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1 Roger D. Launius National Air and Space Museum Smithsonian Institution.

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Presentation on theme: "1 Roger D. Launius National Air and Space Museum Smithsonian Institution."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 Roger D. Launius National Air and Space Museum Smithsonian Institution

2 America and the Cult of Conspiracy Conspiracy theories abound in American history. Conspiracy theories abound in American history. Plays to innermost fears of malevolent group seeking to rob us of something. Plays to innermost fears of malevolent group seeking to rob us of something. Organizes often disparate facts into theories ever more complex and menacing. Organizes often disparate facts into theories ever more complex and menacing. The Paranoid Style in American Politics, Richard Hofstadter. The Paranoid Style in American Politics, Richard Hofstadter. Conspiracy theories built on four key elements: 1) Dualism; 2) Scapegoating; 3) Demonization; and 4) Apocalyptic Aggression. Conspiracy theories built on four key elements: 1) Dualism; 2) Scapegoating; 3) Demonization; and 4) Apocalyptic Aggression.

3 Did Anyone Disbelieve in 1969? 1969 opinion poll said 5% doubted the moon voyage had taken place opinion poll said 5% doubted the moon voyage had taken place. Bill Anders thought live TV would convince skepticswatching three men floating inside a spaceship was as close to proof as they might get. Bill Anders thought live TV would convince skepticswatching three men floating inside a spaceship was as close to proof as they might get. Jeff Launiuss denial. Jeff Launiuss denial.

4 Early Responses In 1969 Knight newspapers claimed that the numbers questioning Apollo in Detroit, Miami, and Akron averaged less than 5 percent. In 1969 Knight newspapers claimed that the numbers questioning Apollo in Detroit, Miami, and Akron averaged less than 5 percent. Among African Americans in such places as Washington, D.C., a whopping 54 percent doubted the moon voyage had taken place. Among African Americans in such places as Washington, D.C., a whopping 54 percent doubted the moon voyage had taken place. Many skeptics feel moon explorer Neil Armstrong took his giant step for mankind somewhere in Arizona. Many skeptics feel moon explorer Neil Armstrong took his giant step for mankind somewhere in Arizona. Those polled were asked, Do you really, completely believe that the United States has actually landed men on the moon and returned them to earth again? Those polled were asked, Do you really, completely believe that the United States has actually landed men on the moon and returned them to earth again? Newsweek quoted one skeptic in 1970, Its all a deliberate effort to mask problems at home, the people are unhappy and this takes their minds off their problems. Newsweek quoted one skeptic in 1970, Its all a deliberate effort to mask problems at home, the people are unhappy and this takes their minds off their problems.

5 Common Conspiracy Scenarios Entire Moon landing program a sham, manufactured for public consumption by an evil political establishment. Entire Moon landing program a sham, manufactured for public consumption by an evil political establishment. Robotic missions to the Moon were real, but human landings were faked. Robotic missions to the Moon were real, but human landings were faked. Humans landed on the Moon with either the assistance of extraterrestrial visitors or Apollo astronauts discovered extraterrestrial life there. Humans landed on the Moon with either the assistance of extraterrestrial visitors or Apollo astronauts discovered extraterrestrial life there. 5

6 Concocting a Lasting Conspiracy Thesis We Never Went to the Moon: America's Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle (1974), Bill Kaysing. We Never Went to the Moon: America's Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle (1974), Bill Kaysing. NASA Mooned America: Did man Ever land on the Moon? (1994), Ralph René. NASA Mooned America: Did man Ever land on the Moon? (1994), Ralph René. Three degrees of Moon landing deniers: Naïve doubters. Willful charlatans. Tinfoil hat brigade. Ralph René Bill Kaysing

7 Bart Sibrel. its an absolute fact the astronauts didnt go to the moon.Bart Sibrel Asserted Apollo crews faked missions, used trick photographyaccepts the Earth orbital missions. Asserted Apollo crews faked missions, used trick photographyaccepts the Earth orbital missions. Claims astronauts could not go to the Moon because going beyond the Van Allen Radiation Belts irradiate them. Claims astronauts could not go to the Moon because going beyond the Van Allen Radiation Belts irradiate them. Several films: Several films: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon (2001) Astronauts Gone Wild (2004) Apollo 11 Monkey Business (2004) Accosts astronauts demanding they swear on the Bible that they walked on the Moon. Accosts astronauts demanding they swear on the Bible that they walked on the Moon. September 9, 2002, Sibrel confronted Buzz Aldrin, then 72 years old, who in turn hit Sibrel with a hook that sent him to his knees. September 9, 2002, Sibrel confronted Buzz Aldrin, then 72 years old, who in turn hit Sibrel with a hook that sent him to his knees.

8 Major Claims Photographic Anomalies Photographic Anomalies Radiation Survivability Radiation Survivability Lack of Technology Lack of Technology Fake Lunar Rocks Fake Lunar Rocks Anomalies in Historical Record Anomalies in Historical Record Van Allen Radiation Belts Flag Seems to Wave

9 Moon Hoax and Modern Media Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon? (Fox, 2001) changed debate. Afterward Moon hoax exploded on Internet. Afterward Moon hoax exploded on Internet. Internet a haven for conspiracy theorists; with barrier for entry on-line so low anyone can post anything. 1,440,000 sites returned on recent Google search.

10 Conspiracy Theorist Convinces Neil Armstrong Moon Landing Was FakedAugust 31, 2009 A periodical known for outrageous humor, this story was picked up as truth in several newspapers around the world. A periodical known for outrageous humor, this story was picked up as truth in several newspapers around the world. It is bad enough when conspiracy theorists state such things without foundation; when legitimate news organizations do so it is much more disturbing. It is bad enough when conspiracy theorists state such things without foundation; when legitimate news organizations do so it is much more disturbing. We thought it was true so we printed it without checking. We thought it was true so we printed it without checking.

11 Moon Hoax at Forty Moon hoax continues to resonate among the public. Moon hoax continues to resonate among the public. Journalistic attention in 2009 brought on by competition for new angles. Journalistic attention in 2009 brought on by competition for new angles poll showed that 6 percent of public questioned Moon landings but among Americans % expressed doubts that NASA went to the Moon poll showed that 6 percent of public questioned Moon landings but among Americans % expressed doubts that NASA went to the Moon. Younger Americans have no personal recollection of Apollo and for others it is receding into background quickly. Younger Americans have no personal recollection of Apollo and for others it is receding into background quickly. Three spheres of memory: Three spheres of memory: Personal Experience. Personal Experience. Related Experience. Related Experience. Detached Experience. Detached Experience.

12 So What? U.S. human spaceflight, especially Apollo Moon landings, serves as powerful trope: U.S. human spaceflight, especially Apollo Moon landings, serves as powerful trope: Exceptionalism. Exceptionalism. Modernity. Modernity. State power and authority. State power and authority. Moon hoax attractive to those disbelieving authority of expertsgovernmental or not. Moon hoax attractive to those disbelieving authority of expertsgovernmental or not. Vicarious nature of Moon landings increases susceptibility to hoax claims. Vicarious nature of Moon landings increases susceptibility to hoax claims. Postmodernism: fundamental philosophical thrust of modern society blurs line between fact/fiction. Postmodernism: fundamental philosophical thrust of modern society blurs line between fact/fiction. Acceptance of claims shows remarkable misunderstanding of S&T even as society is ever more technological. Acceptance of claims shows remarkable misunderstanding of S&T even as society is ever more technological.


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