There are some people in this country who just try to undermine everything good about our society, and they are the fundamental reason we can’t have nice things. This group is usually made up of many people called Republicans, but in truth it goes much deeper than that. As much as people can get into “America: Love it or leave it” exceptionalism, listening to shitty Lee Greenwood music while drinking Michelob from a Stars and Stripes beer koozie, there is a separate category of assholes who feel the need to question and doubt every aspect of information for … reasons.
Skepticism and critical thought are good things. They’re necessary in a world with businesses and conmen that’ll rob people blind if given the chance. But when the reasons for doubting the obvious become ideological, whether politically, religiously, or dogmatically, things go off the rails into cuckoo crazy town.
The Apollo program is considered by many to be one of the greatest accomplishments in human history, and a mark of greatness for the United States as a country, as proof of what people can achieve through science and government (i.e., don’t let conservatives know it was done through socialism). However, it is a popular myth that the moon missions were overwhelmingly popular and had broad support from the public. Even during the 1960s, a majority of Americans did not believe the Apollo program was worth the cost, with the exception of polling done in 1969 around the time of the moon landing. In 1979, 10 years after the landing in the Sea of Tranquility, only 47% of the public felt it had been worth it. When it comes to government funding for the space program, there is a weird coalition of liberals who feel every dollar spent to get “Whitey on the Moon” is a dollar not being used for social programs and conservatives who think of it as money that needs to be sent back to the 1% as tax cuts.
But beyond just opposition, there is a sort of person who takes a look at the image above and just wants to shit on it to feel special. It’s the sort of person who watches two airplanes loaded with jet fuel crash into buildings, then sees those buildings burn for hours and crumble on live television, and then thinks, “The sheeple will probably think that’s the way it actually happened.” Or the kind of guy who hates the first black president so much, his fat ass accuses him of not being a “real” American. Or a TV network that hates Democrats so much, it tortures a murder victim’s family with a (Russian-induced) conspiracy theory to get views and clicks from the trash in its audience.
So I thought it might be interesting to look at the dumbest conspiracy theories, and what drives people to think, for example, that we never put men on the moon. Millions of people, with their own eyes, watched NASA launch rockets toward the moon. We have pictures and video documenting the journeys. The astronauts even brought back moon rocks. And yet there are still idiots who think the whole thing was directed by Stanley Kubrick on a soundstage in Nevada.
The lengths to which believers in a moon hoax will go to square a circle can be breathtaking. To the point, they actually believe in geocentric models of the universe, or fake alternative physics according to which rocket propulsion will not work in the vacuum of space.
From Elizabeth Howell at Space.com:
Opinion polls over the years regularly show that around 5% of Americans believe the Apollo moon landings were faked, former NASA chief historian Roger Launius recently told the Associated Press. That’s more than 16 million people, assuming a U.S. population of 327 million.
NASA has done a lot of debunking work over the decades, including a 2018 offer to NBA superstar Stephen Curry to view moon rocks at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston after Curry said he didn’t believe in the moon landings. (A few days later, Curry said he made the comments in jest.)
Earlier this year, NASA spokesperson Allard Beutel recited a pile of evidence supporting the moon landings to The Washington Post. He mentioned the returned moon rocks, the ability to bounce laser beams off gear the astronauts left behind and images NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter took of the Apollo landing sites in 2011. Nevertheless, even former astronauts have found themselves in the fray.
Of course, for the true believers, it doesn’t matter. Irrational beliefs are inherently irrational and by definition can’t be dislodged with logic or evidence. It’s the reason long-form birth certificates don’t really change things. The presence of evidence to the contrary is no impediment, since the facts themselves become suspect because they come from, say, people with ties to the CIA, the Illuminati, or whatever other boogeyman someone has in the back of their mind. For conservatives, Democrats are that boogeymen, and any accusation is taken as truth, even the ones that are demonstrably false.
