Bloggers, Freebies and the FTC

FTC issues rules to end ‘blogger payola’

Bloggers — particularly “mommy bloggers” — must now disclose freebies or money they receive to review products or risk an $11,000 fine per post, the Federal Trade Commission announced today. It’s the first attempt to regulate what’s known as “blogger payola.”

The rules take effect Dec. 1. Bloggers or advertisers also could face injunctions and be ordered to reimburse consumers for financial losses stemming from product reviews deemed inappropriate.

The FTC said disclosures must be “clear and conspicuous” but did not specifically state how conflicts of interest must be disclosed.

An FTC spokesman said the commission will more likely go after advertisers instead of bloggers, except for those who runs a “substantial” operation that violates FTC rules and already have received a warning.

Here are relevant paragraphs from the FTC’s news release:

Under the revised Guides, advertisements that feature a consumer and convey his or her experience with a product or service as typical when that is not the case will be required to clearly disclose the results that consumers can generally expect. In contrast to the 1980 version of the Guides — which allowed advertisers to describe unusual results in a testimonial as long as they included a disclaimer such as “results not typical” — the revised Guides no longer contain this safe harbor.

The revised Guides also add new examples to illustrate the long standing principle that “material connections” (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers – connections that consumers would not expect – must be disclosed. These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other “word-of-mouth” marketers. The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service. Likewise, if a company refers in an advertisement to the findings of a research organization that conducted research sponsored by the company, the advertisement must disclose the connection between the advertiser and the research organization. And a paid endorsement — like any other advertisement — is deceptive if it makes false or misleading claims.

The FTC spokesman offered this example of what would not be a violation: someone who gets a free bag of dog food as part of a broad promotion from a pet shop and writes about the product on a blog.

ReadWriteWeb addresses the difficulty in policing unscrupulous bloggers and advertisers:

While the FTC will obviously have a hard time enforcing these regulations, there can be no doubt that marketers regularly approach independent bloggers (and especially mommy bloggers) with freebies. When bloggers accept these exchanges, they may not always disclose them in the posts that result. So, while bloggers who are involved in these schemes often tend to say that they would have reviewed the product anyway or that their reviews are often critical, there can be little doubt that payments and freebies influence these stories.

These new rules and rather large fines should bring some bloggers and marketers into line, though others will surely continue to push the ethical boundaries. And blogging Payola is unlikely to go away completely because of these new rules.

Federal rules already ban deceptive and unfair business practices. It’s the first time since 1980 that the FTC revised the guidelines on endorsements and testimonials.

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Book Review – Bible Doctrine

In Bible Doctrine, a condensed version of his longer Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem provides an excellent resource for study groups, Sunday School classes or individual study. When I first purchased this book to use in teaching a youth Sunday School class, I was a little hesitant as most Bible doctrine books I had seen either oversimplified things or was so difficult to understand it made teaching from it almost impossible. However, Grudem’s writing style here was simple and quite easy to understand, yet at the same time did not sacrifice key elements of doctrine in order to obtain that simplicity.

Grudem covers what he views as seven key topics of Christianity: The Doctrines of the Word of God, God, Man, Christ and the Holy Spirit, Application of Redemption, the Church, and the Future. Each is divided up into several chapters that read very much like a class outline. There are review questions, application questions, special terms and Scripture memory passages at the end of each chapter.

What I especially appreciate about Grudem is the way in which he presents varying viewpoints on issues that have presented some disagreement. Because this book seems designed for classroom use, space does not allow him to dive into all the nuances of each argument, yet he still manages to present most, if not all sides quite fairly, presenting Scriptural arguments used to support each. While he divulges which view he holds to, he does it in such a way as to encourage the reader to further study the issue and decide for himself.

For example, while discussing the topic of Creation under the Doctrine of God, he briefly touches on the fact that many evangelicals disagree on the age of the earth. He presents arguments for both an old and a young earth, with Scriptural support and interpretation for each. His conclusion was that while “Scripture seems to be more easily understood to suggest (but not to require) a young earth view…. It should be said at this point that, with the information we now have, it is not at all easy to decide this question with certainty. The possibility must be left open that God has chosen not to give us enough information to come to a clear decision on this question and the real test of faithfulness to him may be the degree to which we can act charitably toward those who in good conscience and full belief in God’s Word hold to a different position on this matter.” (p.139)

It is with this wisdom that Grudem approaches many of the topics and one of the main reasons I would highly recommend this book, especially for beginners of theological study. It’s ease of use and understandability make it a valuable addition to any bookshelf.

