Recently, I came across this video via friends at OpenSprites:

I stopped watching at around 1:30.

It suffices to say (fortunately) that everyone on OpenSprites immediately identified it as utter nonsense. (See here and section 3.1 here, if you’re interested).

The same cannot be said for some commenters on the video and most upvoters. And that’s absolutely infuriating for me. I always see nonsense being spread online, and for some reason people just believe it without questioning.

Image of comment on that video

Your middle school librarian’s worst nightmare

Remember how you’re supposed to validate online sources? Stay unbiased? These are things anyone who’s been through middle school should have learned. You don’t just believe anything you see on the Internet, as people emphasize by humorously misquoting historical figures. I’m sure everyone who upvoted or commented on that video knew that the Internet is unreliable. So then, why did they believe this YouTube video, of all things, without a single doubt?

It’s a combination of psuedoscience and bias. First, psuedoscience: the same sort of nonsensical statements people spread about “X chemical being in your food and also in industrial whatnot.” I’m sure you’ve seen it. The issue is that it’s so believable to people at first glance. It seems like results from some sort of legitimate study or experiment, when really it’s just some guy on the Internet compiling dodgy evidence and acting like it’s significant.
There’s another part to it: bias. If people start slightly leaning towards one side of something, they’re inclined to accept evidence from that side even if it’s a stretch, and reject all evidence from the other side, no matter how conclusive it might be. This is, again, something we see over and over on the Internet. In the case of that video, it might be because non-Americans are envious, or Americans are dissatisfied with the government that they jump so quickly on the video as “conclusive evidence” that Apollo was faked. But they completely ignore the piles of evidence in favor of Apollo (the retroreflective mirror that’s now placed on the moon, the samples brought back, the landing sites you can see with powerful telescopes…).

Trolling the “sheeple”

When people call Internet-browsers “sheeple,” it might be insulting but it’s not exactly wrong. As we see, people’s opinions can easily be played to start arguments (eg: the current state of the comments section on that video). The issue is, content creators know this. We can easily find evidence that the uploader of this video was a troll. Just read the description, to start:

NASA will finally admit we have never gone past the Van Allen Radiation Belt. “ISS” which is fake, will show astroNot explaining how we have never gone above 238 miles.

This video completely debunks NASA by their own submission. The trolls that are thumbing this down are just that.

“astroNot,” “trolls thumbing this down”… It’s very likely that this person knew that he was spewing nonsense. If he wanted to convice most people that Apollo was fake, he would have tried a bit harder to make his evidence sound more legit—for example, by not using the word “astroNots.” This video seems to have been made solely to play the people who the creator knew would believe it against the people who know it’s nonsense. And, it succeeded. The comments are basically a bunch of people flaming against each other, at this point.

That’s the problem. People being easy to sway, combined with trolls who know how to take advantage of it is a dangerous combination, especially in this age where information travels so quickly. It’s the reason we see the annoying propoganda spreading about vaccines causing autism, or about Obama raising the debt more than all other presidents combined (a quick google search can show you lots of evidence against both). It’s an issue that I don’t think we’ve really seen in the past, and something that needs to be solved somehow before society can move forward.

I guess more people need to raise their nonsense-meters and be a bit more skeptical about what they hear on the Internet. Don’t be afraid to call nonsense out like Will Smith in “I, Robot”(Warning: edgy).

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28 March 2016