That’s why something as imbecilic as QAnon persists. It just mutates to fit ever-changing fantasies based on biases. And since the media’s pursuit of twisted “balance” involves giving airtime to awful people and their stupidity, the worst bullshit is spread far and wide, and plays into a cynical “both sides suck” sentiment. It presupposes two sides to every issue even when only one exists. Instead of calling dumb things dumb, modern media indulges fairy tales that violate every natural law of the universe, just to be “fair.”
So people can waste their breath trying to reason with a bunch of people that believe in fantasies, or ridicule them for behaving stupidly. But where do the believers in conspiracy come from? Do they suffer from ideological want? A belief in the enlightened superiority in being a contrarian? Or is it largely a function of ego and tribalism?
From Matt Novak at Gizmodo:
The 1974 self-published book We Never Went to the Moon by Bill Kaysing was the first lengthy discussion on the topic committed to paper. Kaysing, who died in 2005, was a technical writer at space contractor Rocketdyne in the 1950s, which led some people to think that Kaysing knew what he was talking about when he insisted that the Moon landings were actually filmed at a production studio in Area 51. People believed Kaysing despite the fact that he would sometimes admit he knew “zero” about rockets.
Kaysing didn’t have to work too hard to convince an already skeptical public that the Apollo space program and the first Moon landing on July 20, 1969 was a sham. Americans of the late 1960s and early 1970s were already living through one of the most disheartening eras of the 20th century, with everything from the Vietnam War to the corruption of Watergate leading the average person to distrust anything their government might be telling them.
The Knight newspaper company in July 1970 found that a whopping 30 percent of Americans believed the Moon landing had been faked. And a Gallup poll in 1976 found that 28 percent of Americans believed that the Moon landing had been staged by the U.S. government—pretty consistent findings throughout the 1970s.
So what is the most ridiculous conspiracy theory?
These are among some of the most popular and absurd conspiracy theories that get play on Facebook, Twitter, and social media. Just remember while reading them, there are people who actually believe these. And, in many ways, the tortured reasoning and half-truths are the mental gymnastics people who believe we didn’t land on the Moon, or accept Trump’s lies as gospel, is exactly the same.
Flat Earth — NBA star Kyrie Irving made headlines a couple years ago when he stated the Earth is flat and the flatness is “right in front of our faces,” with the planet actually being a globe being part of the “lies” we’re told. Like Steph Curry retracting his belief in a Moon hoax, last year Irving apologized for his support of a non-round Earth position. However, there is a small group of people who reject centuries of science and astronomy data, claim an azimuthal equidistant projection (e.g., think the United Nations flag) is the correct depiction of Earth, and believe Earth is really surrounded by The Wall from Game of Thrones.
Modern proponents of “Flat Earth” claim the planet is actually a disc, with Antarctica’s true nature being that of a 150-foot-tall wall of ice which surrounds the disc.
From Natalie Wolchover at Live Science:
The leading flat-earther theoryholds that Earth is a disc with the Arctic Circle in the center and Antarctica, a 150-foot-tall wall of ice, around the rim. NASA employees, they say, guard this ice wall to prevent people from climbing over and falling off the disc. (In keeping with their skepticism of NASA, known flat-earther conspiracy theorist Nathan Thompson recently approached a man he said was a NASA employee in a Starbucks in mid-May 2017. In a YouTube video of the exchange, Thompson, founder of the Official Flat Earth and Globe Discussion page, shouted that he had proof the Earth is flat — apparently saying an astronaut drowning was that proof — and that NASA is “lying.”)
Earth’s day and night cycle is explained by positing that the sun and moon are spheres measuring 32 miles (51 kilometers) that move in circles 3,000 miles (4,828 km) above the plane of the Earth. (Stars, they say, move in a plane 3,100 miles up.) Like spotlights, these celestial spheres illuminate different portions of the planet in a 24-hour cycle. Flat-earthers believe there must also be an invisible “antimoon” that obscures the moon during lunar eclipses.
