Archive for category Conspiracy Nonsense

Moon landing

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An estimated 1 billion people watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon in 1969. The Apollo 11 landings were the culmination of a project that had cost countless billions of dollars and several lives. Five more successful missions were made. One was aborted. Due to government budget cuts, later missions were cancelled. No-one has been to the moon since 1972.

Some people however believe that the moon landings never took place. Within a couple of years of the final moon landing, Bill Kaysing, self published We Never Went to the Moon: America’s 30 Billion Dollar Swindle. In his book he outlines why in his opinion the moon landings never took place and claims that a feasibility study, carried out by NASA showed that the chances of a successful moon landing were 0.0017%.

Lunar conspiracy has remained popular since. The most prominent living proponents of the myth are Bart Sibrel, David Percy and David Icke.

The myths surrounding it range from the entire mission being fabricated to the photographs being forged, with the actual mission taking place. I intend to examine the claims (and careers) of the most prominent proponents of this conspiracy. There are apparently innumerable pieces of hard proof that the moon landings were filmed in area 51, by Stanley Kubrick (along with 400,000 members of NASA who have all remained quiet for the last 40 years). Rather than wade through the morass of websites dedicated to bringing down NASA (googling ‘the moon landings were faked’ gives you 163,000 results), I shall be analysing the main claims made in the ‘documentary’, Did we really land on the moon?

The show opens with a disclaimer:

“The following programme deals with a controversial subject. The theories expressed are not the only possible interpretation. Viewers are invited to make a judgement based on all available information.”

1. Claim: the flag is moving in a vacuum

Explanation: the flag only moves when being held by an astronaut. Therefore the movement is 128px-AABAPcaused by man and not a breeze of wind.

2. Claim: Identical backgrounds

Explanation: I personally find this unconvincing as most mountains and hills look similar (particularly seen from the distance).

3. Claim: The moon landings were filmed on Area 51

Flaws with this argument: studies have shown that the soil in the moon footage acts nothing like any soil on earth, the soil is very fine, yet any clouds generated settle almost instantaneously.

4. Claim: No blast crater is visible for any successful moon landing and no dust is on the footpads of the LEMs.

Explanation: The LEM would have pushed dust rather than blasted it. In addition, studies have shown that the dust behaves in a way that could not be reproduced on earth.

5. Claim: LEM design – a prototype LEM was flown by Armstrong on Earth. The LEM made it 300 feet into the air before crashing. Armstrong was forced to eject with seconds to go. Yet the LEM landed correctly six times.

Explanation: the crucial word here is ‘prototype’. The first prototype plane of the Wright Brothers struggled to get off the ground, yet no-one is suggesting Concorde is a myth.

6. Claim: The footage is grainy and blurry and black and white – Bart Sibrel argues that this was deliberate to make it hard to spot any flaws in the footage.

Explanation: Yes the footage is unimpressive, but this could be said about any live broadcast made in the late 1960s/ early 70s.

7. Claim: When the footage speed is doubled astronauts appear to be running as if on earth.

Flaws with this claim: Attempts where made on the show Myth Busters to convincingly recreate footage either by slowing the footage or walking slowly and then speeding up the footage. Neither result was convincing and the men carrying out the experiment moved in a distinctly odd fashion.

8 – Claim The shadows on the footages are pointing in different directions despite their being one source of light (the Sun)

Explanation: Actually there are other sources of light – the moon reflects sunlight (which is how we can see from Earth in the first place). The mythbusters reproduced similar photographs with a model of the moon landing and a single light source.

9. Claim: being outside the protective Van Allen belts would have caused the astronauts to die.

Flaws with this argument: Dr. James Van Allen (the man the belts are named after) disputes this:

“The claim that radiation exposure during the Apollo missions would have been fatal to the astronauts is …nonsense.”

