Posted by Steven Hayward
William Whittle of ejectejecteject offers this magnificent takedown of loopy conspiracy theories, from the moon landing to 9/11. This one is worth bookmarking next time you hear Rosie O’Donnell spout off.
There is actually a History Channel take-down of the Moon Landing Conspiracy, or maybe it is National Geographic. Also, NGs Is It Real is an excellent skeptical show...I recommend it.
I have a student writing a persuasive essay on the "fake moon-landing" for her final paper. It is a composition class, and the point is their writing, so I let them choose their own topics as their interests or need leads them. I show them how to research and hope they take me seriously about the need for scholarly research as preferable to the popular. In the case of this student's paper, I have even tried to make it clear that this stand on this topic will be unpersuasive to me. However, she says I am just close-minded and her paper will really open my eyes. She insists that her scholarly research will prove her point. She's a bartender who wants to get into accounting. God help me.
Mr. Whittle says:
Some people see the Moon Hoax, Kennedy, 9/11 conspiracies and all the rest of that garbage as separate little fiefdoms of harmless lunacy. But I do not.
They all have one element in common, and it is a deadly poison which we must address if we want to regain our social health.
If you believe the lunar landing was a hoax, then you believe that your government was willing and able to lie to you in order to gain prestige it did not earn."
That is what I see as the central issue and wonder how we come back from this. It seems to me that this is the logical conclusion of people for whom there is no absolute truth. If truth is whatever I decide it is and my opinion can stand in for or is as good as any truth, then anything might be true, and if I believe it, you must respect my truth as Truth. If you do not accept my truth, then you are being close-minded. But if any truth is merely opinion, why would I take it seriously?
The world must be a very frightening place to people for whom the whole of our government (and maybe everyone else?) obviously and maliciously lies for nefarious, though unspecified, reasons. If, from the mouths of those in a position to know truth, one must expect the default position to be lies, then the truth of anything becomes unknowable.
If I'm reading your post correctly, you assert that Whittle's final analysis ("If you believe the lunar landing was a hoax, then you believe that your government was willing and able to lie to you in order to gain prestige it did not earn") stems from relativism.
I think it can be achieved by utilizing widely accepted truth:
People aren't angels. That is to say - we are all capable of lying to gain prestige otherwise unearned. Not just lying, and not just to gain prestige. Many is the case of some gain of asset by less-than-honorable means, be it thievery, murder, lying, cheating, etc.
We have ample evidence that this goes on in our governmental stations. After all - the people that are in our government are taken from the same pool of unangelics that necessitate government in the first place.
I'm not on one side or the other regarding Loch Ness, 9/11 Conspiracies, Lunar Hoaxes, etc. However, if the government did cook the Apollo Program in some film studio, I can certainly understand their reasoning, non-nefarious at that.
One might make the case that the end of the cold war saw its birth when the US won the space race. Rhetorically, I ask: What's a few lies to avert nuclear war?
I have an iron law of the Inverse Probability of Conspiracies, which goes as follows: The chance that something is a conspiracy is inversely proportional to the number of people necessary to have carried off said conspiracy. If literally hundreds of people owuld have had to have been involved, it didn't happen, because you only need one John Dean to unravel the whole thing. Perhaps--perhaps--JFK's killing could have been organized and carried off by a small number of people, but the moon landing and 9/11--forget it.
Mr. Anderson, I did Mr. Whittle a disservice in not continuing the quote, which went on to say roughly what Steve Hayward says in Comment 4.
Yes, any individual might lie for prestige, or any of a variety of other reasons. I know full well that people are not angels: knowing myself, reading the daily news and even literature, studying history. I can even see where "government" would have cause to lie. But as you say, "government" is made up of individuals, with the inclination to lie, and other faulty inclinations. For these types of vast conspiracies, wherein large numbers of people need to lie for "the government" and its prestige (etc.) why wouldn't some individual, or individuals, seeking to gain prestige (etc.) balk? I'd accept a few lies to avert nuclear war, and if "government" were a person, a single person, I believe it could carry off such a thing, but conspiracies haven't a hope. People are too fallible.
I blame people's credulity in such things on the wide acceptance of relativism. I haven't the time nor fortitude to pursue that topic this morning.
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