Furthermore, Earth’s gravity is an illusion, they say. Objects do not accelerate downward; instead, the disc of Earth accelerates upward at 32 feet per second squared (9.8 meters per second squared), driven up by a mysterious force called dark energy. Currently, there is disagreement among flat-earthers about whether or not Einstein’s theory of relativity permits Earth to accelerate upward indefinitely without the planet eventually surpassing the speed of light. (Einstein’s laws apparently still hold in this alternate version of reality.)
Seth Rich Murder — Embraced by right-wing idiots looking to deflect away from all the news about Russia and a few sad and pathetic leftists who’ve come to believe the DNC is the focal point of all evil in the universe, the Rich story has, like Pizzagate before it, been a premiere example of how fake the fake news can get, as well as how things like this spread and are believed by those who want to believe it. For those unfamiliar, prestigious conservative assholes like Sean Hannity, some Republican lawmakers, consummate villain Newt Gingrich, and so-called progressives that rail against Democrats (like Caitlin Johnstone), have been pushing a conspiracy theory which alleges DNC staffer Seth Rich was the source of WikiLeaks’ release of DNC emails, without a single shred of evidence. This is important, since according to this theory, if Rich was the source of the emails, then in their narrow little minds it disproves the notion the DNC was hacked by Russian interests or any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Rich was murdered in the early morning hours of July 10, 2016, in what local police have described as a likely botched robbery. However for Hannity, Gingrich, and other assorted right and left-wing kooks, innuendo and fantasy have concocted a version of events in which the DNC had Rich murdered to stop his righteous attempt to expose DNC corruption and Empress Hillary Clinton’s reign of terror. Needless to say, there is nothing factual to support this. No legitimate news organization or branch of law enforcement has found anything which lends any credence to any of it. In fact, the family of Seth Rich has disputed these assertions and asked for the respect of their loved one. Recent reporting by claims the entire mess was a hatchet job created by Russian intelligence and pushed into the media by Trump officials.
From Michael Isikoff at Yahoo! News:
Russia’s foreign intelligence service, known as the SVR, first circulated a phony “bulletin” — disguised to read as a real intelligence report —about the alleged murder of the former DNC staffer on July 13, 2016, according to the U.S. federal prosecutor who was in charge of the Rich case. That was just three days after Rich, 27, was killed in what police believed was a botched robbery while walking home to his group house in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, D.C., about 30 blocks north of the Capitol. The purported details in the SVR account seemed improbable on their face: that Rich, a data director in the DNC’s voter protection division, was on his way to alert the FBI to corrupt dealings by Clinton when he was slain in the early hours of a Sunday morning by the former secretary of state’s hit squad.
Yet in a graphic example of how fake news infects the internet, those precise details popped up the same day on an obscure website, whatdoesitmean.com, that is a frequent vehicle for Russian propaganda. The website’s article, which attributed its claims to “Russian intelligence,” was the first known instance of Rich’s murder being publicly linked to a political conspiracy … At the same time, online trolls working in St. Petersburg, Russia, for the Internet Research Agency (IRA) — the same shadowy outfit that conducted the Russian social media operation during the 2016 election — aggressively boosted the conspiracy theories. IRA-created fake accounts, masquerading as those of American citizens or political groups, tweeted and retweeted more than 2,000 times about Rich, helping to keep the bogus claims about his death in the social media bloodstream, according to an analysis of a database of Russia troll accounts by Yahoo News.