 

Now to the people who promote the aforementioned nonsense:

 

Bart Sibrel

According to Bart Sibrel’s website he “has been making movies for over twenty-five years, during which time he has owned five production companies and produced films shown on NBC, FOX, CNN, BET, USA, and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”. This extremely grand claim suggests he is in the same league as James Cameron or Alfred Hitchcock. There is however little evidence to support this: Sibrel’s IMDB entry lists him as producing a single, self-published film. As far as I can tell he makes his living as a taxi driver. Sibrel attempted to sue Buzz Aldrin after Aldrin punched him, (Sibrel insulted Aldrin and called him a liar). His claim was thrown out of court. (The punch has been watched by nearly three million people and can watched/enjoyed here.)

Similar ‘documentaries’ at least give NASA and scientists a chance to offer explanations and facts. Bart Sibrel’s ‘documentary’ however does not. All of the arguments made in his movie go unchallenged. SIbrel opens by describing The Tower of Babel, The Titanic and the space race – the three are apparently equated. Sibrel is implying that the space race was an equally flawed and doomed project. Sibrel makes vague accusations as the ‘documentary’ progresses. He mentions problems that NASA encountered (the hubble space telescope and the challenger incident). It is true that neither of these things went smoothly (the challenger incident was in particular a tragedy) but this does not prove the moon landings were too advanced for NASA.

Having established that NASA was as technology advanced as the Amish, Sibrel launches into the traditional arguments that are used by the conspiracy theorists; the Van Allen belts, the shadows, etc. The movie does not offer any original arguments or anything in the way of evidence. I would seriously advise against watching this.

 

David Icke

 

David Icke is probably the most famous conspiracy fool in the world. Whatever ludicrous myth you hear, you can guarantee David Icke believes it. The main myth he promotes, is that the world is apparently controlled by a group of aliens who masquerade as human beings. In countless books and lecture tours he has made numerous insane claims (without any proof), stating (amongst other things) that injections received by HIV patients give them HIV (they were healthy already), 9/11 was staged, the Napoleonic Wars were organised to make the Rothschild family money, Hurricane Sandy was organised by Obama and World War Two never happened. His belief that the moon landings were nothing other than a film (directed by Stanley Kubrick) is just the tip of a very crazy iceberg.
Ralph Rene

Ralph Rene was a university dropout who worked as a carpenter. He was clearly a man with delusions of grandeur; he published a non-fiction book which “reduces Einstein’s [theory of] Relativity to an absurdity” and another which he describes as “A simple proof using stellar observations and plane trig that Newton’s massive Equatorial Bulge is just a figment of Newton’s imagination.” In addition to ‘disproving’ the works of two of the finest minds in history, Rene is another person who insists the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated and lays out his arguments in ‘World Trade Centre Lies and Fairytales”. His book about the moon landings was entitled “NASA Mooned America!”

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The Titanic was NOT the Olympic

Another event from history, which has long been a victim of conspiracy nonsense, is the sinking of the RMS Titanic. As always, rather than trawl the internet and read the various books, I shall be analysing something that makes the standard claims. For this I have selected  the ‘documentary’ Why They Sank the Titanic

Urban legend: The Titanic was secretly switched with its sister ship, RMS Olympic. The ship was then deliberately sunk as part of an elaborate insurance scheme.

Reality: The Titanic set sail on its maiden voyage in 1912. Four days later it collided with an iceberg and sank to the bottom of the Atlantic ocean.

Origins of the myth

Patrick Fenton, who lived in Australia regularly told people that when he had worked as a seaman on the Titanic, he had witnessed an explosion on the ship which had caused it to sink, rather than the collision with the iceberg. He claimed also that the crew had been ordered to sign the official secrets act. There is however no record of him working for the White Star Line or serving on the Titanic. His name is also absent from the list of survivors.

Main claims made in the ‘documentary’.

Claim 1. It was an insurance scam.

The Titanic was owned by the White Star Line – which was owned by Bruce Ismay and Lord Pirrie. The White Star Line was a subsidiary of the International Mercantile Marine Co (owned by J . P. Morgan). The Titanic was insured for roughly 2/3 of it’s value. The tragedy cost the White Star Line over two million dollars, with J P Morgan’s company going bankrupt. It’s clear therefore that if it was an insurance scam it was poorly executed.