Book Review – Reviewing the Movies: A Christian Response to Contemporary Film

What movies should Christians watch? Is there a litmus test that can be applied to movies to determine the rightness or wrongness of certain movies? How does a Christian interact with “one of the most powerful cultural influences in America?”

In “Reviewing the Movies: A Christian Response to Contemporary Film,” Peter Fraser and Vernon Edwin Neal tackle this issue head on in an attempt to help Christians understand both the methodologies and the worldviews portrayed in the theater. What the reader won’t find is a checklist of things to look for in determining whether or not he should watch this movie or that one. Instead of providing criteria that paints options either black or white, good or bad, the authors point to the heart of the matter – both the readers’ and the movies’ worldviews. They state that “the problem in America can be blamed in part on how we have been trained to think about ‘religious issues.’” They argue that instead of taking the easy road in compartmentalizing things like movies as either “Christian” or “non-Christian,” we should be actively engaging the culture, looking for truth to be portrayed whether that truth is pretty or not. Throughout the book, reviews and pictures of both classic and contemporary movies are offered as examples of excellent or poor worldviews as portrayed in the theater.

At the beginning of the book, the authors make some important points in the criteria often used by Christians in determining whether or not a movie is “good.” The criteria used is either requiring that the movie be made by a Christian, requiring that the subject matter be blatantly Christian, or that there are obvious symbols of Christianity within the movie. Each of these criteria has their own problems to deal with and the authors discuss each of them in turn, commenting on the double standards inherent with many movies that may indeed fit one or more of the criteria.

The authors’ main concerns in how we view movies are the movie’s quality of production and the movie’s “overall meaning and significance.” The bulk of the book revolves around dealing with these two issues. Subsequent chapters provide a better understanding of both the artistry of film production (why was this particular angle chosen, etc), and why certain thematic elements are included (such as the element of love, religion, children’s points of view, etc). The authors often seem to be tackling culture rather than movies, but considering that movies make up such a huge part of our current culture, this is no surprise and they shouldn’t be faulted for it. The book continuously brings the reader back to what the Bible says about truth, goodness, beauty, love and the gospel. And the authors make an excellent point in saying that “as Christians we needn’t blush at the immodesty of stating up front what we consider good. We should, in fact, do so gladly; after all it is part of our witness to the world.”

Perhaps a little lacking in this book is what the authors do indeed consider to be good in movies. Again, while a checklist of good and bad things certainly cannot nor should not be expected, I expected something a little less nebulous. It seemed that the majority of the book was spent analyzing poor methods for reviewing and selecting movies, but did not adequately follow that up with better methods. The closest thing I could find is where the authors state “Great films promote great things and tell great stories. They have a fundamental integrity, a truthfulness in the way they portray the deeds and the dreams of men and women created by our loving God.” However, that being said, this book is definitely a step in the right direction in understanding how Christians should view movies.

Free Audio of The Mortification of Sin

Last year, when my pastor and I began reading John Owen’s “The Mortification of Sin,” I had no idea that such a small book would have such a massive impact on my life. This being the first Puritan-authored book I’ve ever read, I thought I was in for a lot of dry, heavy-on-the-theoretical-light-on-the-practical kind of stuff. I was proven very, very wrong

This is the kind of book that so convicts, moves, and encourages you that not to share it with others would be doing them, the author and the book’s subject a great injustice. There are several free online books available, most notably of which is “Overcoming Sin and Temptation,” a recently published compilation of three of Owen’s works including The Mortification of Sin. However, to my surprise, I discovered that there are very few audio recordings of The Mortification of Sin and even fewer that are free. And so began a project to record this great book. I’m very glad to report that the recording of The Mortification of Sin is now complete and may be downloaded for free in mp3 format. (Please note that the text used for the recording is not from the above mentioned book, but rather was made from a published copy that is no longer under copyright.)

