“Harboring a delusion” (U.S. complicity in Japanese attack)


Conspiracy theories are nothing new, nor is the term, despite an indefatigable claim the CIA coined the phrase after JKF’s assassination to make those arguing for them seem unhinged.

The differences today are how easy they are to spread and, stemming from that, how even trivial items can become the focus of conspiracy theories. Previously, they centered only on major events, such as assassinations, pandemics, and war.

For example, there was a belief by some that the Roosevelt administration had prior knowledge of the Pearl Harbor attack and allowed it to happen, perhaps to get the country out of the Depression by means of a wartime economy. This thinking falls flat because the U.S. could have still been on high alert, or better yet, launched a preemptive strike based on this supposed intelligence. In these scenarios, Roosevelt still gets his war and does so without the handicap of losing battleships, destroyers, aircraft, and the 2,459 service members who perished in the Japanese onslaught.

But let’s look at some of the specific arguments. One of the more repeated lines among theorists is that the only three U.S. aircraft carriers in the Pacific Fleet were away from Pearl Harbor the morning of Dec. 7, 1941. The theory holds that the U.S. could keep its carriers while still having a justification for war.

However, it was only during the following year’s Battle of Midway when the value of aircraft carriers were understood. At the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, the Pacific fleet featured three times as many battleships as aircraft carriers.

Besides, the idea that the three carriers were kept ensconced by being away from the Harbor is mistaken. Each was alone at sea in an area known to be vulnerable to unfriendly elements .The Saratoga was making the long journey back from Seattle at the time of the attack. Meanwhile, the Enterprise and Lexington were ordered away from Pearl Harbor at separate times for reinforcing missions to Midway and Wake.  The Enterprise was scheduled to return by Dec. 5, at which time the Lexington would leave, so that at least one would be docked at Pearl Harbor at all times. The Lexington left on schedule, but bad weather kept the Enterprise at sea for two more days, one of those being Dec. 7.

Another theorist claim is that a Japanese midget submarine was spotted four hours before the attack, but was left alone. This is inaccurate. What really happened is that the USS Ward destroyer responded to the report, failed to find the submarine, but did locate and sink a second sub.

Conspiracy theorists are adaptable. While the failure to sink the first sub is considered evidence of a stand-down order, so too is the torpedoing of the second sub. With the latter incident, the assertion is that complicit U.S. officials wanted to hush the report of a lone sub so as to not alert American service members about the aerial onslaught about to commence.

However, as soon as Admiral Husband Kimmel, the Pacific Fleet Commander, heard about the sinking, he dispatched the USS Ward to the area to determine the submarine’s significance. But this was less than half an hour before the first bomb fell, so this mission led the destroyer into the invading enemy’s path. Had Kimmel been following stand-down orders, he would not have wanted the sinking investigated.

A third conspiracy theory point centers on the actions of 1st Lt. Kermit Tyler. Less than an hour before the attack, radar operators at Opana Point detected incoming Japanese aircraft and alerted Tyler, their supervisor. He failed to make any report of it, preferring to take his soldiers to breakfast. However, this misfortune was based on equipment shortcomings and inexperience.

According to Sketoid’s Brian Dunning, when operators detected incoming planes, the radar station was not yet fully operational and was, in fact, still being constructed. The Pearl Harbor Intercept Center on the Point was only partly activated. Further, it was staffed by those without training and the soldier manning the scope was using it for the first time. Meanwhile, Tyler was a fighter pilot, not a radar specialist, and was on just his second day at Opana Point. When underlings informed him of the inbound attackers, he assumed them to be U.S. B-17’s scheduled to arrive from the mainland, which is why his response focused on waffles instead of weapons.

Another point centers on U.S. intelligence expressing concern about just such an attack a year prior, yet still being unprepared for it. Indeed, in late 1940, Kimmel, wrote to his bosses in Washington that an attack “on Pearl Harbor is a possibility, and we are taking immediate practical steps to minimize the damage inflicted and to ensure that the attacking force will pay.” Then 10 days before the attack, Kimmel was ordered to a defensive deployment of the fleet.