Claim 2. The two ships were almost identical, which would have made it possible to switch the ships.

This is partly true. Photographs of the Olympic were often used to advertise the Titanic. Nevertheless there are fundamental differences that would have been impossible to hide. As historian Mark Chirnside argues: “you simply cannot pass off a one-year-old ship for a new one. Too many people would have noticed things such as the inevitable wear and tear”. In order to be successful the conspiracy would have had to be concealed not just from the crew and staff but “A number of Titanic’s passengers [who] had sailed on Olympic before and it is hard to believe that they would not have noticed that they were travelling on exactly the same ship”

Claim 3. Chief Petty Office Wilde wrote a letter to his sister saying “I still don’t like this ship.”

I have not been able to find a reliable source, confirming the existence of this letter. Even if this letter is authentic it’s worth noting that it’s an ambiguous statement; as arguments go, this is one of the weaker.

Claim 4. The iceberg should have been seen in time and avoided.

David Blair, the original Second Officer, was removed from his post when the Titanic docked at Belfast. He forgot to hand over the only key to the cupboard containing the ships binoculars.

Various accounts state that the iceberg was a black-berg – an iceberg which due to constant melting is clear rather than white (similar to black ice on roads). It would have been difficult therefore to see the iceberg far away.

Claim 5. The Titanic was launched hastily, without fanfare and was not open to the public for inspection.

Over 100,000 people witnessed the launch of the Titanic. The White Star Line had a policy of not breaking bottles on ships, but it did fire rockets.

Claim 6. The ship was only ‘half full’ and ‘over 50’ 1st class passengers cancelled at the last minute.

The luxury cruise liner industry, was extremely competitive so it was not unusual for there to be vacancies in first class. The people who cancelled included Henry Clay Frick who was forced to cancel after his wife became hospitalized in Italy. The claim of 50 passengers does seem to have any basis – and other accounts indicate the ship was actually 2/3rds full.

Claim 7. The inquiry was a cover up.

After the tragedy, the British Prime Minister organised a full inquiry, chaired by Lord Mersey. Lord Mersey’s inquiry was indeed criticised as a whitewash. However given the Government’s own responsibility (they had signed off the ship and their own regulations had allowed the ship to travel with insufficient lifeboats) it was not surprising. Plus the three most senior officers had all drowned, so even an impartial mediator, would have struggled to do a thorough investigation.

Claim 8. First Officer William Murdoch should have hit the iceberg straight on rather than try to port around it.

After the lookouts reported seeing the iceberg, First Officer Murdoch, ordered the engines into reverse and for the ship to go starboard. This meant that the ship hit the iceberg broadside, and breached five compartments (the Titanic could stay afloat with any four of its sixteen compartments filled with water). Murdoch did not necessarily make the wrong decision though. 9/10ths of an iceberg are under water. Hitting an underwater object can be devastating to a ship; the Olympic itself (which Murdoch had sailed on only months before) had suffered devastating damage after a propeller had hit an underwater ship. Murdoch also had only literally seconds to make a decision.

Claim 9. The Californian was intended to be used as a lifeboat.

The SS Californian – under the command of Stanley Lord was 19 miles away from where the Titanic sank. Allegedly it was supposed to collect the crew and passengers. Given not a single survivor was picked up by the Californian, then we can assume that either a) it was the most poorly executed survival strategy in history or b) it was not in fact intended to be a lifeboat.

Claim 10. On the Hull of the Titanic wreck, several letters have fallen off and the letters ‘M’ and P’ can be seen

The footage used in the documentary is claimed to be the footage collected by Dr. Robert Ballard. Ballard himself has dismissed the idea that the ship he found, was actually the Olympic, masquerading as Titanic.

Claim 11. – Captain Smith slept fully clothed in the chart room on the night of the sinking.

This conflicts with a claim by a survivor that Smith slept in his cabin.

Claim 12. The Titanic had trouble recruiting firestaff, during a coal strike.

It’s worth noting that firestaff had a high suicide rate. This conflicts also with the fact that there were 150 stokers on board.