Here is what John Piper has to say about Owen’s book:

“What Owen offers is not quick relief, but long-term, deep growth in grace that can make strong, healthy trees where there was once a fragile sapling. I pray that thousands—especially teachers and pastors and other leaders—will choose the harder, long-term path of growth, not the easier, short-term path of circumstantial relief.

“Owen is especially worthy of our attention because he is shocking in his insights. That is my impression again and again. He shocks me out of my platitudinous ways of thinking about God and man. Here are a few random recollections from what you are (I hope) about to read. You will find others on your own.

“‘There is no death of sin without the death of Christ’ (Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers, chapter 7). Owen loves the cross and knows what happened there better than anyone I have read. The battle with sin that you are about to read about is no superficial technique of behavior modification. It is a profound dealing with what was accomplished on the cross in relation to the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit through the deep and wonderful mysteries of faith.

“‘To kill sin is the work of living men; where men are dead (as all unbelievers, the best of them, are dead), sin is alive, and will live’ (chapter 7). Oh, the pastoral insights that emerge from Owen! As here: If you are fighting sin, you are alive. Take heart. But if sin holds sway unopposed, you are dead no matter how lively this sin makes you feel. Take heart, embattled saint!

“‘God says, “Here is one, if he could be rid of this lust I should never hear of him more; let him wrestle with this, or he is lost”’ (chapter 8). Astonishing! God ordains to leave a lust with me till I become the sort of warrior who will still seek his aid when this victory is won. God knows when we can bear the triumphs of his grace.

“The list could go on and on. For me, to read Owen is to wake up to ways of seeing that are so clearly biblical that I wonder how I could have been so blind. May that be your joyful experience as well.”

As Piper states, whether you read the book or listen to this recording, I hope that the truths, challenges, and convictions you find bring you closer to the joys found only in glorifying God!

(If you would like the mp3s in short, 3-4 minute sections for easier bookmarking or burning onto a CD, I have those available also. Simply contact me at: esky@juno.com)

Facing the Giants – A review

When Facing the Giants first came out, I heard many varying opinions about it. Perhaps the most predominant opinion was that Facing the Giants was nothing more than a movie wrapped up in the health, wealth and prosperity gospel. The movie is about a high school football coach (Grant Taylor) whose has a losing team, is on the road to losing his job, has a junker of a car, and, most worrisome to him and his wife, they are unable to have children. The coach turns to religion and everything – and I do mean, everything – miraculously turns out for the better. Sounds like a good, unhealthy dose of prosperity gospel, right? If you had asked me a week ago, I would have said the same thing.

Then I watched the movie. And I couldn’t have been more wrong.

First, let’s get the thing that everybody brings up when discussing Facing the Giants out of the way. The acting was horrible. There – it’s been said. Now we can move on to a more in depth review.

Coach Taylor is facing another year of high school football at Shiloh Christian Academy and knows that this year is going to be the same as previous years (or rather, the past 6 years, to be precise) without any hope of improvement. His team is mediocre at best. Compounding his problems is that there are some in town who consider his coaching abilities lackluster and are hinting at his dismissal. On top of all this, he and his wife are facing the heart wrenching likelihood of infertility. Everything in his life is failing. In utter despair, he reads Ps. 18:3, “I will call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies.” He cries out to God, “You’re my God. You’re on the throne. You can have my hopes and my dreams.” This is the pivotal moment of the movie. From here, Taylor reevaluates his thinking in how he approaches life. The trickle down effect is that his team starts winning, the school experiences revival and his life in general gets better.