Yet on the day that lives in infamy, service members were sleeping, ships were anchored in the Harbor, and most U.S. aircraft were in the open close together. All of these made for easy targets. Additionally, ships sunk in the harbor could be raised and repaired, whereas those lost at sea would not have this option. If wanting to be attacked but lessen the damage, this would be an avenue.

Also, U.S. cryptographers had broken Japan’s diplomatic code and were making progress on breaking its military code, giving American intelligence some access to Japanese secrets.  Putting all this together, it seems possible that U.S. leadership knew. However, that’s only if these facts are viewed in isolation. As we look closer at these points, the conspiracy angle falters.  

This was detailed in Henry Clausen’s book, Pearl Harbor: Final Judgement.  In 1944, the Secretary of War ordered Clausen, then an Army lawyer, to investigate what happened in the months prior to the attack. He learned that the key to why the U.S. was unprepared was a lack of organization. With agencies acting independently and having no central oversight, decoded messages were more likely to be in a file drawer than in a military planning room.

Ten days after the attack, the Navy demoted Kimmel and removed him as Pacific Fleet commander. Conspiracy theorists consider this a scapegoating, insisting Kimmel was following stand-down orders from the Pentagon. However, U.S. action that fateful day resulted from Kimmel’s orders, not Washington D.C.’s

When Kimmel received the order to assume defensive positions on Nov. 27, 1941, the main threats were thought to be espionage and sabotage, not military attack. So Kimmel had aircraft move into the open and consolidate, which made for the best defense against infiltration.

The final point by theorists is that the war did indeed lift the U.S. out of the depression and the economic boom lasted 15 years. The war also helped to cement Roosevelt’s fourth presidential election victory. However, this desire to connect unrelated dots is prevalent in conspiracy theory circles. Most large-scale tragedies are going to indirectly benefit some persons in some way. But that’s a separate issue from whether those persons orchestrated it.





“Crappy camper” (FEMA internment)


The idea that FEMA maintains a network of sprawling camps for the roundup of undesirables seems a garden variety conspiracy theory. But legal justifications for this to happen exist it has precedence. Whether that means most of us a moment’s notice away from a Darkness at Noon existence courtesy Bilderberger henchmen is what we’ll look at today.

Considering the secrecy the supposed camps are allegedly shrouded in, they are conspicuous in their appearance and location. They are said to populate the likes of train yards, shipping ports, and former military installations, and sometimes feature a barbed wire or steel fence accoutrement.

If these are meant to house unwilling, innocent U.S. citizens, Brian Dunning of Skeptoid notes they have legal cover and it has happened before. Regarding precedent, there were World War II internment camps and the Obama administration executed U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki without trial.

As to the law, through a civil disturbance plan called “Garden Plot,” the Department of Defense asserts the right to assist local authorities during times of civil unrest. Authority for this stems from Article I of the U.S. Constitution, which reads, “Congress shall have power to provide for calling forth the militia, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions.” Also, Title 10 of federal law authorizes the suppression of insurrections, rebellions, and domestic violence by executive order. Further, the Insurrection Act and Posse Comitatus Act, both of which put checks on these powers, have been curtailed Sept. 11, 2001. Meanwhile, the Patriot Act contains many nefarious, terrifying, and perhaps already-in-use clauses that may allow for the kidnapping and holding incommunicado of U.S. citizens. 

So any conspiracy theorist worried about government overreach needn’t make stuff up. The Patriot Act, Guantanamo Bay, CIA black sites, and a serial torture program run by the Chicago Police Department are proof of that. But theorists are generally not reading Seymour Hersch or exposés in The Atlantic. They don’t want mainstream media doing the exposing, they prefer their niche market with less-stringent evidence standards, smaller audiences, and feeling of being more in the know than the braindead masses.

For example, the CDC posts on its website a page outlining its ability and authority to detain an unlimited number of American’s without charge for any duration. But directing someone to a website where the government admits its plan doesn’t allow for self-congratulation, foreboding speculation, or the thrill of digging through the official story to get truth to fellow Woke People. So instead of sounding a call to action on the CDC policy, theorists instead give warnings about FEMA manning a “fully-staffed gassing/cremating death camp” overseen by “high level Illuminati Luciferians.”

