Are conspiracy theories dangerous? (July 2019)

July 2019 sees the 50th Anniversary of the 1969 moon landings. This was an amazing achievement - the culmination of the 'space race' and the fulfillment of John Kennedy's pledge in 1961 that the US "should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth."

Yet, conspiracy theories abound that in fact the US did not actually land men on the moon and that the whole operation was in fact an elaborate hoax.

Why do we indulge in conspiracy theories?

In pairs or groups discuss conspiracy theories that you are aware of (this article will remind you of some of the major ones).

Now consider the questions below:

  • Do you agree with any of these theories?
  • What factors drive conspiracy theories?
  • Are conspiracy theories just a bit of fun or are they disturbing or even dangerous?
  • What impact do they have on the writing of history?

How far do you agree with this view put forward by Professor Galinsky, an American social psychologist?

“The less control people have over their lives, the more likely they are to try and regain control through mental gymnastics, ...Feelings of control are so important to people that a lack of control is inherently threatening. While some misperceptions can be bad or lead one astray, they're extremely common and most likely satisfy a deep and enduring psychological need."

Now read this article from this UK newspaper:

How moon landing conspiracy theories shaped our world (The Independent)

Those who twist evidence of the July 1969 mission and subsequent manned landings may be frustrating and upsetting, but they paved the way for others whose fanaticism has cost lives.

  • Why does the article argue that the moon landings could not be a conspiracy?
  • What factors are given as to why people develop and believe in conspiracy theories? How far do these factors tie into the quote by Galinsky above?
  • Why can conspiracy theories be dangerous?
  • What does Andrew Griffin mean when he says as his conclusion: 'But the flurry of fake stories about real events that the Apollo conspiracy theories unleashed led to something more deadly, and one that has reshaped our world' ?

In case you are still wondering if the moon landings could be a conspiracy, watch this BBC short movie on why this just isn't possible!

Moon hoax? Five reasons why the landings were real (BBC News)

Conspiracy theories surround the Moon landings but BBC Click seeks to dispel some of the myth

For those  who would like to investigate conspiracy theories further, here is another recent article on this issue which also puts the concept of conspiracy theory into its historical context:

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