So how is this not a health, wealth and prosperity gospel? Just add Jesus to your life and everything gets better, right? On the surface and in summary form, this might be exactly what is being taught (which for the longest time, is the reason I had no desire to see the movie.) But there’s a huge difference between what the prosperity gospel teaches and what is taught in this movie. Prosperity gospel says if you do such and such, God is bound to give you the good life. If you just get your heart right, you’ll see the material blessings flow in. The problem with this philosophy is that the results are entirely centered on us, on what we get. In contrast, what the movie teaches is a God-centered gospel – a gospel where God gets the glory! In teaching others, Taylor stresses that the results should not determine whether we praise God or not. He asks his wife, “If the Lord never gives us children, will you still love Him?” In the locker room, he challenges his team by saying: “Winning football games is too small a thing to live for…So far all this has been about us. How we can look good. How we can get the glory…If we win, we praise Him. And if we lose, we praise Him. Either way, we honor him with our actions and our attitudes. I resolve to give God everything I’ve got and I leave the results up to him.”

That is no prosperity gospel. That is no philosophy that says “Name it and claim it.” That is reflective of the Biblical truth that says “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power” (Rev. 4:11). Is it a little unrealistic to see everything in a person’s life turned around for the good? Perhaps, but even here what man sees as utterly impossible, with God it is possible. There is a two-fold lesson in the movie. First is that, no matter what the outcome, God is to be praised first, foremost, and always. Second, God will get the glory when the impossible becomes possible through his power. When we come to face our own giants, we should be firm in our faith to give God the glory. If, like Paul, our giant isn’t slain, God promises grace sufficient for every battle so that his power will be made perfect. And if the impossible comes to pass, may we see God’s power and honor him. That’s the lesson of Facing the Giants, a movie I heartily recommend.

The Great Conspiracy reviewed

I few days ago I wrote a review on Fox TV’s “Conspiracy: Did We Land on the Moon? I was also asked to review Barrie Zwicker’s “The Great Conspiracy: the 9/11 News Special You Never Saw.” In it, Zwicker attempts to show that the tragic events of 9/11 were, in fact, orchestrated by our very own government. This is my review.

In (mis)quoting Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “The greatest thing we have to fear is fear itself,” Zwicker opens with “Fear may be the greatest single motivator. It can serve us and it can save us, but ill-founded fear – that’s another story.”

And there, in the first 2 minutes of this “documentary” Zwicker has provided the irony of his own theories. In attempting to show that instead of fighting fear, “today’s leaders traffic in it, chiefly the fear of terrorism,” he simply creates another fear – the fear that our government is somehow duping us in order to gain further control over us.

First off, I have to really wonder about the validity of someone’s claims when they cannot even get one of the most well-known quotes of American history right in the first two minutes of their program. Roosevelt did not say “The greatest thing we have to fear is fear itself” but rather “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” A minor point you might say. But in saying the “greatest thing” it is implying there are other things to be feared, whereas Roosevelt gave only one thing to fear – fear itself. It makes me wonder that since Zwicker couldn’t even get this quote right, what other stuff has he completely missed or even made up? As the program continues, it seems this isn’t the only thing he’s embellished, misrepresented or fabricated.

There are a couple of things that Zwicker gets exactly correct right off the bat. It would seem that a person’s level of patriotism is directly correlated to that person’s level of support for our military endeavors or what our government deems best. I agree that this should not necessarily be the case. Someone can still be extremely patriotic and not agree with the reasons for our being in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. Secondly, there has indeed been an overuse of sensationalizing headlines or, as Zwicker puts it, “the promiscuous issuing of terror alerts.” I daresay these are used by media outlets solely for the purpose of selling newspapers or garnering higher ratings simply because bad news sells. However, the connection between these two things and a government conspiracy is shaky at best. A brief look at American history will show that both of these tactics have been used since the nation was first founded and probably even before then. This is certainly nothing new

What is the great conspiracy? According to Zwicker, it is the “fact” of “bloody terrorist events carried out, not by foreign, but by our governments to trick the public into supporting war and police state agendas,” namely as evidenced in the 9/11 tragedy. Since in conspiracy theories such as this, you’ll hear the term “police state” quite frequently, let’s pause for a minute and define what exactly is meant by the term. The American Heritage Dictionary defines a police state as “a state in which the government exercises rigid and repressive controls over the social, economic, and political life of the people, especially by means of a secret police force.” This is important to keep in mind.

