The Life and Times of the Moon Hoax Conspiracy
Yes, it’s a 3-part Skeptoid episode, the first one ever, and it took more than 500 episodes to get me to finally address the moon landing hoax conspiracy. To those who follow science, the claims that we never went to the moon are the most tiresome and foolish of the conspiracy theories; but to those who believe them, they are absolute religion, and the ultimate token of their conviction that anything coming from official sources is a lie. Today we’re going to begin our in-depth analysis of the Moon Landing Conspiracy, of those who believe in it, and a survey of the facts and figures of the basic narrative.
Today we’re going to talk about the history and cultural impact of the claim; next week we’ll go into the most popular evidentiary claims said to prove that we never went to the moon (hopefully including some you haven’t heard before); and in the final installment, we’ll look at the hard physical proof that we did go.
The basic narrative of the Moon Truth conspiracy theory, as you probably know, is that NASA faked the Apollo missions and nobody ever actually went to the moon. As with most conspiracy theories, there are all sorts of variations on the claims of what actually did happen, while the only thing they have in common is that no men actually landed on the moon. Some believe the Apollo missions orbited the moon but did not land; some believe they never went farther than Earth orbit; some believe the Apollo spacecraft flew but were unmanned; some believe they never launched anything at all. The astronauts performed their moonwalks on a movie set, and fake transmissions were provided to the TV networks for broadcast. The reasons given for why the government would have gone to all this trouble range from simply distracting Americans’ attention from the unpopular war in Vietnam, to fooling the Soviets into thinking they lost the Cold War, to protecting NASA’s budget by appearing to spend it on something supremely impressive.
A big question we have to answer is what’s the point of even talking about this? The people who believe it have already heard the science-based responses to their claims a hundred times, and rejected them a hundred times. Their minds are riveted shut to anything but their preferred narrative. We’ll not be changing any of their minds today. And the rest of us aren’t in denial, and aren’t asking these made-up, shoehorned questions that try to raise doubt where none exists. So who is this episode for, nobody?
Well, maybe for somebody. Polling data has, for decades, consistently shown that some 6-7% of Americans believe the moon landings were faked; and even scarier, about four times as many Europeans agree with them. That’s a lot more people than the hardcore YouTube-obsessed serial conspiracists; it includes tens of millions of ordinary folks who are otherwise as rational as you or I. It seems there must be something deeply compelling about this odd belief.
From the video description:
One hundred and two hours and 12 minutes after leaving the Earth, the crew of Apollo 10 was on the far side of the Moon. The two spacecraft — the command-service module and the lunar module — were traveling separately, and as they plowed ahead with their flight plan and had a bit of a snack, all three men heard some “spacey music” coming in over their headsets.
Also see: The Full Audio of the Apollo 10 Space Music (YouTube)
The Internet is polluted with craziness, and there is no better example than YouTube. If you’ve ever wondered what would happen when you give everyone on the planet the power to show everyone else on the planet their innermost thoughts, desires, and insane ramblings, you need only look at YouTube.
One of the biggest offenders of incoherent ramblings is the subject of spaceflight. Simply search ‘space shuttle’ on YouTube, and you’ll find accusations of the crew of Columbia being abducted by aliens. Crazy, incoherent, and somewhat insulting. Accusations of a moon landing conspiracy are unavoidable in the ‘related videos’ section and are similarly filled with videos from people with either a tenuous grasp of reality or too much time on their hands.
A broken clock is right twice a day, a broken calendar is right every twenty-eight years or so, and every once in a while, simply from the volume of videos on the subject, one conspiracy theorist will present a new and novel idea. Here we present perhaps the only moon landing conspiracy theory that makes sense, is consistent with physical laws, and that may actually be true.
Comparing other government conspiracies
One of the best ways to figure out what it would take to pull off a project is to compare it to earlier, similar projects. If you’re building a 100-storey skyscraper and need a good idea of how long construction will take, just look at how long it took to build the last 100-storey skyscraper. If you want to build a dam and wonder how much it will cost, just look at earlier, similar dams that used the same construction methods and materials.
The Apollo moon landing conspiracy contends that 400,000 government workers and contractors would need to keep quiet, and no inquisitive journalists would be out in the trenches, digging for the truth. This government conspiracy would ostensibly be headed by none other than Richard Nixon, and fortunately we have a pretty good analog to compare a moon landing conspiracy to other Nixon-era conspiracies. Watergate-gate, with far fewer people involved, was found out. It strains credibility that a conspiracy many orders of magnitude larger would not be uncovered.
Additionally, there are many other nefarious activities sponsored by the US government that have been made public. The MK Ultra experiments dosed hundreds of people including Ted Kaczynski and Sirhan Sirhan with LSD. Not all of the records were destroyed, though, and the entire experiment was disclosed in 1977 with a FOIA request. The US Public Health Service infected people with syphilis, and the CIA is responsible for overthrowing dozens of governments around the world. All of these conspiracies were eventually found out. The very idea that researchers, academics, and journalists are unable to pierce the veil of a moon landing conspiracy over forty years strains credibility.
There is one government project on the scale of the Apollo moon landing that was, for a time, secret: the Manhattan Project. With perhaps 300,000 people involved in the creation of the first atomic bombs, it is the only secret government project with the same scale as NASA in the 1960s. Here, history tells us that secrets that big don’t stay secret for long, with the Soviet Union receiving plans for atomic weapons before the end of the war.
