The moon landing hoax conspiracy has been circulating now for almost 50 years, basically since the moon landing itself.
Skeptics and doubters of modern mechanical marvels have always been amongst us, and I’m sure to many living back then, it did seem magical or “too good to be true” for a flying ship to hurtle hundreds of thousands of miles through space, and land precisely on our luminous natural satellite.
These, of course, were individuals who had a less-than-savvy knowledge of technological innovation or scientific feats and they felt completely awestruck by the notion that we could psychically travel to the moon. So, they decided that it just didn’t happen at all. That it was a hoax…
Meet former US Navy officer, Bill Kaysing.
In 1976, Kaysing self-published the book “We Never Went to the Moon” to not much fanfare. It was a slow roll-out book that struggled to pick up steam, but it started getting some traction and more noticed, as Kaysing made public appearances to promote it.
Kaysing had high hopes people would buy his story, that he, in the 1950s, managed to view top secret NASA files containing the results of a “moon landing study” where Kaysing proclaimed the study stated in its consensus, “That the chance of success was something like .0017 percent In other words, it was hopeless” (Kaysing, 1976).
Kaysing is vague about the details and doesn’t elaborate on how NASA conducted this study in the ’50s, but leaving ambiguity on sourcing details is critical in a conspiracy, of course. He also never names the report itself, so you’ll have to take his word for it if you so choose to.
We can see that Kaysing was using some basic persuasion techniques, to persuade his readers of his beliefs, and to, of course, sell more books.
He made explicit claims; that NASA and the government lied and that the moon landing was a hoax. He provides scant evidence for this, but this basic persuasion tactic was utilized by Kaysing.
He also used the advanced persuasion technique of “card stacking” in his book. As explained in the New Mexico Media Literacy Project’s piece: “The Language of Persuasion”, card stacking gives readers a misleading impression of the subject matter by “selecting only favorable evidence to lead the audience to a desired conclusion” (NMMLP).
Kaysing hasn’t been the sole proprietor of moon landing hoax conspiracies over the years. He has had many others come after him, peddling the same conspiracy but dressed up in different packages.
Many consider the moon landing as the “founding father” of conspiracies, along with the JFK assignation. And since the advent of the internet and online platforms that reach millions of people instantly now, conspiracies have only found an easier way to embed themselves into the body politic and “poison the well” so to speak.
This “poisoning” proliferates as propaganda, and runs amok once it gets a grasp on a particular group or part of society who’re more susceptible to beliefs in false notions, and who may already have an uneasy feeling towards the government. They’re prime targets for a conspiracy to take root in their minds.
Propganda is defined by Jacques Ellul as “a form of information that panders to our insecurities and anxieties” (Jacques Ellul, author of Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, 1962) and by Neil Postman as “intentionally-designed communication that invites us to respond emotionally, immediately, and in a either-or manner”(Neil Postman, author of Technopoly, 1994).
Both of these definitions are applicable here when discussing the moon landing conspiracy perpetrated by Kaysing in his book. He wanted to cast doubt in people’s minds, and to make them feel insecure and mistrustful of the US Government. He elicited an emotional reaction where he wanted his audience to read his book and conclude right then, that he was telling them the truth, matter-of-factly. Either you believed him full-stop, OR you were a lemming siding with the government.
Conspiracies are now baked into our culture and there won’t be any getting rid of them anytime soon. The moon landing, JFK, flat-earth, etc. have found a home in the hearts and minds of millions of people around the world. They’ve let them in, fostered and nurtured them, and shared them with others via the internet.
Kaysing took advantage of an opportunity to tell a tall tale, make money, and prey on the minds of his readers. Today, others are copying his blueprint, and as the old saying goes, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
At least they hope so.