Tuesday 20 August 2019

Pat Stacey: Moon landings conspiracy documentary is dangerous as well as dumb

Buzz Aldrin on the moon. Photo: Neil Armstrong
Buzz Aldrin on the moon. Photo: Neil Armstrong

Pat Stacey

One of my earliest television-related memories, fleeting yet still vivid, is of sitting on the floor, legs crossed, riveted by the images flickering across our black-and-white TV screen of the Apollo 11 astronauts walking on the Moon.

I can’t say for certain whether I saw the momentous event live (it was just before 4am Irish time when Neil Armstrong’s boot made its first contact with the lunar surface) or watched a recording a few hours later. I was still two months short of seven-years-old at the time, so some details are vague.

What I do remember with perfect clarity is my father, ever the wind-up merchant, telling us that they weren’t really on the Moon, just in a backyard somewhere in America. We didn’t believe that, of course, and he didn’t believe it either. He was just having a laugh.

The memory of Da mischievously messing with his youngest, space-mad (still am) kid popped into my head while struggling to make it through a preview of Moon Landings: World’s Greatest Hoax? without punching a hole in a perfectly good laptop.

Buzz Aldrin on the lunar surface. Photo: Neil Armstrong
Buzz Aldrin on the lunar surface. Photo: Neil Armstrong

It was inevitable, in the midst of all the wonderful programmes commemorating the 50th anniversary of humankind’s greatest feat of exploration, that something would come along to sour the mood of celebration and renewed awe at the achievement of Apollo 11.

Shown last night on the satellite channel Yesterday, Moon Landings: World’s Greatest Hoax? (that question mark at the end speaks volumes) was that something.

Reach for the sky: Buzz Aldrin leaving footprints on the Moon, which are there to this day
Reach for the sky: Buzz Aldrin leaving footprints on the Moon, which are there to this day

You can find plenty of so-called documentaries claiming the Moon landings were a hoax on Reddit forums, YouTube, numerous conspiracy theory websites and Fox News, which is arguably the most disreputable outlet of all.

But this was a particularly egregious example — doubly so, since it was shown on what claims to be a legitimate history channel.

It recycled all the so-called ‘evidence’ that the Moon landings were faked (there were no stars visible in the photographs; there was no blast crater under the landing module; the shadows fell the wrong way, blah, blah, blah), all of which has been comprehensively and convincingly debunked and discredited over and over again by NASA, as well as by experts in Russia, China and Japan.

Even the old Soviet Union, America’s rival in the Cold War Space Race, didn’t believe the USA faked it.

Moon Landings: World’s Greatest Hoax? gave us the same old crap from the same old cranks and crackpots. Among them were Marcus Allen, publisher of Australian-based magazine Nexus, which specialises in articles on conspiracy theories, UFOs, quack medicine and revisionist history, and has frequently been accused of anti-Semitism, and — in footage dating from before 2008, but not captioned as such on screen — the late Ralph René, an idiot who also peddled 9/11 conspiracy theories.

Also present — in even older footage, again undated — was the late Bill Kaysing, who died in 2005 and was the man who started the Moon hoax ball rolling in 1976 with a self-published pamphlet entitled We Never Went to the Moon, which was full of ludicrous claims easily disproved by proper science.

Sometimes you don’t even need science; common sense will suffice. If, for argument’s sake, NASA really did fake the Moon landings, how come not a single one of the 400,000 people who worked on the Apollo project ever blew the whistle?

We used to regard Moon landing conspiracy theorists as essentially harmless, if irritating, fools worthy of nothing but mockery. They’re no longer harmless.

The lies and misinformation they spread feeds into and swells the toxic stream of lies and misinformation spewing from the anti-vaxxers, the 9/11 ‘truthers’, the chemtrailers, the Holocaust deniers and Sandy Hook conspiracists.

A recent poll in the UK by YouGov revealed that 21 per cent of Britons believe the Moon landings were staged. The Space Race ended a long time ago, but the Stupid Race is just getting going.

Herald

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