In several Internet venues (Facebook, Gothamist, Onion AV Club) I’ve seen moon landing deniers crop up. I enjoy a good conspiracy theory as much as the next person, but I’m more fascinated by the mindset of the theorists than I am by their theories.
Let’s say for the sake of argument that the moon landing was fake (or that 9/11 was an inside job, or that the Holocaust didn’t happen). Facts and evidence aside, this would require a Herculean effort on the part of hundreds of government employees and private citizens to maintain this secret. I just don’t think humans are up to that job.
Has there ever been a point in our history where dozens or hundreds of people successfully fooled millions of people in the United States? Because that’s what it would take for a hoax of this magnitude. Hundreds of people would have to know the truth, many of them civilians at NASA. I would think it an impossible task to keep that many people permanently silent on such a momentous event. NASA is not a military organization; there is no obligation to keep a secret this large, especially when it is of no importance to national security. I would think that in the last 40 years somebody who was actually there at NASA participating in the hoax would have come forward to expose the lie, or that these things would leak out as they historically have a habit of doing. If Nixon couldn’t keep a basic secret, then who can?
Humans are inquisitive by nature, and this is both the reason why so many doubt the legitimacy of the moon landing, and also why the landing has never been proven demonstrably false. For every person questioning the potentially fake broadcast, there would likely be even more individuals questioning the broadcast had it actually been faked. Possible examples: techs at CBS would question the source of the broadcast feed, astronomers would wonder why there’s a craft sitting in orbit rather than moving on to the moon, ham radio operators would have heard something different in the transmissions, and last but not least…somebody would have made millions writing a book to tell the story.
Humans also have a tendency to jump to the most exciting of possible conclusions. Seen a UFO? The answer must be aliens! Strange lights in Gurdon, Arkansas? It must be ghosts! History is littered with examples of exciting but disproven theories, but the news rarely spreads very far because the results weren’t exciting enough for anyone to care.
In general, I’ve discovered that, given a multitude of possible explanations for unexplained phenomena, the truth tends to lean toward the most boring option. The truth also tends to make its way to the people because lies have a short shelf life. Or maybe I’m just saying that because of all the Big Secrets still being kept. Somehow, I doubt it.