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By Joshua BoydAug 4
Published July 17th 2019
The Brandwatch React team loves conspiracy theories.
We’ve written about Flat Earthers. We’ve written about the theory that Meghan Markle faked her pregnancy. We’ve written about the idea that Avril Lavigne died many years ago, and has been replaced by a double.
All of these (often hilarious) theories have been propelled forward by the internet, but there is one conspiracy theory that has lived far longer than obscure blogs and Twitter storms – the granddaddy of conspiracy theories is that the 1969 Moon landing was faked.
50 years on, we now have the tools to find out how this theory is being discussed at large. Is the theory still going strong? What are the most debated arguments for the theory being true?
Armed with 2,000 survey responses around the topic and 18,000+ mentions of a fake Moon landing between June 1 and July 16 2019 from sources across the internet, we were ready to tackle the big questions.
Let’s start by asking the world what they think.
Using Qriously (the latest very cool addition to the Brandwatch family, which replaces ads on smartphones with surveys), we asked 2,000 people across the US and the UK if they thought it was true that the 1969 Moon landing was fake.
The result? 10% of our respondents think it was all a hoax.
Looking at that data across several age ranges, the group that seemed most convinced of the Moon landing being faked were 18-25 year olds – people who weren’t alive at the time.
If you’d like to know more about the methodology used for this survey, you can see it here.
Using Brandwatch Analytics, we were able to view the most common phrases, words, locations, names, and organizations in social conversations around the Moon landing being fake – all broken down automatically.
Within the top 70 of these topics, there are plenty of things to pull out.
Neil Armstrong is, naturally, a large part of the conversation.
Other names include acclaimed film director Stanley Kubrick, who has been rumored to have helped fake the Moon landing footage.
More on him later.
‘Fake news’ appears in nearly 12% of the fake Moon landing related conversation. Meanwhile, ‘media’, ‘NASA’ and ‘government’ are key topics. In a time when institutions and expertise are beginning to see corosion in trust from the public, it’s not hard to see why a big conspiracy theory like this is still going strong.
That said, it’s important to note that not all of the conversation here is supporting the theory that the Moon landing was faked – much of it is simply commenting on theories or chatting generally about it.
Over the years, there have been several specific arguments that point to the potential fakeness of the Moon landing.
Let’s run through them, one by one.
There’s no wind on the Moon, and yet the flag in the Moon landing footage is often said to be seen flowing in the wind.
This is up for debate – some say this is down to the way the flag is set up. Others point out that to miss this detail would be pretty ridiculous of the Moon landing was faked, given how many other things are done correctly.
To put the argument simply, it is that there are stars in space, but stars don’t feature in the footage very much.
While many point to this being a fatal flaw, others have pointed out that stars are pretty difficult to capture without special camera techniques.
The Moon landing was faked because the direction or angle of the shadows of things in the footage are pointing the wrong way, say some.
Others point out that there were a number of things the light from the sun could have been bouncing off (from the Earth, to the Moon surface, to the vessel itself).
Some say that the impact of the landing ought to have created a significant crater.
Others say the impact wouldn’t have been that huge given the way the vessel came down.
And another theory is that there was a camera crew filming when the astronauts first “stepped on the Moon.” If not, how would they have filmed it? Stanley Kubrick, we’re looking at you.
But there’s also a simple answer to this one – NASA fitted a camera on the ladder.
Using keywords relating to the above theories, we took a look at the popularity of each – and here they are.
The question of who filmed the astronauts is incredibly popular (largely because people are talking about Stanley Kubrick’s apparent involvement).
Looking at where all our faked Moon landing data is coming from Twitter makes up the largest portion (55%). After that comes forums (17%) and video sites (14%).
That said, Twitter was no where near the largest source of mentions when it came to looking at specific queries like those we listed above.
The biggest source of all this conversation around specific theories? The news.
Nearly 800 mentions of the various arguments made above (lack of blast crater, direction of shadows, etc.) came from news articles, compared to only around 155 mentions from Twitter.
Much of this coverage of Moon landing theories has occurred in the last week or so, as news outlets prepare for the big 50th anniversary. It seems like talking about the theories is as much a part of the celebration as cheering for scientists and astronauts.
We were also able to look at what our survey respondents thought of the popular theories. For anyone who answered ‘yes’ to thinking the Moon landing was fake, we asked them which of the theories made them think this was the case.
Once again, the flag ‘flying in the wind’ was a hugely popular one. This was followed by the direction of the shadows of the astronauts in the footage, and then the idea that a camera was able to film the astronauts stepping onto the Moon (Who put it there?! Was there a camera crew involved?!)
17% of the respondents who thought the Moon landing was faked said that none of the theories we suggested were behind their thinking – this is a good indicator that we might be missing a few reasons for believing the Moon landing was fake in our overall research!
So, we know that the conspiracy theories around the 1969 Moon landing are still going strong, with 10% of our 2,000 survey respondents saying they believe that it was fake, and a whole lot of social media conversation (18,000+ mentions in the last couple of months) on the topic.
We know from our survey that people still have questions about the footage of the Moon landing and, specifically, who filmed it. Using social data we found that film maker Stanley Kubrick is still suspected of having helped fake the Moon landing, and he’s a large part of why the theory is still talked about today.
We also know that the waving flag is a hugely popular reason why people think the Moon landing was faked, with this being the top reason in our Qriously survey, and the second-top reason in our social data. To that end, the social and survey data was fairly similar, although the direction of the shadows of the astronauts was a far bigger topic in the survey than it was in online discussion.
Plus, we know that there are other reasons why someone might believe the 1969 Moon landing was a hoax (as indicated by the 17% of people responding to our Moon landing theory question saying that none of the reasons we suggested fit their view). To expand on this research, we could ask what those specific theories are.
And, finally, we know that it’s not just obscure corners of the internet that are keeping these theories alive in modern day consciousness – even if they’re skeptical, the mainstream media are very much a part of driving the conspiracy theory conversation.
We were lucky enough to use Qriously’s survey design tool to quiz 2,000 people across the US and the UK on their thoughts about the 1969 Moon landing. Qriously replaces ad space with surveys on smartphones, which means they can reach a huge and diverse audience.
We began by asking the age of the respondent (excluding under 18’s from any further questioning) and the gender they identify as. We then asked whether the respondent thought it was true that the 1969 Moon landing was fake (among some other conspiracy theories – more on that on the blog soon!).
Anyone who indicated that they did think the Moon landing was a hoax was then asked why they thought the Moon landing was fake, and they were able to choose from a selection of options as shown above.
Qriously joined the Brandwatch family in March 2019 and we can’t wait to continue working with them and the cool insights they can generate.
The other half of the research we did here was to use Brandwatch Analytics to search for mentions of the Moon landing being fake across sites like Twitter, Reddit, blogs, video sites and news sites.
We used the topic cloud functionality to automatically break down the top keywords, phrases, locations, organizations, and names popping up in the conversation so we could identify big themes. We also applied our own custom categories to the data to break it down by popular theories (like the lack of blast crater, the flying flag, etc).
You can find out more about Brandwatch Analytics by getting in touch below.