Reality or studio shooting? Why the moon landing conspiracy theories still exist

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Bill Kaysing was a former US Navy officer who worked as a technical writer for one of the rocket makers for NASA’s Apollo lunar missions. He claimed he had extensive knowledge of a government plot to simulate the moon landings, and many Apollo moon landings conspiracy theories that persist to this day date back to his 1976 book, We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Billion Dollar Scam.

The basic model of the conspiracy theory is that NASA failed to land a man on the moon safely by the late 1960s, as President John F Kennedy had promised, it therefore only sent astronauts into Earth orbit. Conspiracy theorists then argue that NASA staged the moon landings in a movie studio and that there are telltale signs in the images and photos that reveal the game. They claim that NASA covered up the hoax that has since been developed. .

Moon landing skeptics point to supposed clues such as photos that appear to show astronauts in front of reticles etched into the camera glass, or a mysterious letter C visible on a moon rock. These apparent anomalies and many more have been debunked, but the moon landing conspiracy theories have lingered in the popular imagination.

The eagle is preparing to land on the moon. Nasa

In the United States, opinion polls indicate that between 5 and 10% of Americans are suspicious of the official version of events. In the UK, a YouGov poll in 2012 found that 12% of Britons believed in the conspiracy theory. A recent survey found that 20% of Italians thought the moon landings were a hoax, while a 2018 poll in Russia put the figure at 57%, which is not surprising given the popularity of the theories of the anti-western conspiracy there.


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Willing not to believe

The fact that Kaysing’s conspiracy theory took hold in America in the mid-1970s is largely due to a broader crisis of confidence in the country at the time. In 1971, citizens read the leaked Pentagon Papers, showing that the Johnson administration had consistently lied about the Vietnam War. They listened to the hearings every night on the Watergate robbery and the cover-up that followed.

A series of Congressional reports detailed the CIA’s wrongdoing both at home and abroad, and in 1976 the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded – unlike the Warren Commission more than a decade earlier – that ‘there was a high probability that there had been a conspiracy. kill Kennedy. These revelations had helped fuel a broader shift in conspiracy thinking since the late 1960s, shifting from a belief in external enemies, such as the Communists, to a suspicion that the U.S. state was itself conspiring against its citizens.

The moon landing conspiracy theories have been particularly sticky since. To understand their popularity, we must consider their cultural background as well as the psychological dispositions of believers.

As with the Kennedy assassination, they formed a new kind of conspiracy theory.

These theories reinterpret publicly available evidence, finding inconsistencies in the official record, rather than uncovering suppressed information. Visual evidence is crucial: Despite all its skepticism, its starting point is that seeing is believing. In the field of photographic evidence, the assumption is that anyone can be a detective. In the conspiracy theory communities that emerged in the late 1960s, the self-taught became central.


MORE ABOUT THE MOON AND BEYOND Join us as we delve into the last 50 years of space exploration and the 50 years to come. From Neil Armstrong’s historic first step on the lunar surface to current plans to use the Moon as a launch pad to Mars, hear from academic experts who have dedicated their lives to studying the wonders of space.


Constructed reality

The moon landing conspiracy theories have also given the general public the idea that important events are not what they appear to be: they were staged, as part of an official disinformation campaign. The idea that tragic events are created by government-employed “crisis actors” has become the default explanation for many events today, from 9/11 to mass shootings. This type of conspiracy theory is particularly harmful – for example, parents of children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting have been relentlessly harassed by internet trolls claiming they are just paid associates.

However, the story that the moon landings were staged also resonates with the more plausible idea that the space race itself was as much a Cold War spectacle as it was a triumph of the human spirit.

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The 1978 Hollywood film Capricorn One was instrumental in popularizing the moon landing conspiracy theories. Based on Kaysing’s book, he imagined that a Mars landing had been rigged in a movie studio, exploiting conspiracy rumors that the moon landings themselves were directed by Stanley Kubrick. This suggestive myth is based in part on the idea that special effects had become much more sophisticated with Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001 A Space Odyssey, although still far from the capabilities that conspiracy theories assume.

Although wacky in factual terms, moon landing conspiracy theories nonetheless hint at the more plausible possibility that in our media-saturated age, reality itself is being constructed, if not rigged.


Peter Knight, Professor of American Studies, University of Manchester

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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