Zwicker attempts to show how the U.S. has practiced its own version of terrorism in foreign nations for at least the past 50 years. He then goes back even further to Columbus’ conquests in 1492 to show that this American version of terror isn’t new. But here again, attempting to paint these accounts with the conspiracy brush, he ignores human tendencies when it comes to national governments. Why didn’t he go back to the Inquisition? Or the Crusades? Or any number of wars throughout the world’s history? Each and every one of these displayed the exact same human tendencies of conquest and the desire for national power. Were these some sort of conspiracy to gain a police state? He also points out that “on one side – ours – the use of terror either is not admitted or is simply defined as ‘not terror’ and the other side’s terror is defined as ‘the only kind of terror.’” In doing this, he seems to overlook not only motivations behind varying acts of terror, but seems to be lumping any act of national defense (of any sort) as an “act of terror.”

Next comes an historical misrepresentation from just before our involvement in WWII. No conspiracy theory is complete without some correlation to Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler and in this point, Zwicker does not disappoint. He recounts the burning of the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany in 1933 and how Hitler used the ensuing fear of communism to pass legislation in the German government “to counter the ‘ruthless confrontation of the Communist Party of Germany.” (Wikipedia) In showing how governments perform acts of terrorism on themselves Zwicker states that “The Nazis masterminded the torching of the Reichstag…one week before a national election. That they did so is historical fact.” This is where the misrepresentation comes in. A quick Google search will reveal that whether or not the Nazis themselves were involved is far from “historical fact” and is still a matter of some speculation. Yes, the Nazis certainly capitalized on the event, but to say that their involvement is “historical fact” is a gross misrepresentation of the truth. Yet Zwicker uses this to show the correlation between the Nazi government and the U.S. government, particularly in light of the 9/11 events. In the same manner as the Nazis, he alleges, “within hours of the planes crashing into the WTC, the Bush White House designates the alleged villains.”

Another claim made frequently by conspiracy theorists is that civil liberties have been reduced and dissent criminalized. But which civil liberties have been reduced has yet to be spelled out or detailed. Again, the ironic truth is that his dissenting “documentary” is still available for anyone to watch, conspiracy theory books are still available in bookstores, dissenting websites are still available, and authors of these works are not in jail. So much for a police state.

Zwicker makes what is perhaps the most ignorant statement when he says, “The designated scapegoats of 9/11 [the Muslim men] gained nothing positive from it.” Apparently, he is either completely ignorant of the teachings of radical Islam or is convinced that such a teaching is also a fabrication of the U.S. government. And here again, the non sequitur is made that whoever’s agenda benefits the most is obviously the cause of the event. But even this assumes all benefits are equal or at least of the same nature. These two issues alone – ignorance of Islamic teaching and non sequiturorial assumptions – are the basis for the entire “documentary.”

As another example of linking one thing with another when it doesn’t necessarily follow is the statistic he gives from a Canadian study. The poll says that 63% of Canadians think that “individuals within the U.S. government including the White House had prior knowledge of the plans for the events of September 11th, and failed to take proper action to stop them.” Having prior knowledge of an event and being an instigator of that event are two different and entirely separate things. This is evidenced by a statistic from the same study that was not cited: that only 16% of those surveyed thought the U.S. government was in some way “involved in the planning and execution of the events of September 11th.”

The list and Zwicker’s droning goes on and includes such “facts” that the U.S. government had a “secretly contrived” hand in the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, the attack on Pearl Harbor, etc. Zwicker doesn’t provide any evidence whatsoever for these mentioned and the evidence that he does attempt to show does not provide proof or evidence of any kind other than that the government could have done such and such. And since it has been done before (argues Zwicker), then obviously “it wouldn’t be a first” for the Bush administration to do so either.

Zwicker finally gets to the main point of the “documentary” in discussing the government’s involvement in the 9/11 attacks. He quotes varying sources and documents, and includes an interview with Michael C. Ruppert, another conspiracy theorist, author and investigator. The ultimate motive behind the attacks is, of course, oil or the growing lack thereof. Once again, however, the problem with the so-called “evidence” and “facts” presented here is simply someone taking one thing said or done, reading into it their own preconceived notions of what actually happened, and presenting the results as “Here’s what actually happened!” However, this line of thinking takes a mistake and puts malice into the intents of those who made the mistake. It attempts to claim an inside scoop into what those who made the mistake were thinking, feeling, and wanting.

