Image via Wikimedia Commons
People have been graduating from college this year who are as old as the role of internet truther. It is a venerable hobby (some might call it a cult) leading increasing numbers of people to bizarre conclusions drawn from dubious evidence proffered by spurious sources; people convinced that some wild allegation or other must be true because they saw it on the Internet, shared by people they knew and liked.
Twenty years ago, one pioneering truther wrote Mr. Neil Armstrong to put him in his place about that bugbear, the faked moon landing. The author of the letter, a Mr. Whitman, identifies himself as a “teacher of young children” charged with “a duty to tell them history as it truly happened, and not a pack of lies and deceit.” His letter shows some difficulty with grammar, and even more with critical thinking and standards of evidence.
Mr. Whitman makes his accusations with certainty and smugness. “Perhaps you are totally unaware,” he writes, “of all the evidence circulating the globe via the Internet,” which he then summarizes.
He also sends Neil Armstrong—an astronaut who either walked on the Moon or engaged in perhaps the greatest conspiracy in history—a URL, “to see for yourself how ridiculous the Moon landing claim looks 30 years on.” Whitman sent Armstrong the letter on the astronaut’s 70th birthday.
Armstrong’s response, via Letters of Note, can be read in full above. Perhaps Mr. Whitman learned something from the exchange—or had a moment of clarity about his methods of investigation. One can hope. In any case, Armstrong’s unsparing reply serves as a template for responding—should someone be so inclined—to internet truthers armed with wild conspiracy theories 20 years later. These letters have been collected in A Reluctant Icon: Letters to Neil Armstrong.
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Watch the Original TV Coverage of the Historic Apollo 11 Moon Landing: Recorded on July 20, 1969
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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness
If the guy who wrote that letter is really a school teacher then we are all in serious trouble. It’s bad enough having people out there who are uneducated regarding the subject matter but to know they are teaching it to our kids is depressing. Shame on whoever hired him!!!
I still like Buzz Aldrin’s reaction to the person who said to his face that the moon landings were faked.
IF YOU REALLY WANTED TO PROPAGATE A HOAX, YOU’D LAUNCH SECRETLY AND GO TO THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON. “I DON’T SEE ANY EVIDENCE OF A LUNAR LANDING ON THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON.” RIGHT. GET IT. DID YOU SEE THE LIFT OFF OR ANYTHING ELSE? NO. TOTAL SECRECY. OUR LUNAR MISSION WAS FOR ALL THE WORLD TO SEE, LITERALLY, FROM BEGINNING TO END. SO NOW WE’VE REACHED MARS. THAT MUST BE A HOAX TOO THEN. IF WE COULDN’T GET TO THE MOON HOW THE HELL CAN WE GET TO MARS? UNMANNED TRUE, BUT A CONTROLLED LANDING. GIVE IT SOME TIME. WE’LL COME UP WITH A MARS LANDING HOAX IN DUE TIME AS WELL.
The funniest part of the theory is trying to explain how our Cold War nemesis the USSR wouldn’t have jumped all over it if it were fake. What’s sad is that they demean the incredible work of 400k Americans with this baloney.