QAnon and Pizzagate — After Wikileaks (and likely Russian intelligence) obtained and leaked DNC emails, trolls on 4chan concocted a conspiracy theory which holds that every mention of “cheese pizza” in John Podesta’s emails was a reference to a pedophile sex ring run by Hillary Clinton out of a pizza parlor in Washington, D.C. This eventually led to a 28-year-old man showing up to the restaurant with a gun in order to “investigate” in Dec. 2016 after dipshits like Alex Jones asked people to go the store. If that wasn’t stupid enough, thinks got kicked up a notch with QAnon, where right-wing activists believe Pizzagate was just a small piece of a large international conspiracy. According to these idiots, the true purpose of Trump’s Russian collusion and the Mueller investigation was to uncover a sex scandal involving Hollywood, Democratic politicians, and high ranking “deep state officials. Last year, some of the proponents of QAnon claimed John F. Kennedy Jr. is still alive, and faked his death 20 years ago in order to fight a secret war, allied with Trump, against the conspiracy. After the arrest of Jefferey Epstein, there were QAnon supporters claiming it was proof many were ready to “team up with Trump and ship a huge number of top Democrats off to Guantanamo Bay,” which would include President Obama. Of course, this was before Trump’s connections with Epstein, and video of both men partying together made the news.
From Mack Lamoureux at Vice:
One of the most disheartening signs of our advancing hellworld are the thousands of people who wholeheartedly believe in the deranged conspiracy known as QAnon … While the QAnon conspiracy often feels like an elaborate troll, an online community of real, actual people has built up around it. There’s been a lot written about how lonely these people are, how they will cut themselves off from their family (and eat sad sandwiches during holidays), and poking fun at the whole thing. Rick Ross, a cult deprogrammer and executive director of the nonprofit Cult Education Institute, says the community bears a lot of the hallmarks of a cult: the main character is infallible and everything is part of a greater plan.
Jane had been with her husband for eight years and had just bought a house together. Then, one day in late 2017, he started bringing up Q and the deep-state conspiracy. Jane says she’s not positive where it all stemmed from but it may have come from his friendship with a coworker. From the moment Q was introduced, the relationship changed drastically and her husband was unrecognizable.
— anna (@ttylgay) August 10, 2016
Climate Change is a hoax designed to micromanage the way people live — No matter how much science is put on the table, or alternative reasons given for why getting off fossil fuels is a good idea (i.e., even if you think climate change is bullshit, wouldn’t it still be a good idea to have alternative forms of energy?), there are people who believe it’s all a liberal hoax designed to create an authoritarian society (projection much?), take people’s pickup trucks away, and force communism down Americans’ throats. And these same people have taken these views to disgusting extremes.
From Ed Mazza at the Huffington Post:
Even though the gunman who killed at least 50 and injured dozens of worshippers wrote a white supremacist, anti-immigrant manifesto, Limbaugh on Friday cited what he called “an ongoing theory” that the killer is actually a leftist trying to “smear his political enemies.”
The shooter says he’s not a conservative, not a Christian and that he identifies as an eco-fascist, which would make him a supporter of the Green New Deal. He adds that he disagrees with Trump on politics.
Limbaugh didn’t go so far as to endorse the theory, but gave it plenty of airtime and told his listeners: “You can’t immediately discount this. The left is this insane. They are this crazy.”
Anti-Vaxers — The modern anti-vaccination movement takes advantage of parental fears of autism, and is linked to a thoroughly discredited study of the MMR vaccine by Andrew Wakefield. From there things spiral out into unfounded theories that fluoride and the pertussis vaccine cause brain damage. While there are potential health issues with vaccines based on the health history of the individual (just like every other thing one might stick in their body), there is NOT a single, reputable epidemiological study on this planet which has linked vaccines to autism. Not one. And if anyone thinks I’m wrong, please cite one in the comments. This is a situation where the collective wisdom gained from 5,000 years of history allows us to prevent and eradicate infection, suffering and death. We have scientific proof of its efficacy. Our ancestors would see it as a miracle to possess the ability to live a life without these illnesses, and there are still parts of the world that would treasure the opportunity to have their children vaccinated. And in the face of all of that, we have a minority that basically says: “Fuck that noise, I’m listening to Jenny McCarthy and a jackass in a YouTube video.”
John F. Kennedy was assassinated by … — The mafia? Cubans? Russians? The CIA? Time travelers from the year 5000? Or maybe, just maybe, it really was Lee Harvey Oswald?