Conclusion

It is clear that there is no hard evidence to support the claim, apart from circumstantial evidence, misconceptions and a lot of speculation (the standard ingredients used to make a conspiracy ‘theory’).

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Debunking conspiracy nonsense

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Conspiracy ‘theories’
I do not give conspiracy myths undue credit by calling them a theory. I personally feel that any theory should be based on vigorous research, revising the original hypothesis, presenting the findings to the scrutiny of your peers and ultimately being prepared to abandon your theory, if someone is able to disprove it. So called conspiracy ‘theorists’ do not adhere to these rules at all. They are fanatics; they grasp hold of a crazy idea, twist, distort (and apparently fabricate) data to fit the ‘theory’, present their findings to all and sundry and become angry with anyone who finds flaws in their research.

Twisting and turning everything until it fits a certain viewpoint and shouting down anyone who tries to challenge you is a dangerous way of thinking. It is not questioning things or fighting the system; on the contrary it is slavishly following something without question and becoming a member of a pseudo-cult.

Scientists tend to cut their teeth at University before forging theories. The theory that the earth was spherical was put forward by such genuises as Aristocole and Copernicus. Even now this idea is refuted by the flat earth society. David Icke is a former footballer, politican and journalist. Yet his concept of a hybrid alien-human species is accepted by his worryingly large flock. Whenever a scientist puts forward a theory they are expected to have credientials and training, yet with conspriacy fanatics, it seems the less expertise you have, the more your followers will believe you.

The conspiracy fanatics

I refuse to give conspiracy fanatic credit by calling them ‘theorists’. A theorist is someone who has backed up their arguments with extensive research and peer reviewed journals. Albert Einstein’s theory of revelativity was backed up by such research. David Icke’s claims about the ‘illumanti’ are based on (what he all but admits) are auditory hallicutaions).

The fact of the matter is this. You can’t win an argument with a conspiracy fanatic. If someone refuses to accept a peer reviewed journal, an academic essay, a news report, a newspaper article or a scientific textbook as fact then there isn’t really much else I can offer. No, I was not on the Titanic so I can’t say from first hand experience that it was not the Olympic. But neither can David Icke or Alex Jones. Listening to them rambling and then claiming it ‘makes sense’ does not prove anything either. How often do friends declare your symptoms match a diagnosis which you concede ‘makes sense’? GPs do not accept diagnosis because they ‘make sense’ – they require blood tests and other such hard proof.

Are there government cover ups? Yes of course there are – Thatcher attempted to conceal the sinking of the Belgrano – presumably because it was a PR problem – however both Clive Ponting and Tam Daylell are still alive 30 years after the event. And I do concede that the historical consensus about the likes of Lincoln, Ghandi, Churchill, FDR and Columbus are inaccurate. Lincoln and Ghandi were racists, Columbus was a genodical maniac and FDR and Churchill have dubious economic and human rights legacies. This does not mean however that we are misled about either men – legends were built around these people. When an historical figure becomes worshipped because of certain events, the other stuff is ignored.

There is nothing sinister however at the root of it all.

Why you can’t win an argument with a conspiracy fanatic

There’s an old saying – you can’t beat chess against someone who refuses to play by the rules.

An argument between a conspiracy fanatic and a rational person will go thus:

CF: David Kelly was murdered.

RP: It was suicide.

CF: That’s what they said it was.

RP: He was worried about his pension.

CF: That’s what they said it was.

(continue)

To put it simply if someone claims there is a big cover up going on – well you can’t disprove it – in the same way you can’t disprove that there is an invisible cat hiding in my garage (or if indeed I have a garage). If someone insists that official reports are all lies but insane ramblings in David Icke’s novels are factual then it is impossible to win the argument with them.

The ‘sheeple’ cliche

One of the most overused terms on these occasions is ‘sheeple’; a portmanteau of sheep and people. I should make it clear that I believe in questioning things, thinking critically and keeping an open mind – but as this video brilliantly explains, don’t open your mind so much your brain falls out!

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