ability to get his views heard than most people, and he’s quite willing to talk about technical subjects in which he is not an expert. That means he should be triply, quadruply, quintuply careful to know what he doesn’t know before he mouths off – and yet he goes cheerfully on telling everyone what’s what.

  6. Andrew Talbot

    Thanks, Julian.

    Worth thinking about: is it better to encourage McDonalds and the people who go there with positive reenforcement or just blame them because we like gut rippers and they supply them? This reminds me of the debate over whether it was better to boycott South Africa over apartheid or “constructively engage.” I think one can argue pursuasively and ethically either way.

  7. That’s reinforcement & persuasively . I really will start checking spelling before hitting submit.

  8. Devin Carpenter

    Your points about Prince Charles being an exceptional case since his points will be heard by so many people are well taken. I just think that, although the title was (hopefully) just to draw attention, the whole post was a little too grandiose for its subject matter. Also, if Prince Charles, a person who is in the media constantly, were limited to only pronouncing on things that he was an “expert,” I’m not sure what he would be able to talk about.

  9. Could it be that the apparently moral concern for the wellbeing of the masses, as well as a high-minded disdain for the vulgarising effects of advanced consumer capitalism, is really just the latest example of the historic loathing of ordinary people by elites?

    No. Prince Charles just isn’t very bright. This isn’t to excuse him for not doing his homework. Just to say that even if he did, he would probably only manage a C-.

  10. Could comments regarding the intelligence or otherwise of Prince Charles please be kept to a minimum. They should really only be expounded by people who know him, and smug comments about C-s and such are unattractively lowbrow.

    As for the article, the refutation is fair, but doesn’t add up to much. His comments in context are just banter, and even dedicated philosophers don’t always banter in a way which stands up to academic dissection.

    He was wrong, but it would only matter if he was making an official or serious statement. To meaningfully extrapolate conclusions about his democratic nature from this is made impossible by the flippant and casual nature of the comment.

    If one wishes to judge Prince Charles’ attitude to democracy, one would be better off examining his considered actions, amongst them being notable opposition to government restriction of Civil Liberties and freedom of speech.

  11. Surely the point made by invictus_88 is fairly irrelevant due to the fact that a person who recieves such media and public attention should be constantly aware that comments made by themselves whether flippant throw away or off the record are nearly always picked up by the media in some form. With celebrity be it monarchistic or otherwise comes the responsibility and knowledge that you are constantly in the public eye and that any comments made should be carefully considered before being spoken.

  12. Not really.

    I’m not anal enough to expect (let alone demand) that anyone who hits the public eye instantly censor their comments and hold back from saying anything inaccurate or unfair.

    Damn what a boring world that would be; boring, colourless and without passion or comedy.

    Let people strike where they wish and be corrected when they strike wrong, don’t go trying to censor people before the action. It’s absurd, pointless and boring.

    Also, it’s dashed un-British, don’cha know!

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