Zwicker questions what Bush knew and when he knew it. He begins with the classroom whisper in Bush’s ear that purportedly informed Bush of what was going on. Zwicker points out that this whisper came “20 minutes after the first aircraft smashed into the WTC, 18 minutes after CNN breaks into regular programming.” Later, in attempting to show that Bush knew about what was going on before he even got to the school, Zwicker quotes a report by ABC’s John Cochran in which Cochran claims to have asked Bush as he left his hotel, “Do you know what’s going on in New York?” to which Bush replies in the affirmative. Here’s the problem I have with that. Timelines put Bush leaving his hotel at approximately 8:30 a.m. The first plane did not hit the WTC until 8:46 a.m., a full 15 minutes later. How could the reporter know what had happened in New York before it had even happened? And once again, how could Zwicker possibly know Bush’s motives for continuing his visit with the school once Bush had been told? Is it possible that since at the time of Bush’s arrival at the school, only one plane had been crashed and the scope of the emergency was not yet known? And further, as the 9/11 Commission Report points out, when Bush was informed of the second plane, is it not feasible to think that Bush did indeed want to project a calm demeanor? The point is, we don’t know and thus cannot assign malicious intent, let alone some grand government scheme, from these and similar events. Zwicker also contends that Bush’s statement that he saw the first plane hit the WTC couldn’t have occurred (and he couldn’t have) unless government-operated cameras were set up so that he could watch. However, once again, this is attributed malice to a simple verbal mistake. It’s funny that even though the media loves to pick apart Bush’s statements that, quite honestly, are often filled with horrible verbiage, yet in this he is taken quite literally without any hint of the possibility that he misspoke.

In yet another misrepresentation, Zwicker quotes the 9/11 Commission Report saying, “The Commission imagines, page 39, that as late as 9:30, quote ‘no one in the (president’s) traveling party had any information…that other aircraft were hijacked or missing.’ Wrong! The Commission imagines that it can get away with such claims, even though millions of people saw T.V. news reports about the hijackings on CNN beginning at 8:48.” Zwicker would have us believe that the Commission is saying the President didn’t know about either of the first two plane crashes. But what does the report actually say and what timeframe were they talking about? In the report just a few paragraphs before the one Zwicker quotes, it clearly states that the president was told about the second plane. The “other aircraft” mentioned are NOT the first two planes as Zwicker would want us to believe as evidenced by his reference to CNN coverage of those two crashes, but rather the report’s focus is the remaining two aircraft, the first of which did not crash until 9:43. The report is clear on this and I have a hard time believing Zwicker did not read the few paragraphs that came before the quote. Yet he seemingly purposefully misleads by insisting the report is talking about the first two aircraft.

In the end, was there some incredible incompetence in how the events and subsequent investigations were handled? Absolutely. But does this incompetence necessarily require both a pre-existing knowledge and an active role in bringing the events about? Absolutely not! And here Zwicker fails miserably in trying to prove his theories.

Zwicker does end on a correct note and one worth repeating: “Upholding the U.S. Constitution obligates one to guard against enemies, foreign and domestic. The founders of the country included that for a good reason. They knew that for centuries, governments had turned toxic. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance, and not just from outside threats.”

Fly me to the moon

I was asked to view a couple of programs and to write my thoughts on them. The first is Fox TV’s “Conspiracy: Did we Land on the Moon?” The other is “The Great Conspiracy” – a documentary focusing on the events surrounding the 9/11 tragedy. This review will focus on the first and at some time later I’ll try to review the second.

To begin with and to be fair, I am not a conspiracy theorist. I don’t own a tin foil hat. So I am already biased against any “factual” evidence or information that was presented in these documentaries. Also, there are many, many websites that have reviewed this program and conspiracy theory. One of which is of course, Snopes. Another site is Bad Astronomy (BA), which reviews the program in detail and which I have cited a couple of times.