Such scenarios take place in what I call an Eternal Tomorrow, which is prevalent in conspiracy circles. The roundup plans are always in their final stages, yet remain so for a decade. Any terrorist attack, high-level talk, or economic downturn can be labeled a ruse that will be the impetus to begin a wholesale detainment, enslavement, and genocide. Yet we never see the arrival of the initial truck or the first victim being hauled away. Still, it has to be always on the cusp of happening for the theorist to get excited. An investigative report that unearths a 150-year plan to bring this to fruition would get no traction in conspiracy circles.

If detainments begin, there will be plenty of places for housing the victims, as anything can be deemed a FEMA camp. For example, Wal-Mart or NFL stadiums are said to be ready to serve this purpose. Untold years at Wal-Mart, that’s got even me scared. Videos purporting to show other camp locations have turned out to be North Korean gulags, National Guard training centers, Amtrak repair shops, private company storage facilities, and medium and minimum security prisons.

While there are genuine FEMA facilities, they are usually mundane storage and temporary-housing locations, consistent with the agency’s mission of preparing to care for displaced persons

There are several YouTube videos purporting to show clandestine camps. Producers mosey up to these sites, record them, upload the imagery, narrate and distribute it, all without reprisal. That they can do this defeats their claim that they are exposing a heavily-fortified, armed-to-the-teeth, fully-staffed, death-camp-in-waiting, which an all-powerful government wants to keep secret.





“Lotion notion” (Sunscreen dangers)


I have my parenting flaws. For instance, a lack of patriarchal oversight and an overreliance on Velcro sneakers means my children are usually about 8 years old before they can tie their shoes. But none of them have ever been sunburned. We carry sunscreen in our minivan so that we can never forget it and in case we launch an impromptu outdoor adventure. As unpleasant as sunburns are, excess exposure to ultraviolet radiation can also lead to prematurely aging skin and cancer.

However, some reports, most notably one from the Environmental Working Group,  warn that the sunscreens we use for protection may actually be doing harm. Most of the worry centers on the chemical oxybenzone. This mouthful of an ingredient serves as an ultraviolet filter which absorbs the sun’s rays so our skin doesn’t have to.

The challenge in determining a chemical’s dangers or lack thereof was addressed by Popular Science. (Incidentally, it doesn’t matter if science is popular, what matters is if it’s right). The article noted that cyanide will cause an exposed person to expire within 10 minutes, while asbestos could take years to unleash its fatal effects. From the story: “The gap between exposure and the emergence of disease is called latency and it’s just one of many issues that make it tough to determine a chemical’s safety.”

Adding to the challenge is that exposure to a certain chemical doesn’t take place in isolation. Popular Science envisioned an asbestos-removing chain smoker who develops lung cancer. Did the disease result from his habit, his employment, both, or neither? His exposure to toxins at his work and in his cigarette made the man’s risk higher, but did not guarantee cancer any more than a regimen of vitamins, minerals, vegetables, and cross training will ensure freedom from the disease. So trying to figure out the roles that exposure plays requires repeated research.

Dosage also matters. In one study, young rats ingested large amounts of oxybenzone and developed large uteruses (all test subjects were female, otherwise this would have been quite a result). This occurence suggested the lab rats experienced hormonal effects, which in humans can increase cancer risk. However, these findings are not without limitations. The dose was extremely high, no people are rats, and humans don’t consume vast quantities of sunscreen, though my 3-year-old son has tried. J.R. Thorpe at bustle.com noted that scientists have determined that persons would need to pile on inches-deep levels of oxybenzone over their entire body for 36 years to have an exposure equivalent to what was forced on the rodents.

Another study on human cells found that oxybenzone can mimic estrogen and block testosterone, especially in breast cells. Buy this result again comes with a caveat. Cellular studies are often a poor indicator of what will happens inside a person. The body may have mechanisms that counteract the goings-on inside a Petri dish.  

There are other worries about a second sunscreen ingredient, retinal palmitate. These concerns stem from a study which shows that, when exposed to UV light, the chemical can produce free radicals, which are tied to cancer development. However, the Skin Cancer Foundation points out this study was also done on lab rats, not human skin. Further, it was never published and thus not peer-reviewed or replicated, and antioxidants inherent in people can tame the effects of free radicals.

