So, what about Red Bull . . .?

I very occasionally buy a can of (sugar-free) Red Bull when I am on the road and need a little boost. My experience is that it is indeed quite effective to help you through a temporary energy dip. The business of the company behind this drink, which has been on the market since 1987, is booming. It is one of the main sponsors of Max Verstappen, the Dutch, Belgian-born and Monaco-based, Formula 1 driver, who became world champion last Sunday on the Abu Dhabi circuit.

(This is not about my opinion regarding this branch of sport. I don’t like extremely dangerous sports and certainly not this form of autosport, in which about a dozen men follow each other for a year to over twenty different circuits, spread around the globe, to compete during a large number of daredevil laps).

Max Verstappen receives a base annual salary of over 21 million euros from Red Bull. I do not know how many millions the company pays for the car and for the entire circus around Max. There are also other sponsors. But Red Bull, as the main sponsor, will have been extremely pleased with the enormous publicity that the company has received, thanks to “our” Max, in the past year, and especially last weekend. In any case, a significant proportion of all Dutch citizens saw the car with the words “Red Bull” flash by on their TV screens over and over again for days on end.

I am, you guessed it, not part of the hysterical mob that followed the battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen from minute to minute. The Red Bull promotion struck me for a very different reason. One of my writing projects for the next few months is a chapter in a book about the role of “fake news” and of conspiracy theories in our society, and specifically among Seventh-day Adventists. As part of this, I am in the process of reading a stack of books, and one of them happened to report extensively on Red Bull. Soon after the introduction of this energy drink, rumors began to circulate that it contained a number of dubious ingredients, with rather bizarre implications. It was, for example, widely reported that 500 million (!) bull calves are needed annually to provide sufficient semen for the production of the various variants of this enormously popular drink. One of the many components of Red Bull is taurine, an amino acid also found in meat, fish and dairy products. But the taurine (the word is derived from the Latin word taurus = bull) in Red Bull is not obtained from the testicles of bulls but is entirely synthetic. However, there are still millions of people who do not believe this! The Red Bull drink is also surrounded by a series of other “fake news” stories. For example, the inspectors of the Austrian health authorities are said to have released it for consumption after having been bribed with large sums of money.

The Red Bull story is just one of many bizarre conspiracy theories and examples of “fake news” that I have come across in my reading over the past few weeks. Since the Corona era began, there have been legions of strange theories about the origins of the pandemic and about the evil forces that are bent on making us all sick. It never ceases to amaze me how many people are willing to believe in such stories.

I’ve read enough about Red Bull in the last few days to convince me that the drink may be effective, but that it’s not exactly healthy, especially with frequent use. I’ll keep that in the mind when I think I am ready for a little “boost.”