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What does Steinlager and the Pacific anti nuclear movement have in common?

Written By: - Date published: 10:07 am, December 16th, 2020 - 25 comments
Categories: International, making shit up, Media, spin, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: ,

Bugger all really.  One is, and this is quite a rare thing nowadays in Aotearoa, a bad beer.  The other is the cumulative effort of activists and Governments who for decades tried to stop France from engaging in that most barbaric of activities, initially atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons but then after the outcry became too fierce the under water testing of nuclear weapons.

Protests occurred from the 1960s and involved Pacific Nations, New Zealand and Australia, Greenpeace and many other organisations and communities.  In 1973 our Government sent two frigates with a Cabinet Minister on board into the area where there was an atmospheric test conducted.  New Zealand also took France to the International Court of Justice successfully seeking a declaration that the atmospheric tests were illegal. France responded by snubbing its nose at the decision but it did move the testing underground.

As for organisational opposition to the tests just think of the Rainbow Warrior, when French operatives blew up a Greenpeace ship berthed at Auckland and killed photographer Fernando Pereira.

New Zealand apprehended and jailed two of the French agents involved in the bombing.  France responded by threatening trade sanctions on New Zealand.  An eventually UN mediated settlement saw France apologise and pay token damages.  In a final insult to New Zealand France, which had promised to hold the convicted agents on Hao Atoll in the Pacific, returned them to mainland France.

The last two tests on Mururoa were conducted in 1995, a year before the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty came into force.

As you can sense the protest movement was a rich tapestry of coordinated and supporting action between Governments, NGOs especially Greenpeace and Pacific people.

So how did Stenilanger handle a depiction of the deep and controversial history?  With as clear a case of cultural and historical misappropriation as you can imagine.

Here is the film.

Note the use of predominately good old palangis to claim the credit.  And the dumbing down of decades of protest activities into a short piece of film designed to sell beer.

I am not the only one upset about this.

From Sylvia Frain and Rebecca H. Hogue at Spinoff:

Who doesn’t love a beautifully made commercial that makes us feel good about New Zealand and our place in the world? The latest in this particular genre is an emotional 90-second Steinlager ad directed by Lee Tamahori and being rolled out to cinemas, television and social media ahead of the America’s Cup.

The ad tells the story of New Zealand activists who in 1995 sailed to Moruroa Atoll to protest French nuclear testing in the Pacific. They went “their own way”, the ad tells us – drawing a parallel between the sailors on the flotilla and New Zealand’s broader yachting culture – and “there have been no nuclear tests in the Pacific since”. Steinlager’s depiction of New Zealand’s small yachts facing off against military warships is misleading, to say the least. Not only is it factually incorrect (French testing did not stop immediately after the flotilla, but continued until 1996), it distorts the truth about the campaign against nuclear testing in the Pacific. Among those outraged are Peace Movement Aotearoa, which has filed a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority over the ad’s misrepresentation of history.

In the Steinlager version of the story, a few brave Kiwi blokes (and a token woman) set out on a daring adventure in 1995 and brought French nuclear testing to an end. That is a fiction that erases over 50 years of Indigenous activism throughout the Pacific, not to mention decades of activism by Māori, and their Pākehā allies, in Aotearoa itself. Pointing out the problems with the Steinlager ad in no way discredits the contributions New Zealanders made to stopping nuclear testing in the Pacific. But the real story of the anti-nuclear movement in the Pacific is one of tireless campaigning by Pasifika and Māori, and vital cross-cultural collaborations and alliances that continue to this day. All of this the ad ignores.

They were more polite than me.  If I was to speak to Steinlager’s corporate persona I would tell them to practice safe sex and engage in self fornication.

25 comments on “What does Steinlager and the Pacific anti nuclear movement have in common? ”

  1. Anne 1

    In the 1970s and early 1980s I took part in a few anti-nuclear events – a march or two and a meeting. My contribution was small and benign but I did steal a placard after one march – it was a spectacular photo of a nuclear bomb in full flower so to speak. It resided in a cupboard for years and eventually was tossed.

    In 1987 I transferred to an RNZAF base and soon afterwards was visited by two members of the "top brass" on the pretext of a weather update. The friendly enough conversation soon turned to the nuclear issue (not initiated by me) and I made a mild remark amounting to… having some concerns about nuclear testing.

    After a number of perplexing incidents it dawned on me that my reputation as an unwashed hippie professional protestor (none of which was true) had preceded my arrival or came to their attention soon afterwards.

    I tell the story as another example of the misrepresentation and distortion that was rife at the time and continues in some quarters to this day.

    That was the paranoia of the day and none more so than in military circles.

  2. tc 2

    Steinlager is owned by Kirin. It's just another brand to them in a market where craft beer is eating into the major mass produced beers like steinlager.

    All extra publicity will be welcomed, hell people may even try it which is all part of the game.

    IIRC DB bent history with their Coutts campaign a few years ago about govt taxes or similar.

  3. bwaghorn 3

    Fuck some of you lefties need to lighten up .

    It's a big turn off this moaning about every little thing

    Worry about the shit that matters.

    • Roy Cartland 3.1

      Why, you're right.