Other studies have linked regular sunscreen use to melanoma, but this may be a result of inefficient use, specifically not applying the lotion often enough throughout the day. 

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends everyone wear a water-resistant, broad-spectrum, SPF 30 minimum sunscreen. This is especially vital for children since early sunburns increase the likelihood of skin cancer later in life. No published studies conclusively show that sunscreen is deleterious to human health. To the contrary, research indicates that wearing sunscreen reduces the risk of risk of skin cancer and prematurely aging skin. There is insufficient research to declare oxybenzone unquestionably safe, but if having such concerns, putting on long-sleeve shirts, full-length pats, and the millinery wear of your choice is better than trying an unproven sunscreen alternative.

I especially discourage eschewing sunscreen for coconut oil, a technique touted by alt-med types. Wellness Mama offers precisely this tip in her post, “How to make natural homemade sunscreen,” an oxymoronic suggestion since if you have to make it, it’s not natural. More importantly, the Mayo Clinic states that coconut oil blocks a negligible 20 percent of UV rays and it has an SPF of 7, less than a quarter of the minimum recommendation. The only way to safely use this product is indoors.



“Fake no prisoners” (POWs still held)


Nearly every war has missing soldiers, but those who did not return from Vietnam are the subject of long-lasting rumor that they are still being held prisoner.

The rumor can serve multiple purposes. For loved ones, it is a means of holding out hope their friends and relatives are still alive. For those with a more jaded view, it is part of a conspiracy theory aimed at no-good commies and/or corrupt U.S. government officials.

When the war ended with the signing of Paris Peace Accords, the 591 known American POWs were released in exchange for a U.S. withdrawal. Besides this, there were 2,646 service members listed as missing in action. About 1,000 of those have since been accounted for, either through their remains being identified, or having been found alive in the U.S. or overseas.

The idea that some service members might still be held captive began after the fall of Saigon in the spring of 1975. Part of this was because U.S. investigators lacked access to the battlefields and sites of former POW camps. Around this time, a Vietnamese family moved into my neighborhood. They were part of the influx of refugees, some of whom brought with them tales of having seen Americans still in captivity.

But since the late 1980s, U.S. officials have had full access to battlefields and former POW locations, and Southeast Asian nations have cooperated, allowing Americans to maintain research offices in their countries. In these 30 years of increased joint action and investigations, no American POWs have been found in Vietnam, Cambodia, or Laos. The only missing service members to show up alive were those who deserted or otherwise were lost in military bureaucracy, and none of these had been held after the Accords signing.

According to a 1992 New York Times article, reports from refugees were investigated by the Defense Intelligence Agency. The majority of the sightings, however, were of Americans who returned in 1973. About sixteen sightings were unresolved. The article explains that, according to DIA officials, “Most of the unresolved cases may not be related to American prisoners of war because they describe individuals who were not under guard, but were with Vietnamese wives and families, or were walking freely in Saigon. They could be Soviet advisers or Western European Diplomats.”

War represents a stain on Mankind, the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese military engaged in barbarism, and POW camps in Vietnam were unconscionable violations of human rights. Further, many were buried deep in almost impenetrable jungles. With all this, it would seem not implausible that unscrupulous types could hold onto prisoners, for slavery, future bargaining, or simple cruelty. However, decades of sustained searching and investigation in periods of openness between former combatants have yielded nothing. The sites could have been moved, the cooperation could have been a ruse, but speculation like this is not the same as proof, which has never been forthcoming.

There have been far more detached-from-reality conspiracy theories than this one, but believers are still vulnerable to falling for a defining trait of conspiracy theories: The lack of evidence being seen as the evidence. To staunch believers, the lack of recovered, living POWs shows the extent and efficiency of the system that keeps them hidden.

Further, any documentation with contrary information is considered part of an governement cover-up. For example, according to Brian Dunning of Skeptoid, a Library of Congress website, “POW/MIA Databases and Documents” contains more than 150,000 declassified documents from the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office. This source allows a by-name search of MIAs and POWs, which will produce documents related to the searched individual. While this indicates transparency, a cynic would consider it a deflection meant to convince the gullible. In conspiracy theory parlance, it is merely a continuation of the “official narrative.”