Phantom Time — According to this theory, today is not , 2014. The real date is July 19, 1722. According to the “Phantom Time” hypothesis, 297 years of the Middle Ages (614-911 A.D.) never happened. Artifacts ascribed to this period of time were classified by accident, misinterpretation or deliberate deception. And all events that occurred during those years either happened in a different time period or is a fiction. Of course, this hypothesis has some problems. For one thing, there is an organization that was around between the 7th to 10th centuries, kept records and still exists today. It’s called the Catholic Church. Those who like to wear tinfoil hats might respond by saying, “Well, how do you know it’s not the Catholics who added 297 years to the calendar?” In order for this theory to work, you have to believe that every other culture on the planet is also in on adopting an erroneous date (i.e., current Hebrew Year 5779, current Chinese Year 4717, etc.). And beyond that, there are these things called stars and other astronomical events (e.g., eclipses) that are mentioned in records that correlate to a date, since they could have only appeared in a certain portion of the sky above a given point at a certain time.
Fluoride in the water — The first step in the communist conspiracy to weaken American vigor and rob us of our precious bodily fluids and block the “third eye” of the brain.
Chemtrails — When an airplane flies through the sky, water vapor in the engine exhaust and changes in air pressure cause thin artificial clouds to form behind behind the aircraft. See, a nice scientific explanation. However, that’s just the story the government wants you to believe. In fact, those contrails are chemtrails filled with chemicals to either control the population and make us docile, part of the big pharma conspiracy (in addition to fluoridation) to make us sick or … aliens?
Time Cube — If there’s one thing common to most conspiracy theory hangouts on the internet, it’s that they look like they were a GeoCities website made in the 1990s. No other website proves this maxim like Gene Ray’s Time Cube. It’s a mostly incomprehensible rant by a kook with a god complex which posits all of physics is wrong, a day is not really a day, and Greenwich Mean Time is part of a global conspiracy. According to Ray, who passed away in 2015, a day is, in fact, four separate days occurring simultaneously. Oh, and in-between the gibberish, there were also racist, antisemitic, homophobic, and violent musings which claimed were the the reason for why people didn’t take Time Cube seriously.
Diagram illustrating an aspect of the Time Cube theory which Ray describes as: “LIFE ENCOMPASSES A 4-16 CUBE PRINCIPLE.”
When the Sun shines upon Earth, 2 – major Time points are created on opposite sides of Earth – known as Midday and Midnight. Where the 2 major Time forces join, synergy creates 2 new minor Time points we recognize as Sunup and Sundown. The 4-equidistant Time points can be considered as Time Square imprinted upon the circle of Earth. In a single rotation of the Earth sphere, each Time corner point rotates through the other 3-corner Time points, thus creating 16 corners, 96 hours and 4-simultaneous 24-hour Days within a single rotation of Earth – equated to a Higher Order of Life Time Cube.
KFC serves mutant chicken — KFC used to officially be “Kentucky Fried Chicken.” Around the time of the name change, an urban legend sprang up that KFC was forced by the government to change the name because they don’t really serve chicken. Instead, the theory goes, the colonel’s secret recipe included six-legged, genetically engineered mutant chickens. The real reason for the name change was that KFC marketing said health-conscious customers were turned off by the “fried” part of their moniker.
Aliens (or mutants) crashed in New Mexico — If the million people storm Area 51, I guess we might find out the answer to this one. But some years back, journalist Annie Jacobsen threw some red meat to the tinfoil hat crowd by claiming an unnamed “source” told her the craft that crashed at Roswell was of Soviet origin, built with Nazi technology, carried mutant children created by Dr. Josef Mengele, and its purpose was to cause a panic of an alien invasion in the United States. So to review, the Russians, with the aid of Nazi Super-Science, genetically engineered two mutant child pilots. And did it six years before Watson and Crick discovered the structure of DNA. They then put the mutant kids into some sort of flying disc (which the kids would’ve had to have been taught how to fly, and still been capable of operating after undergoing severe physiological changes) and instead of flying over a major American city to cause a panic, they crashed it in the middle of the desert. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?