Believe it or not

One critic of conspiracy theories sarcastically remarked, slightly twisting the historic words of Armstrong: “I suppose it really was one small step for man, one giant lie for mankind.”

 (Published in Daily Times, 29 August 2012)

Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, died earlier this week.  Or did he?  I mean, did he actually walk on the moon?  I don’t doubt that one iota, but there are many people who do.  They allege, supposedly supported by “evidence”, that the claim that Armstrong walked on the moon is an American fabrication.

According to a “Rocket and Space Technology” website, “On February 15, 2001 the FOX television network aired a program titled Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land On The Moon? This program showed alleged evidence that NASA faked the moon landings. This hoax theory has been around for several years, but this is the first time it has been presented to such a wide audience.”

This theory spread so fast and far that school children in the US were questioning their teachers about it. Consequently, NASA announced that it was going to publish an explanation but then decided against it so as not to dignify the allegations with an official refutation.  The truth is, no amount of rebuttal will ever silence conspiracy theorists and their gullible followers.

One critic of conspiracy theories sarcastically remarked, slightly twisting the historic words of Armstrong: “I suppose it really was one small step for man, one giant lie for mankind.”

One conspiracy theorist, independent Nashville filmmaker Bart Sibrel, was so aggressive in his pursuit to prove that the moon landing was faked, that he chased Buzz Aldin, who followed Armstrong on the moon, to swear on the bible that he had in fact walked on the moon.  He got punched by Aldrin for his intrusive over-curiosity.

A police spokesman added that witnesses had come forward stating that they saw Sibrel aggressively poke Aldrin with a bible and that Sibrel had lured Aldrin to the hotel under false pretenses so that he could interview him.

Sibrel told Reuters, “I approached him and asked him again to swear on a Bible that he went to the moon, and told him he was a thief for taking money to give an interview for something he didn’t do.”

Conspiracy theories are remarkable for their popularity.  The Kennedy Assassination Home Page says: “If you are like most Americans, you believe that a conspiracy killed Kennedy. And if you are like most Americans, you have heard a vast number of bogus factoids about the case. This web site is dedicated to debunking the mass of misinformation and disinformation surrounding the murder of JFK.”

And if you believe that Elvis Presley died in 1977, as was widely reported, think again, for you may be wrong.  Here’s an extract from the Internet:  “Is Elvis Alive? That is the question that has been on the minds of many people for the better part of 1988. It also happens to be the title of a book written by Gail Brewer Giorgio, the book rose to Number Eight on the New York Times Bestseller List. It should be pointed out, that Giorgio was not the first to question the circumstances surrounding Elvis’ death.”

What about Osama bin Laden?  Who knows.  He might still be in Tora Bora, or perhaps Kunar, or Waziristan, or in his homeland of Saudi Arabia.  Dead or alive, bin Laden surely did not die in a hail of bullets from American Navy Seals in an Abbottabad mansion as President Barack Obama claimed.  No way!

With the passage of time, some of us seem to have forgotten, or nearly forgotten, that 9/11 was regarded by many as a conspiracy against Muslims by the US and Israel.  I must say, though, that this view is no longer the mainstream Muslim opinion as it was for a couple of years after the event.  But it is fair to assume that a substantial proportion of Muslims still subscribe to the conspiracy theory regarding 9/11.

Conspiracy theories give free rein to one’s imagination, indeed they allow the imagination to run wild.  They weave a web of mysteries where none exist, suspect conspirators in high places when there are only bumbling politicians, incompetent generals and idiotic officials within government, and lunatics, assassins and fanatics outside.

Above all, when things go wrong, conspiracy theories allow one to deflect blame from one’s own sect, ethnic or religious group, nation or country, and shift it to one’s real or perceived enemies.  It neatly divides mankind into good guys and bad guys. Thereafter, having attained the twin objectives of exonerating oneself and accusing one’s enemy, the mind can rest in peace.  Ignorance is bliss and the feeling of injured innocence is ecstatic.

Conspiracy theories are easy to conceive, for they rely on imagination, and they are easy to disseminate, because by their very nature they fall on receptive ears.  One cornerstone of conspiracy theories is the implicit faith in the knowledge, power and infallibility of the state and of state institutions, and of statesmen, generals, spies and diplomats.  Any lapse or failure on their part is conveniently attributed to conspiracies and dark, sinister forces. 

Conspiracy theories were always popular, but thanks to the Internet, now they are disseminated on a scale, at a speed and with a force that was unimaginable before.  Clinging selectively to misleading and false information available on the Internet, such that lend support to their own biased beliefs, people feel intellectually reinforced.  Whereas in the past conspiracy theorists may have felt somewhat isolated, now they have a feeling of being mainstream owing to the circulation on the Internet of views that they themselves hold, no matter how groundless.

Conspiracy theorists are not bothered by any evidence to the contrary, by logic, reason or common sense, or by big holes in their arguments, for they do not need to prove anything.

So, for all we know, dear reader, the man who was honoured throughout the world as the first human being to walk on the moon may actually have been the world’s most consummate liar, according to the conspiracy theorists.

By Razi Azmi


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