Bad Astronomy

UK tabloids compete for fish wrappery

Whenever I wonder if US news is the worst on the planet, I just need to look east, across the Atlantic, to be reassured that we have close competition. I swear, the UK newspaper The Mirror has a bet with The Sun to see which of them can have more ridiculous articles*.

The latest volley in this war is about (drum roll please): the Moon Hoax. Yes, The Mirror has discovered this 40 year old rotting piece of cabbage and is serving it up like a fine box wine. Breathlessly marked “EXCLUSIVE” – as if they are the first to have stumbled on this news – the article goes on and on about the usual tired and long, long-debunked claims of the Moon Hoax crowd.

This article is slightly different than most “fair” articles on these topics in that the writer, Dennis Ellam, actually does give explanations for some of the dumb conspiracy claims, but also uses a writing tone that is somewhat sarcastically dismissive when discussing them. I’ve seen this many times; it allows the writer to fan the flames of the conspiracy while also innocently claiming that they present both sides.

Ellam was pretty confused over the provenance of the conspiracy though. After a description of some of the claims, he then says, “But the HBs [Hoax Believers; a term I coined back in 2001] have begun to gather important allies.” Who would these important allies be? Why, Bill Kaysing! But Kaysing originated the Moon hoax idea, so how could the HBs have gathered him as an ally? And Ellam, like every other conspiracy-fanner, neglects to mention that Kaysing had some pretty crazy ideas, like that any kind of space travel is impossible and that NASA blew up Challenger on purpose to keep Christa MacAuliffe from revealing the truth about NASA’s fakery.


Ellam also quotes astronaut Brian O’Leary as saying it’s possible the landings weren’t real. That quotation – unattributed in the article, for shame – comes from the wretched Fox TV show back in 2001, and O’Leary claims he was taken out of context, in fact now saying quite succinctly that the landings were real.

Ellam also relates the incident where Buzz Aldrin punched Bart Sibrel as the act of a guilty man lashing out against a truth-seeker… when we know for a fact that Sibrel was harassing Aldrin and physically intimidating him. Sibrel tried to sue Aldrin for the punch, and the judge threw the case out of court.

Ellam presents all these points in a very misleading way, but all of them are easily debunked. He could have trivially fact-checked them by contacting either me or Jay Windley (who runs the website, another Moon Hoax mythbusting site). It’s not like either of us is very hard to find when it comes to this conspiracy; perhaps typing “Moon Hoax” into Google was too much trouble.

So why bother checking your facts, backing up your claims, or doing, y’know, research, when instead you can write something destined to stir controversy where none exists?

I guess, in the end, people in the UK need something to line their birdcages, and The Mirror is only too happy to provide.

Tip o’ the tin foil beanie to Peter Backus.

* As you may recall, The Mirror recently had an article claiming a UFO hit a wind turbine, while The Sun had a grossly exaggeratedly article about life creating methane on Mars (and The Mirror also had a terrible article about that as well).