These days, as endless conspiracy theories about Covid-19 flow through my social media feed, I keep thinking of their grandparent, the Apollo moon hoax conspiracy. There are some surprising similarities.
Most of the claims today are to do with Covid-19, which (if we are to believe the conspirators) is a fake virus promoted by the Deep State (run by lizard men) to fool everyday people into accepting vaccine-driven mind control. Apparently all we have to do is ‘woke up’ to this and the Truth will become Evident, stopping people being ‘sheeple’. Or something.
In a way I can understand it: the world – and certainly the United States – seems to be entering its end-game. People are worried, frightened, and can’t influence or control their fates. Humans are also hard-wired to see patterns even when none exist; and it’s easier to suppose this scary and chaotic world out there is orchestrated by a ‘bad guy’ (or group of them). That’s somehow better than the reality in which many different factors and forces come together, without specific co-ordination, to produce what’s going on.
The idea that ‘they’ were deceiving ‘ordinary people’, of course, is also what lies at the heart of the ‘Apollo hoax’ conspiracy. This alleges that, for some reason, NASA filmed Apollo on a sound stage, but despite spending vast sums on this fakery, nonetheless missed various kindergarten-level details that the conspiracy whistle-blowers are smart enough to see.
Basic details supposedly botched by NASA included, among other things, failing to put an exhaust crater under the Lunar Module, accidentally cross-lighting the set to produce non-parallel shadows, and blatantly using in-fill lighting in many of the lunar photos. To this can be added more subtle claims such as the notion that film cameras would overheat in the lunar sunlight, that the astronaut movements were simply slowed-down normal jumps, and the idea that the flag was waving in a non-existent breeze as the astronauts wrestled it into the lunar regolith.
What all this tells me is that the conspirators were suffering hefty doses of Dunning Krugerism. What they were alleging might well have been credible on earth, possibly. But of course, that wasn’t where the photos were taken. I’ve covered this in some of my earlier posts, particularly the photographic lighting issue, which you can easily demonstrate here on Earth.
The rest of the alleged ‘proofs’ offered by the conspiracy ‘whistle-blowers’ have been dealt with often enough by others, including Mythbusters.
What worries me about the conspiracy theories and Apollo is that they all pivot off nit-picking supposed gaffes in photographs or taking other details out of context and then alleging fault which disproves the whole – the classic fallacy of composition.
But what about the elephants in the room? You know, the big-ticket stuff involving the sheer scale of the project, well visible at the time in everyday life across the US. One of those is the fact that 400,000 Americans worked on Apollo, one way or another – and the project involved industries as diverse as underwear manufacturer Playtex – whose subsidiary ILC Dover made the A7L spacesuits – North American, Grumman, Honeywell, Aerojet, and a host of others. Thanks to ‘two degrees of separation’, these people have connections with a huge number of others across the globe, including me. For example, there’s a reader of this blog whose Dad was pad safety officer for Apollo 11, and another reader whose Dad went to college with Neil Armstrong, and knew him as a friend.
Yet every single one of those involved in Apollo not only have consistent ‘work stories’ – which I wouldn’t expect if everything had been fabricated – but all 400,000 have kept the supposed hoax secret, even from their own families, all without a single leak, and have done so for over half a century. No deathbed confessions, no attempted blackmail, no clues or hints. Total silence.
Then there’s the way the Saturn V launches were public and unmistakably happening, witnessed in person by all who could attend. It’s hard to fake the launch of a 3,000 ton rocket.
More to the point there’s also the way Apollo tech spinoff has become part of our current world, notably modern desktop computers – because it was Apollo, with its insatiable need for IC chips, that crash-started the microprocessor industry. We’d have doubtless got that tech sooner or later, but Apollo gave it a kick it wouldn’t have had otherwise. Other spinoffs include CAT scanners, originally developed to find flaws in engineering elements, programmable pacemakers, fly-by-wire, scratch-resistant lenses for glasses, the motor in dustbusters (derived from the motor in the drill used on the lunar surface), water filtration systems (as used in domestic homes today), dialysis machines, home insulation such as mylar, teflon-coated fibreglass fabric, fireproof suits, and more. In fact, over 2000 technologies have come to us today from Apollo.
Finally, the Soviets were watching NASA like a hawk, by every means including espionage, satellite surveillance, radio intercepts and the rest. The space race was, ultimately, political. If there had been any fakery, the Soviets would have known and screamed long and loud. After all, they were losing the race and knew it. The actual moon hoax, in point of fact, was Soviet – specifically, their pretense that they hadn’t been trying to shoot for the moon after all. Of course they had, and I wrote about that here.
You see the point. The allegation of hoax is ‘proven’ by nit-picking non-existent faults in evidence that the whistle-blowers imagine they understand, but which in fact they do not. But aside from this, the more fundamental foundation on which the whole ‘conspiracy’ idea rests by nature gives the lie to allegations of such a conspiracy, however much the ‘whistle blowers’ try to justify themselves. And that is pretty much how most of these conspiracy theories seem to work.
I suppose I should trot out my old joke – sure the lunar landings were faked, but they got Stanley Kubrick in to direct them and as a perfectionist he had to film them on location…
Do you have a favourite conspiracy theory?
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2020