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50 years after Apollo, conspiracy theorists continue to howl at the "deception of the moon"




The commander of the Apollo 12 mission, Charles P. "Pete" Conrad was the third astronaut to walk on the moon. The deception of the moon is a classic theory of conspiracy: elaborate, strangely durable, which requires the existence of malevolent actors with a secret agenda. (NASA / AP)

The moon is having a star spin. This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing of Apollo 11, and the Trump administration has He ordered NASA to put the astronauts back on the moon by the year 2024.

None of this, however, will likely change the minds of people living in a parallel universe of beliefs where NASA faked the landings of Apollo's moon.

The deception of the moon is a Classical theory of conspiracy: elaborate, strangely durable, which requires the existence of malevolent actors with a secret agenda. The simulators of the moon are supposedly so competent that they can deceive everyone (but not so competent that they can put humans on the moon).

The researchers suggest that conspiracy theories are spreading more easily in the current information universe, with the Internet functioning as a superconductor. A growing science of conspiracy seeks to understand who these people are, why they adopt such ideas and if there is anything that can dislodge a truly magnetic conspiracy theory from the mind of a true believer.

Surveys show that about 5 or 6 percent of the public subscribes to the Moon's theory of deception, said former NASA chief historian Roger Launius. That is a modest number, but these people appeared reliably every time Launius gave a lecture on the subject: "They are very vocal, and they love to confront you."

While NASA celebrates Apollo 11, the space agency must decide whether, and how, to respond to the theory of the false moon conspiracy.

In response to a query from The Washington Post, NASA spokesman Allard Beutel issued a statement saying there is "a significant amount of evidence to support that NASA landed 12 astronauts on the Moon from 1969 to 1972," and Specified part of that evidence: NASA has "842 pounds of lunar rocks collected by astronauts, studied by scientists around the world for decades; you can still bounce the Earth-based lasers from the retroreflective mirrors placed on the lunar surface by the Apollo astronauts; The NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter photographed the landing sites in 2011.. . "

And so. But it is a difficult situation for NASA.

The evidence that the lunar landings were real is exactly what a conspirator would expect to be manufactured by an agency committed to deceiving the public. This is the eternal enigma for the detractors.

The theory never dies.

In an iteration of the theory, the Apollo missions were filmed by the legendary film director Stanley Kubrick, who directed "2001: A Space Odyssey."

Bill Kaysing, a former technical writer, published a book in 1976 entitled "We Never Go to the Moon," which became a seminal text in the mythology of the false moon.

In 2001, the Fox TV network aired a documentary entitled "Conspiracy theory: do we land on the moon?" With the actor Mitch Pileggi of the television series "The X-Files" (one of the themes was "Trust No One") that acts as a narrator.

The conspiracy theory keeps coming.

During a podcast discussion with other NBA players in December, basketball superstar Stephen Curry launched the idea that humans had not gone to the Moon. (He soon backed off, apologized and had a friendly conversation with astronaut Scott Kelly).

A key feature of the idea of ​​the false moon is that the photographs taken by the Apollo astronauts (supposedly!) Just do not look good. For example, where are the stars? Also, there is no explosion crater under the lunar lander.

The camera could not catch the dim light of the stars behind the astronauts and other bright objects on the surface bathed in sunlight. And in the smooth gravity field of the moon, the lander of the landing module did not have to produce much thrust to settle on the surface of the moon.

NASA responded to the book and film by publishing a statement citing moon rocks as incontrovertible evidence: "Rocks and particles, still under study by scientists around the world, clearly formed in an atmosphere lacking oxygen and water and show important chemical differences any of the previously known rocks of the Earth ".

Astronomer Phil Plait dissected the deception hypothesis in a 2001 blog post that is presented as the final elimination. "His evidence is actually as tenuous as the void of space itself," Plait wrote.

A more direct response came from Apollo 11 astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, when he was tempted by conspiracy theorist Bart Sibrel outside a Beverly Hills hotel in 2002.

Sibrel, brandishing a Bible and asking Aldrin to swear it, said: "You're the one who said you walked on the moon when you did not … You're a coward, a liar and a thief."

WHAM.

Aldrin cut him off with a right cross.

Often strange, sometimes toxic

Conspiracy theories may seem strange and marginal, but they are not harmless. They often convey racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic beliefs. In their most toxic form, these theories have led to violence, including mass shootings. Behind many conspiracy theories lies a generalized anger. Many researchers and communicators who deal with marginal conspiracy theories endure poisonous and misogynistic threats and harassment.

A theory of conspiracy does not have to provide all the answers. Just open the consensus narrative and expose possible gaps or anomalies in what we know. The classic theory of conspiracy is, then, an open narrative. The only thing that the conspiracy theorist knows with certainty is that what the experts say is not true.

