There’s an old joke about the Moon landing hoax conspiracy. You know: “Sure it was a hoax, but they got Stanley Kubrick to direct and he insisted that they had to be on location.” I thought everybody knew that one. It’s an oldie but a goodie that suitably lampoons the lunatic fringe who imagine the moon landings were faked.
Yet, when I made that joke in comment on a social media group last week – complete with the laughing emoticon – it turned out nobody had a sense of humour. Or irony. Or hyperbole. Or metaphor. No, they took it seriously; word by word. I was labelled part of the ‘tin hat brigade’. Commenters informed me I was wrong, the moon landings weren’t faked. I got informed that Kubrick only ever worked in England. And so on. Nobody got the joke. Nobody. Not one person. Nada. Zip. Zero.
I suppose in a way I should have expected it. These days everything has to be taken dead seriously, word by word and literally. There is no such thing as metaphor, abstraction, or the way humour works by ironic overstatement. To an extent I think there’s also fake-news weariness. A lot of what flows past me on Facebook, for instance, involves flat assertions about current events that are obviously falsehoods. I guess other users have the same issue, and it’ll be getting a bit tiresome.
Most of the conspiracy rubbish these days is wish-fulfilment fantasy associated with Covid-19 – people asserting what they want to believe about the virus because it makes them feel safer, or validated, or whatever. This includes alleging sinister links between the one-percenters, government, mind-control and Covid-19 vaccines. Why? Humans seem to be hard-wired to find patterns, even where none exist, and I guess an alleged ‘deep state’ conspiracy that links everything into a single vast plan is easier to understand than our chaotic and unplanned reality.
Such assertions fall, every time, into a pattern of logical flaws. The usual one I see is the false dilemma fallacy (in which two positions are asserted as the only possible positions). There’s the fallacy of composition (what is true of the part must be true of the whole). And more – false attribution fallacies, burden-of-proof shifting and so forth. So I suppose when I made a joke, nobody noticed.
As for the moon hoax allegation? Much of it pivots, in the specific, off identifying supposed give-away ‘goofs’ in photos that NASA’s highly qualified experts were evidently too stupid to notice, but which the conspiracy loons spot at once. For my debunking, jump across to this post: https://mjwrightnz.wordpress.com/2013/03/24/the-truth-behind-the-moon-landing-conspiracy/
Any thoughts on this whole ‘humourless response’ problem?
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2020