Proving that there was never a single POW held past 1973 would be impossible, but it is not on the skeptics to disprove a point. Rather, we should examine the best available evidence without bias and follow Occam’s Razor and the conclusions to their logical ends. Between the aforementioned website, POW databases, and the continued unearthing of MIA remains, claims of surviving prisoners seems untenable.

As with Bigfoot, each year that goes by without a confirmation of U.S. prisoners being held is a sign of its increasing unlikelihood. We know some that some MIA soldiers died in combat, some deserted, and some assumed aliases. We cannot completely dismiss the idea that some of them were held after the war, perhaps even still today. But a thousand pieces of hearsay, speculation, and third-hand reports do not equal one solid piece of proof.



“The chemical druthers” (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity)


Over the last year, I have experienced more frequent instances of muscle pain. Over the same time, my wife has had more headaches and my son has battled eczema. While the first two maladies could be seen as regular signs of aging and the third an understood medical condition, some persons would consider all of us to be victims of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. It may even be to blame for my cats shedding so much fur.   

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity purportedly results from modern developments, be they positive ones like treated water, negative one like air pollution, or neutral ones like synthetic clothing. Other possible culprits include cleaning products, paints, perfumes, tobacco smoke, tar, construction materials, gas stoves, pesticides, news print, and felt-tip markers. However, as there is no identifiable organic basis for this sensitivity, it so far has been impossible to test for, diagnose, treat, or even confirm the existence of.

Allergist Theron Randolph first championed the idea of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, and he posited that it developed from humans’ inability to evolve a defense to synthetic chemicals. Were this true, however, nearly everyone would be suffering from it.

For those who do think it’s afflicting them, the anguish is real. The reactions range from mild annoyances to crushing disabilities. A highly-truncated list of symptoms would include fatigue, memory loss, muscle and joint aches, shortness of breath, asthma, skin conditions, seizures, blurred vision, sleep disruption, nausea, vertigo and dry mouth. More extensive lists created by those who purport to treat the condition will run for several dozen items. This is a strong indication that, rather than being a diagnosable medical condition, MCS is a catch-all phrase that can be considered the source of any discomfort. Even when a condition doesn’t have a known cause, as is the usually the case with Alzheimer’s or ALS, the conditions and treatment are generally the same for each patient. No one is going to consider a lingering cough to be an Alzheimer’s sign, nor will auditory hallucinations be interpreted as a consequence of ALS.

Further, treatment and end-of-life care for those with these diseases is going to be largely similar, though it will vary some by patient. By contrast, the treatment for MCS will vary by practitioner. Since there is no way to identify MCS or understand what causes it, there could be as many treatment plans as there are planners. As such, the recommendation can be as simple as eating more vegetables, as moderate as emptying the home of perfumes, sprays, and oils, or as extreme as fumigating one’s house and staying indoors with a filtered charcoal mask. Other suggested remedies are colon flushes, dietary supplements, dental amalgam removal, saline nasal rinses, and just about any other whim that hits the provider.

For those preferring a more evidenced-based approach, there have been controlled studies to try and determine a chemical basis for the symptoms associated with MCS. Through such trials, researchers learned that persons diagnosed with MCS were as likely to react to placebos as to the actual chemical. MCS is reported to occur at doses so low they are imperceptible to the senses. But when exposed to these negligible amounts in studies, subjects experienced no triggering of symptoms, nor a change in their vital signs.

Contrast this to amateur diagnoses of MCS, in which almost anything in the immediate environment can qualify as a trigger, and what it can trigger can likewise be voluminous. MCS has no consistent characteristics, uniform cause, or measurable feature. 

Stephen Barrett at Quackwatch, while careful to emphasize that the patients are genuinely suffering, thinks signs point to the afflicted experiencing “a psychosomatic disorder in which they develop multiple symptoms in response to stress. Many of these patients suffer from somatization disorder, an emotional problem characterized by persistent symptoms that cannot be fully explained by any known medical condition, yet are severe enough to require medical treatment or cause alterations in lifestyle. Some are paranoids who are prone to believe that their problems have outside causes. Others suffer from depression, panic disorder, agoraphobia, or other anxiety states that induce bodily reactions to stress.”

