Back in the 1950s, the island of Bikini Atoll was the site of nuclear tests by the U.S. Armed Forces. You’ve probably seen the video and if you’re familiar with the tiny landmass in the Marshall Islands, it’s probably because of its association with our nuclear program.
The Manhattan Project Beer Company, a small brewery, makes a number of beers with nuclear-themed names. You may have guessed why given the company’s name, which is a reference to the project that produced the first nuclear weapon during World War II.
Brews from Manhattan Project include Half-life, Particles Collide, Plutonium-239 and 10 Nanoseconds, Pacific Daily News reported.
Thus, when they decided to name one of their new products Bikini Atoll, absolutely nothing should have happened except that those who enjoy imbibing microbrews had a new nuclear-themed option to choose from.
Instead, people began stamping their feet in anger.
The Texas-based company, the Pacific Daily News noted, “is facing criticism over the insensitivity to the Marshall Islanders who were exposed to high levels of radiation. The atoll remains uninhabitable.
“In 1946, the U.S. relocated 167 Bikinians to other parts of the Marshall Islands before detonating 23 atomic and hydrogen bombs at Bikini Atoll. The tests lasted until 1958.”
Residents were moved back to the island in 1969 but relocated again in 1978 when high levels of radiation were detected.
Republic of the Marshall Islands Secretary of Health & Human Services Jack Niedenthal — who is in no way looking to raise his profile through brewing up outrage — wrote a sternly-worded letter to Manhattan Project co-founder and co-owner Misty Sanford regarding the grave cultural transgression.
“The bottom line is your product makes fun of a horrific situation here in the Marshall Islands – a situation, that I promise you is still ongoing – to make money for your company. This is unacceptable to us,” Niedenthal said.
He also mentioned that his family — up to his grandchildren — were originally Bikini islanders.
“And now they have to read about how their beloved homeland, poisoned forever by the United States government, has a beer named after it,” Niedenthal said in the letter.
Well, at least that beer has “low hop bitterness, saltiness, and citrus flavors,” according to Manhattan Project, which notes on their website that “the Bikini Atoll is often a favorite amongst our friends that think they don’t like beer. In contrast, the beer snobs out there love it as well. It is light and effervescent with high carbonation.” That should be of sufficient comfort, right?
Niedenthal went on to note that the Marshall Islands has a high cancer rate, which he attributes to the nuclear testing — a cancer rate that he says has affected nearly everyone on the islands.
“On their behalf, and on behalf of the people of the Marshall Islands, I highly encourage you to discard this ill-conceived product forever, and moreover, I believe you need to issue a public apology to our people,” he wrote.
Thankfully, even though the company says it has sustained “significant harassment and death threats” because of the mock controversy over the brew, they have no plans to discard it.
“Our beer named Bikini Atoll was not created to mock or trivialize the nuclear testing that took place in the Marshall Islands,” the company wrote in an Instagram post earlier this week.
“Through our brand and naming, we are creating awareness of the wider impacts and implications of the United States’s nuclear research programs and the pivotal moment in world history that is often forgotten.”
It went on to say that the company was “sharing this because we have received significant harassment and death threats. This is the only statement we will make, and we will take no further action in the matter.”
Nor should they.
Bikini Atoll has passed into historical culture; it’s part of the United States’ nuclear testing program. If you’re naming beers after things associated with the nuclear testing, then Bikini Atoll is a perfectly reasonable choice, no matter what the cancel culture crowd might say.
Alas, people are going to find something to get angry about here, because the big bad United States once conducted nuclear testing on this island and residents of the Marshall Islands now have a high cancer rate.
Oh, yes, about that cancer rate. Here are the findings of a study on the matter: “The annual [radiation] doses and the population sizes at each atoll in each year were used to develop estimates of cancer risks for the permanent residents of all atolls that were inhabited during the testing period as well as for the Marshallese population groups that were relocated prior to the testing or after it had begun.
“About 170 excess cancers (radiation-related cases) are projected to occur among more than 25,000 Marshallese, half of whom were born before 1948. All but about 65 of those cancers are estimated to have already been expressed. The 170 excess cancers are in comparison to about 10,600 cancers that would spontaneously arise, unrelated to radioactive fallout, among the same cohort of Marshallese people.”
While that isn’t minor, 170 excess cancers is hardly the “horrific situation here in the Marshall Islands” that Niedenthal’s letter seems to portray.
Yet, take a look at the comments on the Instagram post. There are social media hashtag-activists getting themselves in a snit because of the fact that the company named a product Bikini Atoll and had the gall to say that “[s]ummers at the pool inspired this beer. There is nothing more refreshing in the Texas heat than a crisp and tart Gose.”
Well, there probably aren’t many things that are more refreshing, and if that “crisp and tart Gose” is named Bikini Atoll, I’m all for it. As for those making death threats to the people at the Manhattan Project Beer Company, in a perfect world, they’d be in a place where they couldn’t enjoy a Gose — or any beer — for quite some time.
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