My friend and fellow skeptic Tim Farley reminded me that today is the tenth anniversary of Fox airing the TV show "Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon?"
If I had to describe that show in one word, it would be "grotesquely distorting reality, an execrable steaming pile of offal that doesn’t come within a glancing blow of the truth."
Was that more than one word? Well, it’s hard to find a single word that truly captures the feel of that program.
I remember that week pretty well, in fact. I had just started my job at Sonoma State University, having uprooted my family from suburban DC and moving 5000 km west just the month before. I was puttering around on my computer when the phone rang: it was my pal Dan Vergano, who writes for USA Today. He had some questions about Pluto, so we chatted for a while, and then he asked me that fateful question that would, quite seriously and in all honesty, change my life: "Hey, did you hear about this Fox TV show about the Moon landings being faked? It’s airing on Thursday."
Ironically, at that time I had just finished writing about people who thought Apollo was faked for my first book, Bad Astronomy, so I was pretty familiar with the arguments. I was able to procure an advance copy of the show and watched the whole thing. It was like watching a snuff film, except the victims were 1) reality, and b) the immense effort of nearly half a million people to get Apollo off the ground and to the Moon.
I sat down and wrote a point-by-point dissection of the show, waiting until after it aired to actually post it on my site. I was upset, but didn’t think the page would help much; the web was still a bit shiny and new back then.
Ha! By Monday, the page was out of control. To my shock, CNN and NASA had both linked to it, and I was getting flooded with emails. Most were supportive, but some were from, um, people whose grip on reality was somewhat tenuous. One person called me "Mr. Smarty Pants Astronomer" and proceeded to tell me how dust motes in an Apollo 13 photo were actually stars. Lots of other emails were on par with that one.
One in particular caught my eye. Read More