As such, those convinced they are suffering from MCS are highly susceptible to post hoc reasoning, subjective validation, and self-diagnosis. They should seek care from the likes of Barrett, who will compassionately lead them through what they need to hear, as opposed to riding on a perpetual carousel of a regimen that involves removing bodily fluids and gas stoves, overloading on vitamins, yoga, and intravenous infusions, avoiding pesticides, carpets, and gasoline, and opening windows while paradoxically avoiding the ubiquitous polluted air.

“Out of shape” (Skinwalkers)


Most cultures have crypto critters and among the Navajo, these are called skinwalkers. These quasi-beasts are imbued with the ability to transform into an animal, mostly ones that are either tricky or scavengers, such coyotes, foxes, and crows, though they can also take the form of the intimidating (wolf) or the wise (owl). The likes of beetles and mallards never seem to apply to these situations. Whichever form the skinwalker takes is based on which animal’s abilities will serve them best in a given situation.

While they do take the general form of animals, legend had their size being a little distorted and they also have disproportionate features and glowing red eyes. They are described and vicious and bloodthirsty, and were a Navajo’s greatest fear.

To be sure, the skinwalker is neither a friendly, furtive creature like Nessie, nor an alluring, manlike beast in the mold of Sasquatch. It is more comparable to a Chupacabra or skunk ape, but still more dastardly because they are not considered isolated, evolved creatures, but flawed, transformed humans who wreak havoc on former friends and family.

Since they are said to take the form of known animals, any sighting of a wild beast, especially a canine, could be inferred as being skinwalker. Because of this, skinwalkers are substantially differentiated from Bigfoot, Yeti, and Nessie, in that no composite description has emerged from disparate accounts.

Nor have there been many treks to their supposed stomping and chomping grounds. One notable exception was hotel and aerospace entrepreneur Robert Bigelow maintaining a command post on his ranch, fitted with 24-hour cameras, in a decade-long attempt to digitally capture a skinwalker. Even by the loose evidence standards of cryptozoological hunts, Bigelow came up empty.

Indeed, there are few alleged video captures of such critters. One of the few further sullied  NatGeo’s reputation. An episode of the network’s Navajo Cops purportedly captured a howling skinwalker on audio. Typical of crypto or ghost hunts, the piece of evidence was assumed to be whatever the person is looking for instead of considering other possibilities.

These modern adaptations have the skinwalkers being less animalistic and more resembling humanoid hybrids that chase cars and terrify campers in the rural Southwest. Other contemporary tales have skinwalkers being unable to be felled by bullets, an update necessitated by the advent of firearms, which the legend predates. One present-day story even incorporates the hook killer urban legend, though it fails to explain how the animal got ahold of the pointy accoutrement or knew how to use it.

The Navajo are recalcitrant to address the subject, which leaves plenty of room for outside believers to get creative. Regarding the Bigelow ranch, skinwalker enthusiasts claim the previous tenant lived there 30 months before leaving due to concern over the shapeshifters. While he did leave after two and a half years, the reason was that Bigelow gave him a truckload of money to do so.  

The ancient Navajo stressed living in harmony with nature and from this stemmed the concept of supernatural abilities that could be used for good or bad. Medicine men were revered and considered a link to the spirit world. Countering them were the skinwalkers, the rough Navajo equivalent of demons, who mangled magic for their own twisted ends.

In the tribe, men were seen as hunters, gatherers, and warriors, while women were viewed as the bringer and sustainer of life. Hence, males were normally thought to be the ones who took their traits to the dark, shapeshifting side for malevolent use. There were a few exceptions, but women who were suspected of transforming were usually old and childless. Having failed in their duty to the group, they exiled themselves in bitterness and shame in order to plot revenge.

Whatever their gender, skin­walkers were assumed to have violated a cultural tenet to gain this shapeshifting ability. It would be roughly akin to a human selling their soul to the devil in Christian teachings.  