In a 2012 article entitled "Dead and alive: beliefs in contradictory conspiracy theories," the researchers showed that people with a high degree of conspiracy can encompass two mutually exclusive narratives, as long as both reject the general consensus. For example, people more inclined to believe that Princess Diana faked her death were also more inclined to believe that she was murdered. Both can not be true.

In a 2013 article, cognitive scientist Stephan Lewandowsky and two colleagues found that conspiratorial thinking contributes to the rejection of scientific consensus on issues such as climate change, vaccine safety and HIV / AIDS. People susceptible to conspiracies begin with the mentality that the world is full of secret forces with evil agendas and may be induced to believe in recently fabricated conspiracies.

Enthusiasts of the flat earth & # 39;

The idea of ​​Moon-Hoax is closely related to the theory of the "flat Earth", which has gained followers in recent years thanks to social networks and viral videos.

"Actually, you're actually in a giant planetarium, a slash terrarium, an oblique bar scene, a Hollywood slash that's so big that you and everyone you know and everyone you've met never noticed," he says. a leader. handset Mark Sargent, in the documentary "Behind the curve".

In Sargent's version of Earth, Antarctica is a 200-foot high wall of ice that surrounds the Earth's disk like salt applied abundantly to the edge of a Margarita. The sun and the moon are two lights that rotate around the sky like planes in a pattern of waiting.

When Asheley Landrum, a psychologist at Texas Tech University, attended the first Flat Earth International Conference near Raleigh, North Carolina, in 2017, she discovered that 29 of the 30 people she interviewed had accepted the flat Earth argument after to watch YouTube videos, and the only exception heard about it by family members who had seen those videos.

In general, they had been watching conspiracy videos on topics such as the Sandy Hook school shooting or the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and YouTube had recommended flat videos of Earth. They followed the path blazed by computer algorithms.

The people interviewed by Landrum reported being skeptical of the notions of the flat Earth initially. The conversion process involved continuous research, which Landrum described as a change in attitude from a "reflective, systematic or conscious approach". They tried to do it well.

Landrum said he discovered that people are more likely to be open to the flat idea of ​​the Earth if they had little knowledge of science and a lot of conspiracy mentality. His research suggests that flat earthlings occupy all points of the traditional political spectrum, but share a common mistrust of the government and authorities.

At the conference, each person he interviewed said that the moon's landings were false. They do not believe that the Earth is a planet. The Earth is a disk and its center is the North Pole (as anyone can clearly see in the official emblem of the United Nations).

"The most basic thing he says is that people are special. We are not a speck of dust floating in this vast space, but the Earth is the center of things. We are not moving. We are not a planet. That is all. "The sky is above the Earth, the hell is below the Earth," said Landrum.


In August of 1971, astronaut James Irwin during the Apollo 15 lunar mission. An iteration of the conspiracy theory is that the Apollo missions were filmed by the legendary film director Stanley Kubrick. (David Scott / NASA / Reuters)

Triumph and belief & # 39; birther & # 39;

A theory of conspiracy helped shape President Trump's political career. Long before running for president, Trump stoked the belief that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States and that he was not constitutionally eligible to serve as president. In her recent memoirs, former First Lady Michelle Obama said that Trump's birther promotion was "dangerous, deliberately designed to stir up nuts and kooks," and put the safety of her family at risk.

Trump has repeatedly called "warming" global warming. He has hinted that the Supreme Court judge, Antonin Scalia, died of foul play. While running for president, he said that before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the father of his main rival, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Had met with Lee Harvey Oswald.

"I could say, with a certain degree of certainty, that he uses conspiracy theories to motivate his main supporters. Whether you believe them or not is a completely different question, "said Joseph Uscinski, a professor at the University of Miami and co-author of the book" Theories of the American Conspiracy. "

For years, Trump approved one of the most dangerous conspiracy theories: that vaccines cause autism. (Recently it was reversed and urged parents to vaccinate their children). Movement leaders argue that pediatricians, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccine manufacturers, medical journals and epidemiologists around the world are hiding this terrifying truth. Anti-vaxxers have spread the wrong information and have discouraged parents from protecting their children. This is a factor in the measles outbreak that breaks record and is still being fought this year.

For any of these conspiracies to be true, they would have to be large-scale, implacable in implementation and surprisingly efficient, without escaping the conspirators. Apollo sent 24 astronauts to the vicinity of the moon and 12 walked on it, and none of them He has revealed his great secret.

Naomi Oreskes, a professor of history of science at Harvard, says that everything about conspiracy does matter when it comes to issues like climate change and vaccine safety.

"Without trust in institutional authority, and particularly with no confidence in science, we have no way to correct misinformation," Oreskes said. "And from there, it's a downward spiral."


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