12.2 If you really want to debate

If you’ve decided that you want to take on the challenge of a debate on Moon hoax theories, here are a few preliminary tactical suggestions.

  • One of the most effective ways to flummox a Moon hoax theorist is to ask him to provide technically documented answers (i.e., provide specific, authoritative technical sources) to your questions – and do so without being self-contradictory. You should never accept arguments that begin with “We all know that...”: always ask for sources and documents to back up every claim. Without them, the theorist’s claims are nothing more than hot air. Remember to always ask “Do you have an authoritative source for that?”
  • Some hoax theorists try personal attacks by asking you if you’re qualified to talk about the Moon landings. They might ask you if you’re an aerospace engineer or have a science degree or other qualifications that entitle you to speak authoritatively. If you do, say so, of course; but in any case, make it very clear that your personal qualifications aren’t really relevant, since the authenticity of the Moon landings is supported overwhelmingly by the international technical and scientific community. Then ask the conspiracists what qualifications they have or what authoritative backing they can provide. They won’t have any.
  • Never allow a hoax theorist to control the discussion by changing the subject and moving on to another claim when he is stumped: this is a typical trick. Be calm but firm: you’ve asked a specific question, you have the right to an answer. If the hoax supporter dodges the question, ask it again, and point out his attempt to elude it. If he then caves in and starts to submit another objection by saying “Yes, but...”, remember to make it very clear that his “Yes” means that he’s conceded the point and admitted that he was wrong (and therefore, on a positive note, you both agree on this point). Point out that if he’s wrong on that point, maybe he’s wrong on the others.
  • Don’t get bogged down in arguments over the technical minutiae of the missions: they don’t provide any insight to anyone who is not well acquainted with spaceflight. Conspiracy theorists love to split hairs on insignificant details. Don’t reply by offering further technical details, but ask them to get to the point. Just say “And so?”: the hoax proponent will have to explain why the technical detail on which he is dwelling is so important. Usually he will fail, and this will show how inconsistent his vision actually is and will bring the debate back to more general and less arcane issues.
  • Remember that the best way to show how ridiculous these theories are is to let a Moon hoax theorist babble on and then calmly ask a few pointed questions. Most of all, be serene. Let your tone of voice make it clear to everyone who is being sensible and logical and who is being hysterical and obsessive, and show that you don’t really care whether you change his mind or not. Conspiracy theorists want you to argue and get mad: don’t rise to the bait. Have fun and consider the debate an opportunity to talk about the greatness and wonder of spaceflight.

Now let’s move on to the questions.