Red Bull gives a shout out to its favorite Nazi

Red Bull beverages produces a magazine called The Red Bulletin (which sounds like a communist publication, but never mind), billed as “news from the world of Red Bull.” It is the usual slick, vapid type of magazine filled with people and things that you’ve never heard of because you’re a grown up.

NO-NAZIS-PATADA-PIN In the current issue they have profiles of four people they deem heroes: In the words of the subhed: “If boundaries were meant to be pushed, these men and women were born to push them.” The four are a female Turkish racecar driver, a NASCAR driver, Hugh Hefner and … Wernher von Braun.

The article mainly focuses on the second part of Dr. von Braun’s career when he guided NASA and America’s effort to reach the moon. Scant mention is made of his early years as chief rocketeer for Adolf Hitler. The only mention of his years as a Nazi and SS officer is the opening clause of one sentence

Just seven years after the last of his 1402 V-2 missiles had wreaked death and destruction on London during World War II, this Prussian-born minor aristocrat was informing, engaging and entertaining America with magazine explanations of how man might break free of Earth’s bonds.

After that, this blow job (that’s a technical phrase used by journalists who get stuck with assignments like this) for the deceased goes on ad nauseum with hard-hitting observations like

“He was a PR man’s dream,” says Mike Buckbee, NASA’s public affairs officer throughout its Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programmes.

No mention whatsoever is made of the N-word, slave labor or death camps or any other of that little unpleasantness from 1933 to 1945. Even NASA, von Braun’s former employer, has the decency to say

Von Braun’s relationship to the Nazi Party is complex; although he was not an ardent Nazi, he did hold rank as an SS officer. His relationship to slave labor is likewise complicated, for his distance from direct responsibility for the use of slave labor must be balanced by the fact that he was aware of its use and the conditions under which prisoners labored.

I have only one possible explanation for this surreal Sesame Street moment (“One of these things is not like the others…”). Red Bull was founded by one Dietrich Mateschitz, an Austrian. Austria, for those of you who don’t remember, was not conquered by Germany – it invited them in.

As usual, the estimable Tom Lehrer put it best:

And what is it that put America in the forefront of the nuclear nations? And what is it that will make it possible to spend 20 billion dollars of your money to put some clown on the moon? Well, it was good old American know-how, that’s what. As provided by good old Americans like Dr. Wernher von Braun.”


Gather round while I sing you of Wernher von Braun,
A man whose allegiance
Is ruled by expedience.
Call him a Nazi, he won’t even frown.
"Ha, Nazi Schmazi," says Wernher von Braun.

Don’t say that he’s hypocritical,
Say rather that he’s apolitical.
"Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?
That’s not my department," says Wernher von Braun.

Some have harsh words for this man of renown,
But some think our attitude
Should be one of gratitude,
Like the widows and cripples in old London town
Who owe their large pensions to Wernher von Braun.



‘Tis the season for … holiday advertising mistakes

Red Bull wins this year’s Throwing out the Babe with The Manger award for being the first company I noticed to get in trouble for its holiday ads. Seems that an Italian priest took offense to a TV spot showing a fourth wise man bearing a can of Red Bull as a gift for Baby You Know Who.

Father Marco Damanti, from Sicily, wrote to the makers of the caffeinated energy drink denouncing their commercial as “a blasphemous act” and said on Monday he had received a prompt reply promising to remove it from Italian television.

Given that Christmas now means Capitalism With Bows On, it is difficult to see why Fr. Damanti singled out Red Bull for criticism.

Quoth Lehrer:

Hark the Herald Tribune sings,
Advertising wondrous things.

God rest ye merry, merchants,
May you make the Yuletide pay.

Angels we have heard on high
Tell us to go out and buy!

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