Skinwalkers figure prominently in legends surrounding the Long Walk of the Navajo, the lesser-known complement to the Cherokee Trail of Tears. Many Navajos blamed this tragedy on shapeshifters, even though the Cavalry members who were driving the tribe toward cultural oblivion would seem the more tangible, obvious place to lay blame.  

Scapegoats arise when fortunes decline and some societies have blamed Muslims, Jews, immigrants, or communists, while others favored unseen enemies like witches, demons, and skinwalkers. In the Navajo case, this included post hoc reasoning that shapeshifters were behind any unexplained livestock loss, human sickness, or purloined property.

Implicating an outsider or traitorous insider are strategies that become more pronounced during times of social upheaval. And an extreme example of upheaval is having one’s entire community frog-marched to internment camps categorized as “reservations” and having one’s clothing, language, symbols, religion, and traditions eradicated. That this devastation would be pinned on a culture’s ultimate nightmare makes sense, although it failed to establish that the phenomenon was real.

“Moon loon tune” (Lunar landing denial)


The 50th anniversary of the moon landing will be in 2019, but don’t expect a golden year from those who insist it was a hoax. After 49+ years, this bunch still resorts to long-disproven scenarios, while summarily dismissing any discomfiting evidence.

As to why NASA would pretend to go to the moon, deniers have speculated it could have been seen as a Cold War victory, that it distracted from the Vietnam War, or that it would ensure the space administration would continue being funded. While those all might have been consequences of a successful moonshot, that’s separate from it being proof the whole thing was staged. Using this line of thinking is to commit the Affirming the Consequent fallacy.

Since a sizable majority think we went to the moon and most who feel otherwise are incapable of being persuaded, why blog about it? Primarily because there may be a 12-year-old who is hearing denier points and refutations to them for the first time. Scientific knowledge is always one generation from extinction. Plus, addressing these points is a rejoinder to those who claim skeptics and scientists are the truly closed-minded and are mindless sheep who instinctively swallow what we are fed.

After the Apollo and Gemini launches, early flat-Earthers Samuel Shenton and Charles Johnson responded with launches of their own, in the form of charging they were fabrications. This included an evidence-free assertion that Arthur C. Clarke directed, wrote, and produced the moon-landing script. This was updated to become Stanley Kubrick in another narrative. The latter assertion was initially a parody of the Clarke claim, but has come to be interpreted as serious by some deniers. This is similar to how some flat Earth folks are coming to believe there is no Finland or Australia, ideas that were written as satirical criticisms of flat Earthers. However, fashioning a Poe against these types is nearly impossible because it will come to be taken as true by those without the mental acumen to realize they are being mocked.

The question deniers have most difficulty answering is why NASA would fake five  subsequent landings. The moving pieces that would have to be seamlessly assembled for one successful hoax would be astronomical, and each further attempt would run further risk of getting caught. The return trips were interpreted by deniers as attempts to continue the momentum, while the fact that we haven’t been back since 1972 or set up  moon colonies are said to be proof it was staged. So return trips and a lack thereof are both considered evidence of a hoax by the conspiracy theorist.

According to Sketoid’s Brian Dunning, 400,000 persons worked on the moon mission. Yet, all were able to overcome the desire for wealth that an exposé might bring. None were overcome with guilt, none let something slip in an unguarded moment, none got drunk enough to say something, none made a deathbed confession. Dunning further noted that 3,500 journalists investigated, researched, reported, and observed every second of Apollo 11 and were unable to uncover anything suggesting it was a charade. To a conspiracy theorist, that means another 3,500 persons were in on it. To everyone else, it’s more solid evidence of the moon launch and landing being authentic.

Now let’s plow through some of the denier points. One of the more frequently-parroted is that persons attempting to leave Earth’s orbit would be fried by the Van Allen belts. This is an example of what Dr. Steven Novella means when he says pseudoscientists and alternative medics use science like a drunk uses a lamppost: For support, not illumination.

