Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

I Want to Convince You to Believe: Discourse and Authority in the Moon Landing Hoax Conspiracy Theory

I Want to Convince You to Believe: Discourse and Authority in the Moon Landing Hoax Conspiracy Theory

C.A. Donnelly

Much ink has been spilled in the last few decades examining the credibility of the Moon landing hoax conspiracy theory and debunking the evidence the proponents of the theory put forward;  very little has been spent examining the discourse of the theory itself. Has the discourse, and the question of who has the authority, changed significantly from 1974, when the first book on the conspiracy was written, to today, when much of the debate over the conspiracy takes place online?

This paper analyzes the discursive methods of many conspiracy theorists who believe that the Apollo Moon landings were a hoax before the advent of the internet and those after, through books, websites, Youtube videos and interviews. It finds that the methods have changed away from empowering the lay-believer who has little technical expertise to giving discursive power to those perceived experts who adopt technical understanding and jargon and academic writing styles.

April 15, 2013 - Posted by | abstract


  1. I was actually just talking about this with a friend a few weeks ago. I would be very interested to read your paper and see how your research led you to your conclusions.

    Comment by Kaitlin | April 16, 2013 | Reply

  2. This is such an interesting topic! I too would be interested to read about how the advent of the internet may have influenced the believers to use fancy technical jargon…my initial guess would have been that it had the opposite effect.

    Comment by Sarah Carson | April 16, 2013 | Reply

    • Sarah, That had been my first gut feeling as well!

      Comment by C.A. Donnelly | April 17, 2013 | Reply

  3. Great topic. It articulates with the “digital divide,” and the linguistic strategies adopted by the heirs of New Age adherents. Deeply suspicious of traditional (Eurocentric)authority, ways of knowing (scientific method) and communicating (academic discourse), the conspiracy-theorist “experts” adopt the titles, trappings, and terminology of “the other side.” Why? Because the “consumer” is conditioned to respond to the packaging more than the contents? Does the whiz-bang website take its place alongside the ubiquitous lab coat, the book-lined study? Fun stuff.

    Comment by Dan | April 19, 2013 | Reply

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