      Did anyone see that great, relevant show the other day when all these men ran around throwing a ball? It was so great and relevant, how they threw that ball. Then one man ran and fell over with the ball in the grass! Then another man kicked the ball over a pole, and that was just so great and relevant. I cheered when the man on my side kicked the ball, but it wasn't as great and relevant as when he fell over in the grass.

      But then I saw… a number! …which was just the most relevant thing of the day. So great. And relevant.

      • left_forward 3.1.1

        Indeed this is the shit that really matters!

      • bwaghorn 3.1.2

        Full marks for proving my point!!

        How got to rant about rugby is beyond me .

        The things that matter is kids not getting a fair go , housing beyond fucked, oh and that little thing called climate change. But get all precious about a light take on history in a soon to be forgotten ad by all means .

        • left_forward

          It matters bighorn because, if we are to successfully address today's issues that you are understandably concerned about, then recalling with some modicum of accuracy the successful people campaigns of the past in Aotearoa serves to inform us of how to work together for success in the future.

          If this memory is corrupted by those who don't give a shit, we risk losing our collective knowledge in this social media age of how to do anything that matters again.

    • left_forward 3.2

      I appreciate Mickey's well articulated points, but you have offered nothing to help me comprehend your disconnection.

      Tell us why this doesn't matter to you and how being upset about the commercial appropriation of a significant part of our Aotearoa history for the sake of an insipid beer is moaning about every little thing?

      • Phil 3.2.1

        being upset about the commercial appropriation of a significant part of our Aotearoa history

        Oh boy, wait until you discover what airs on the telly between the ad breaks.

      • The March Hare 3.2.2

        OK I'll try. Today the Government predicts that our house prices will keep soaring for the next five years. We have rampant inequality, homelessness, and soaring child poverty. We also have a 'do nothing' government that seems unable or unwilling to do anything substantive to change the status quo, out of fear of offending the 'soft' National voters that they have now captured.

        The Standard has run only one article on this sort of really important stuff in the past two weeks. Instead they are getting all worked up about a fairly mediocre advertisement for beer. So, yes, I would rather the Standard would focus on hammering about the really big issues that cause massive suffering in this country and that the labour movement is supposed to be standing up for, rather than just 'moaning about every little thing'.

        • left_forward

          Everything is connected March Hare, take a step back before the next cuppa tea.
          But I’m on your side – its a mad world indeed.

    • In Vino 3.3

      I disagree, bwaghorn. I say that capitalist profit-gouging is a cancer eating away the very soul of our society, and that the corrupt marketing industry is in the process right up to its poxy neck.

      Marketers will innocently plead: "Advertising is only there to inform."

      A dirty lie: advertisers put most of their efforts into persuasion by appealing to emotions, and normal consumers are supposed to swallow it all without even noticing.

      Anybody who points out their falsehoods and mendacity is doing our society a huge favour, and we should all be paying attention.

      Roy Cartland is right: chasing balls around on some grass is truly insignificant by way of comparison.

    • mickysavage 3.4

      Dunno bwaghorn. Over the years I have vested a lot of time and effort into the movement.

      Steinlager's owner mangling the history and misrepresenting it so they can sell more crap beer is not something I think we should approve of.

  4. red pebble 4

    hard to see how this is cultural appropriation. Maybe it will spur some questions amongst the youth to question what happened and why we need to remember it.

    Amazing that with a left wing education minister, that this isn't part of the curriculum and needs to be taught by big liqour.

    • In Vino 5.1

      Marketers will always be quick to skew and pervert any form of truth.

    • tc 5.2

      Cheers McFlock that's the bending of history I was referring to.

      I was told years ago by a senior marketer for a major brewer that the packaging and what went into deciding it was worth more than the actual contents inside the can/bottle.

      It's a high volume low margin game that lion used to dominate in NZ, took their eye off the ball and in swooped DB.

  5. Tiger Mountain 6

    It pays to investigate the ownership trail with corporates–Mitsubishi is parent company of Kirin–and Mitsubishi is involved in Uranium Mining and the nuclear industry, including Mongolia and Canada.


    Not a great association given the Steinlager add.

    Yes, NZ yachties played a role at certain points, but Pacific peoples on various Islands and atolls had all sorts of local anti Nuclear weapons testing groups and actions. Opposition to French testing was a genuine bottom up movement which substantially relied on indigenous Pasifika participation, not waiting for a white rescue squad as portrayed by the Steinlager ad.

  6. Stuart Munro 7

    Steinlager is a yobbo beer anyway – of course they appropriate the protest fleet. You should have seen the ad campaign that bombed in China – Steinlager was an expensive imported beer there, going up against some well-made and popular local brews. Tsingtao, for example is only about number 7 or 8 in China. Anyways, the ad, from Lion in those days, was like a how-to lager lout pitch. Not how you get the conspicuous consumers and rising young businessfolk who are the market for imported beers there. So the brand bombed, and was sold off to Kirin. The marketing folk however, claimed their campaign was brilliant.

  7. felix 8

    quite a rare thing nowadays in Aotearoa, a bad beer

    Plenty of bad beer around, everything produced in Wellington is undrinkable for a start.

    Steinlager's awful but Steiny pure isn't too bad.

    • mickysavage 8.1

      I guess I might be showing my middle classness …

      BTW good to see you Felix. Been a while.

  8. george.com 9

    A fairly weak ad about a mediocre beer

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