In comparing the scale of an Apollo moon landing conspiracy to other, real conspiracies committed by the US government, the argument completely falls apart. The Tuskegee syphilis experiments involved perhaps a few hundred people. The MK Ultra experiments perhaps a few thousand. Watergate-gate involved less than one hundred. An Apollo moon landing conspiracy would involve nearly a half million over the course of ten years, yet moon landing conspiracists say the largest conspiracy of all time would be the one that succeeded. It doesn’t strain credibility – it completely destroys it.
Skeptoid answers another round of questions sent in by students all around the world.
Read transcript below or listen here
Once again we’re taking a week to answer questions sent in by students all around the world. Any question is welcome from any student. Today we’re going to explore the question of whether Stanley Kubrick made The Shining as a confession that he was behind the alleged moon landing hoax; whether acupressure wristbands are a way to cure nausea or just a placebo; whether you should use hydrogen peroxide as a bactericide on minor wounds; the song Gloomy Sunday and if it has indeed been connected with an increased number of suicides; the true nature of whatever danger can be expected from common laser pointers; and whether we need to worry about hoards of human-animal hybrids swarming down from the mountains. Let’s get started at a creepy old lodge hidden away up in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado:
Stanley Kubrick Faked the Moon Landings
Hello, Brian. I am a sophomore going to Mira Costa college in Oceanside, California. I recently heard about a conspiracy theory which states that Stanley Kubrick’s film, The Shining, is actually a big allusion to the fact that he helped NASA cover up the moon landings. This particular conspiracy was recently featured in the documentary, Room 237, and I was wondering if there is any truth in this. Thank you for your help.
Room 237 was a 2012 documentary film that features five people, each of whom has a different obsessive interpretation of Kubrick’s 1980 movie The Shining. One believes it was was really about the Holocaust; another believes it was about the plight of native Americans. One of the five was conspiracy theorist Jay Weidner, who believes that Kubrick made the movie to confess that he had faked the moon landing films. There are hardly any bizarre conspiracy theories Weidner has not promoted, including the 2012 apocalypse, the claim that Denver International Airport is a headquarters for the Illuminati, and that the Georgia Guidestones monument is actually some sort of Rosicrucian shrine.
Weidner’s evidence that The Shining was Kubrick’s moon hoax confession leaves one wanting, to put it mildly. The kid in the film wears a sweater with an Apollo rocket on it… and that’s about all. The other points he raises are wrong; that 237 was chosen because the moon is 237,000 miles away (it’s not), and that a pattern in the hotel’s carpet looks like the Apollo launchpad (it doesn’t remotely). The Shining was based on Stephen King’s 1977 novel; Kubrick didn’t even write it himself. Room 237 is not about The Shining, it’s about five bizarre theories and the people who come up with them. Don’t miss the point and assume that the theories were being seriously presented.
Hi Brian, my name is Rachel Bloom. The other day, I was watching ABC’s Shark Tank and a woman came on touting her own brand of anti-nausea acupressure wristbands. She said they were “FDA Approved.” I have a lot of friends who use these wristbands, and, after doing a little bit of internet research, it looks like there have actually been studies where the acupressure wristbands were more effective than placebos in combating motion sickness and/or nausea. So, my question is: what’s the deal with these wristbands? Thanks.
You bring up two points. First, FDA approval. This does not necessarily mean that the FDA has tested the device and found that it works. In this case, the applicants merely have to show that similar devices (which may or may not have been tested) are already for sale. This is all that’s needed for the FDA to grant clearance for a company to market something. In the case of Sea Band, one of the more popular wristbands, such clearance based on the existence of similar products is all they ever received from the FDA. Obviously, Sea Band trumpets the fact as if it constitutes an endorsement, which it’s not.
Second, whether they work. You are correct that tests have shown them to be effective, however all such tests that I was able to find were uncontrolled and unblinded. Randomized controlled trials of the wristbands, however, have had very different results. The Institute of Naval Medicine did such a test in 1990 and found that Sea Bands performed no better than placebo, and both were outperformed by scopolamine. Even in post-surgical nausea, controlled tests have found no improvement through the use of wristbands.
An interesting warning sign to be aware of is that research that tends to find a positive result usually has not only poor experimental design, but almost always mentions the “P6 acupressure point” on the wrist. This is a sure sign that the article is written from a pro-acupressure perspective. “P6 acupressure point” is not a medical or scientific term and is only used in the acupressure community.
Although the placebo effect can be very compelling and creates passionate believers, the wrist simply has no connection to your body’s sense of nausea, and no plausible hypothesis has ever been suggested to explain how it might.
- Skeptoid #369: Student Questions: Magic Wristbands, Laser Danger, and ManBearPig (skeptoid.com)
- Various people with a view about Room 237 (sqwabb.wordpress.com)
- A dissection of Kubrick’s “The Shining” (hamptonroads.com)
- All Conspiracy and No Logic Makes “Room 237” a Dull Documentary (obsessiveviewer.com)
- Flags From Apollo Missions Still Standing (abcnews.go.com)
- Apollo Flags on the Moon Still Standing (news.discovery.com)
- Apollo flags still upright on moon (bigpondnews.com)
- Apollo Moon Landing Flags Still Standing, Photos Reveal (space.com)
- Apollo Moon flags still standing, images show (bbc.co.uk)