One Giant Leap for Conspiracy Theories

July 20, 1969. I’m nine years old and on the backside of the first of what would turn out to be the three “best summers ever.” On this night, I get a special dispensation to stay up past my bedtime to watch Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin take a walk. Like countless other kids (and adults) that night,  around 9:00 p.m. I walked outside and found the gibbous waning moon, low on the Western horizon and preparing to set, and marveled at the thought that two men were on that thing walking around.

Unless they weren’t. Which is what an astonishing number of Americans believe.

Yes, to this day, many Americans hold tenaciously to the conviction that the moon landings were faked–carried out on some secret Hollywood soundstage. As is the case with all conspiracy theory true believers, no amount of evidence or logic will move them. “That’s just what they want you to think,” invariably comes the reply.

Ahh, yes. “They.”

There seems to be a deep, hard-wired hunger in most human brains to believe that powerful, shadowy figures within every authority structure are putting one over on us all. Perhaps it’s born of the embarrassment of learning that Santa Clause was all an elaborate hoax perpetrated by our parents.

Online communities like (linked to above) are a cornucopia of discussion threads built around “evidence” that the government is covering up: pick one:

Evidence of civilizations on mars

Mind control programs using chemical spraying through jet contrails (chemtrails!)

Alien visitation.

Jewish plans for world domination.

Bilderberger plans for world domination.

Reptilian plans for world domination.

I actually find lurking and trolling around these conspiracy sites a guilty-pleasure type of entertainment when I feel like goofing off. Since I’ve swam around in these fever swamps of suspicion, I thought I’d go ahead and offer you a concise reference guide and cheat sheet to the current world of conspiracy. You can print this out and hand it to anyone you know who’s starting to be seduced down the path of paranoia. That way lies madness.

  • A classified military balloon made of new mylar-like materials crashed near Roswell in 1947. When the crash was found by civilians, the Intelligence guys floated a bogus UFO story to cover the top secret project.
  • Americans did indeed land on the moon in 1969 and on several occasions thereafter.
  • One lone wannabe communist nut-burger-with-cheese killed JFK. (In a less chaotic, Hollywood-scripted world momentous, history-changing events like this would have some grander meaning. But we do not live in that world. Sorry.)
  • Like Swine Flu, the AIDS virus jumped from animals to humans in Africa. (In was not created in U.S. government labs nor did Jewish doctors ever engage in a program of injecting inner-city folks with it.)
  • High-flying jets form condensation trails when conditions are right for the development of cirrus clouds. (Some low-flying airplanes do spray chemicals, though. It’s called crop dusting and mosquito control.)
  • In 2001, a loose network of Islamic terrorists headed by Osama Bin Laden managed to hijack four commercials airliners, three of which hit buildings in Manhattan and Washington, DC. Ironically, the unique structural design of the World Trade Center towers which made them able to withstand the impacts of these jet strikes also made them vulnerable to collapse after fires weakened steel trusses which had had their fireproofing knocked off in the explosive impact. Both towers collapsed. Fires and the two massive shockwaves produced by the collapses of the towers weakened WTC #7 and ultimately led to its collapse as well.
  • George Bush is neither an evil genius nor an idiot pawn.
  • After Hurricane Katrina, levees in New Orleans failed because they were either old, poorly engineered, damaged by the storm and its accompanying tornadoes, or a combo of all three. There was lots of unnecessary suffering primarily due to the incompetence of New Orleans’ mayor and city government. (By the way, George Bush almost certainly does care about black people. Kanye?)
  • The Boxing Day tsunami that devastated Indonesia, India, et. al., was triggered by an earthquake. (Not, as many Arab news services have confidently asserted, a U.S. government electromagnetic pulse technology.
  • Denver International Airport is not built above a top secret subterranean labyrinth created to be a base in a post-apocolyptic America.

Ask anyone who’s worked in the highest level of government or been in the boardrooms of the world’s largest corporations and they will all affirm this truth, people there are just like you and me and all the other people we know. That is: clueless, bumbling, fallible, self-centered, forgetful, gossip-prone, boastful and inconsistent. In other words, incapable of cooperating successfully to carry out a conspiracy for more than three weeks or keeping quiet about it if it happens to succeed through dumb luck or Providence.

That doesn’t mean they don’t try. Nixon and his campaign staff spiraled out of control and broke laws. Then, when the bumbling burglars got caught, they conspired to cover it up. We all know how that worked out.