The radiation belts have been discovered, understood, and explained by science. Moon landing deniers, a subset of pseudoscientists, use this discovery to try and score a point for their side, whereas they generally have a jaded view of science. Religious flat Earther Philip Stallings insists the Van Allen belts are another name for the firmament God set in place in Genesis. However, never has a scientific explanation been replaced by a religious one. Scientists did not discover, define, and explain the Van Allen Belts, only to be supplanted by those penning Genesis. Those religious writers did not discover errors in the original Van Allen belt research, leading to our understanding of the firmament. Rather, Genesis authors came up with what their eyes and their very limited knowledge of the natural world permitted. A few millennium later, science learned the truth. Still, Stallings claims that we cannot penetrate the firmament, which he thinks is the Van Allen belt, or that if we could, it would not be survivable.

They key here is that astronauts traveled thorough the belts in a rocket, not in an extended stay hotel. They made it through this high-radiation zone in an hour, only one percent of the the time necessary to start experiencing radiation sickness.

Another argument deniers try to make is that a loud rocket motor would make it impossible to hear astronaut voices. However, viewers could hear the communication with NASA because where the astronauts were, there was no air and therefore no sound. Secondly, the microphones were inside insulating helmets.

A third point deniers raise is that photos of the Lunar Module on the surface are missing a blast crater that presumably should have resulted from its landing. Of this, Dunning wrote, “When the Lunar Module came in to land, it came in with horizontal velocity as the pilot searched for a place to land. Once he found one, he descended, throttled back, and a probe extending over a meter below the landing pads touched the ground and shut off the rocket motor. It was only a very brief moment that the rocket nozzle was actually directed at the landing site, and only at reduced power.”

A similar point is that the Lunar Module’s landing rocket would have blasted all the dust away from the area, so any footprints would have been obliterated. However, there is no air on the moon and no resulting shockwaves. The powerful flames and swirling smoke associated with rocket launches happen because exhaust is being pushed into the air. With no wind or air in the equation, there is no consequent explosion.

The one claim so hackneyed that almost everyone has heard is that the U.S. flag is flapping in a supposedly-nonexistent breeze. This was caused by two factors. First, the flag was folded for the moon trip and the seeming rustling is actually just the creasing that resulted. Second, the apparent movement only happens when an astronaut is adjusting the pole.

Still another denier objection centers on photos of an astronaut that feature another moonwalker’s reflection in his helmet visor. This is supposedly crucial because neither astronaut has a camera to his face. However, this is because astronaut cameras were affixed to their spacesuit. Keeping with camera points, deniers say film would have melted in the 250-degree weather. However, Apollo astronauts used cameras and film specifically made for and insulated against such temperature extremes.

There were other still objections raised by deniers that I handled during this blog’s nascent days if one wishes to read more.

For years, deniers challenged NASA to provide photos of landing sites with vehicles left behind. In 2009, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter provided just such proof. Two years later, the same craft produced clearer images. Like those who considered President Obama’s release of his long-term birth certificate to be MORE proof that he was Kenyan-born because of layers or the timing of the release or whatever, those who thought Armstrong and Aldrin never left orbit were even more convinced of this after the 2009 and 2011 images were made public. They were computer-generated or otherwise fabricated. They were not released in 1975 or 1985 because of technology limitations – not with satellites, but with PhotoShop. To a hardcore conspiracy theorist, any disproving evidence is part of the cover-up.

Besides these photos, a second key piece of evidence that the moon landing happened is the extensive monitoring of Apollo flights. Astronomers, academics, journalists, and excited amateurs all employed telescopes, radios, and radar to track the mission. This included enemies such as the Soviets. Observatories and hobbyists worldwide reported sightings of the Apollo spacecraft. Had the Apollo spacecraft remained in Earthly orbit, it would have been easy to spot even without a telescope.

Then there are the rocks brought back by astronauts. These rocks have been radiometrically dated as being nearly four and a half billion years old, more ancient than any naturally-occurring Earth rock. Dunning further noted, “The moon rocks have impact craters only a millimeter across, created by impacts from micrometeors traveling about 50,000 miles per hour. This is impossible on Earth because the atmosphere blocks them, and it can’t be faked because we don’t have anything that can accelerate small projectiles to that speed.”

What say you to all this, Philip Stallings? From his blog: “1969. That was the year you were told we went to the moon. Do you see anything suspicious about that number? Three 6’s.” I’m only seeing one six myself. Maybe the two nines got turned upside down when they hit the firmament.