Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong were the first people to walk on the moon. That was a major scientific and technological achievement that involved great personal risks to the two astronauts so one can imagine how annoying it must be to Aldrin to have some idiot get in his face saying that the whole thing was fake and calling him a coward and a liar and a thief, after luring him to a venue under false pretenses that it was an interview for a documentary, hence the camera and sound people around. So Aldrin, at the age of 72, punched the guy in the face.
I had not been aware of this incident that took place 20 years ago.
Of course, the nutters will point to the fact that Aldrin did not take up the offer to swear on the Bible as ‘proof’ that he did not walk on the moon. These people are willing to believe in a magic man in the sky without any evidence whatsoever but will not accept something for which there is tons of evidence, showing that you cannot argue with people who are not reality-based.
But what is it with these moon landing deniers? What is the incentive to believe this nonsense? There is no religious basis for thinking it is a hoax, at least as far as I am aware. This article looks at the origins and history of the hoax.
Oliver Morton, the author of The Moon: A History for the Future, believes the persistence of the moon hoax isn’t surprising. Given an implausible event for which there is lots of evidence (Apollo 11) and a plausible event for which there is zero evidence (the moon hoax), some people will opt for the latter. “The point of Apollo was to show how powerful the American government was in terms of actually doing things,” he says. “The point of moon-hoax theory is to show how powerful the American government was in terms of making people believe things that weren’t true.” But the hoax narrative was only really possible as Apollo never led anywhere – there were no further missions after 1972. “As the American mind turns back to paranoia in the 1970s, it becomes more pleasing to believe in this,” he says.
Still, while irritating for those involved – Buzz Aldrin punched moon conspiracist Bart Sibrel in 2002 – in one sense the conspiracy idea is harmless, at least compared with misinformation about vaccinations or mass murders. Morton notes that it is one of the few conspiracy theories that isn’t tainted by antisemitism. Nor does it seem to be one to which Donald Trump, the ultimate product of news-as-entertainment, subscribes. The dynamics of the modern internet have clearly not helped: look up Apollo videos on YouTube and before long moon-hoax documentaries start lining up in the autoplay queue. But there is little evidence that Russian disinformation agents have spread moon conspiracies as they have anti-vaxxing propaganda, for example.
Given that this was at the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union would have exposed such a hoax immediately.
Then again, the USSR had the means to expose the Americans at the time; it was listening in. “We were there at Soviet military base 32103,” the Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov recently recalled. “I swear to God we sat there with our fingers crossed. We hoped the guys would make it. We wanted this to happen. We knew those who were on board and they knew us, too.”
In many ways, the moon landing was an improbable feat for that time, only achieved with a great expense of resources and ingenuity and dedication and hard work by the estimated 400,000 people involved and, as with all such pioneering ventures into the deep unknown, requiring some luck that an unforeseen problem does not ruin everything.
But these hoax believers are conflating the improbable with the impossible.
“The point of moon-hoax theory is to show how powerful the American government was in terms of making people believe things that weren’t true.”
Well, that’s step 1 of the point. The ultimate point is to show how smart I am because I am one of the few who know about the man behind the curtain.
Matt G says
I’m viewing much of the world through the lens of insecurity and narcissism these days. The “I know better than the experts” attitude, and “I’m the smart person with special insight who sees what’s really going on.” And it seems to affect half the population.
I think that was completely justified. He was lied to and harassed by this rude overgrown child.
Clearly he was not taught any respect for his Elders, much less honesty.
Too bad Buzz didn’t swat him upside the head with that Bible, in addition to shutting his piehole with a fist midway through being called a “liar and a thie[pop] …ow!” by a shameless grifting hypocrite.
I contend that the magic book thingy that guy wanted to use was faulty. Didn’t keep him from lying to get Buzz Aldrin there in the first place, did it? Probably needs to be turned off and back on again, maybe get a recalibration with some baseline questions, and a good long soak in some truthiness juice. Then it will be fit for the same purpose it was before: a prop to represent gullibility.
Leonov goes down in history as the first person to “spacewalk” (leave his capsule in a spacesuit) and was also the commander of the Russian side of the Apollo Soyuz Test Project -- a mission that signalled the end of the “space race'” with astronauts and cosmonauts docking in space to shake hands and exchange gifts.
Vladimir Komarov was the first human to die in space, poor guy. Russians demonstrating that they give no fucks for the well being of living people is the only reason he was incinerated during re-entry.
This remark deserves highlighting, as it is very relevant to a specific recent commenter.
I am confident this is an over-generalisation, surely it would vary from idiot to idiot.
I have a small piece of semi-relevant useless trivia to share.
In 1969 my family and I were living in Fiji (I was born in early April of ’68 so was barely a toddler at the time of Apollo 11). My father, being at the time an ex maritime surveilance pilot who had flown the pacific in Sunderland flying boats with the RNZAF, was well aware of the estimated time and trajectory of re-entry. So here we all were on the hill near Nadi airport, with all of us on the lookout (I guess my mother was pointing up to the sky to coax me to look).
My eldest brother was 6 at the time and he was the first to see it.
So we watched as the capsule streaked across the sky with Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins aboard on it’s way to splashdown far to the NW of Fiji.
I wish I had been older. I would love to be able to remember the event.
All flight crew of the Apollo programme were incredibly brave and highly trained. They deserve respect.
My sympathies are with Buzz. I would punch that bozo in the face too.
“So we watched as the capsule streaked across the sky with Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins aboard on it’s way to splashdown far to the NE of Fiji.”
People also forget that ‘deep fakes’ are a relatively recent thing, and SF/X technology has improved a lot over the decades. With the technology we had at the time of the moon landing, it literally would have been easier to land on the moon than it would have been to fake it convincingly.
Sadly, over the last few generations, many people have been actively trained to reflexively disbelieve everything the government or any expert says.
James Stuby says
I am a geologist with a YouTube account and I’ve created many videos from Apollo images. Most are simple and innocuous with a few hundred hits. But one has over 160,000 hits. I’m not sure why but I think it was linked to a moon hoax page for a while. It sat there like all the others for a few years, then skyrocketed with lots of comments from denialists, and now it is quiet again. I deleted the stupidest and meanest comments but left some as examples of the kind of comments they make. My main takeaway from all of it is that the denialists can’t conceive that someone would make a video about the moon that was not directed at them and trying to convince them that the landings were real. Here is the video.