The “Conspiracy: Did We Land on the Moon?” program examines whether or not NASA’s Apollo space program actually succeeded in putting a man on the moon. The program attempts to question the validity of the government’s claim that we did indeed land on the moon by presenting a number of “factual problems” that conspiracy theorists have with the evidence. The difficulty that I have with conspiracy theories such as these is that each claims to have an inside scoop on what really happened. They supposedly say that they simply want the viewer to decide for themselves, yet only show one side of the argument – theirs. There are so many factually incorrect statements or faulty assumptions made that to go over each of them would take too long and probably bore the reader. I’ll only touch on a few of them, but if you are interested further, I would highly recommend visiting the Bad Astronomy site above.

The main protagonist is a skeptical analyst and engineer named Bill Kaysing, who worked for Rocketdyne, the designing company of the Apollo rockets. His first comment arises from the many issues of the Apollo program “that led people to believe that we’re never going to make it to the moon.” Right off the bat, there are a couple of things worth noting. First, Kaysing is “regarded as the instigator of the moon hoax movement.” (Wikipedia) As such, the program cites him heavily. Second, although he is presented as an authority on the Apollo rockets, Kaysing was not actually employed by Rocketdyne during any of the Apollo space program’s manned flights. (He resigned in 1963 and the first manned flight was not until 1968.) Third, while he claims to have knowledge of this and other space programs by way of documents he was privy to, this was apparently not even sufficient concrete evidence for him because all he could lay claim to was “a hunch, an intuition, … a true conviction.” In my opinion, if someone has seen documented evidence that a hoax was being perpetrated, as Kaysing claims, that person shouldn’t have to rely on “a hunch.” Later in the program, Kaysing says (with dramatic music cueing in the background!) “What actually happened in my mind, during the 60’s, is they said if you can’t make it, fake it (emphasis added).” So Fox TV is here quoting a guy who relies heavily on hunches and his own interpretation (“What actually [?] happened in my mind [!]) of what may have happened.

Kaysing’s first real issues come when he’s watching video footage of the Apollo landing and realizes that there are no stars in any of the photographs, that the U.S. flag is waving in an atmosphere without air (i.e., a vacuum), and there is no blast crater underneath the Lunar Landing Module (LLM). I’ll only mention the bit about the stars by copying a quote from the BA site:

So why aren’t they in the Apollo pictures? Pretend for a moment you are an astronaut on the surface of the Moon. You want to take a picture of your fellow space traveler. The Sun is low off the horizon, since all the lunar landings were done at local morning. How do you set your camera? The lunar landscape is brightly lit by the Sun, of course, and your friend is wearing a white spacesuit also brilliantly lit by the Sun. To take a picture of a bright object with a bright background, you need to set the exposure time to be fast, and close down the aperture setting too; that’s like the pupil in your eye constricting to let less light in when you walk outside on a sunny day.

“So the picture you take is set for bright objects. Stars are faint objects! In the fast exposure, they simply do not have time to register on the film. It has nothing to do with the sky being black or the lack of air, it’s just a matter of exposure time. If you were to go outside here on Earth on the darkest night imaginable and take a picture with the exact same camera settings the astronauts used, you won’t see any stars!”

Perhaps the silliest part of the program is where similarities are drawn between the movie Capricorn One and the Apollo landings. Capricorn One was a movie about how NASA had to fake a landing on Mars. Fox TV’s program says “The Apollo footage is strikingly similar to the scenes in Capricorn One” even down to some of the dialogue (“the surface is fine and powdery…”) Wow, so the Apollo hoaxers copied the movie to make their fake moon landings, right? Well, um, no. See, Capricorn One wasn’t made until 1978, almost 10 years after the Apollo 11 landings. So is it any surprise that a movie being made about a hoax landing be patterned after a real landing to offer authenticity? That this correlation between the movie and the Apollo landing was even mentioned in the program is incredibly sensationalizing at best. Once again, a Kaysing interview is shown where his reasoning for claiming that the whole thing was a hoax was that NASA had the budget to pull it off (since their budget is obviously so much greater than a film producer), but didn’t have the technology for the real thing. However, even then, no factual evidence is even presented.

Coming a close second in silliness is the association with, you guessed it, Area 51. Did you know that Area 51 has hangers that look like movie studios? Never mind the fact that movie studios look like hangers. Did you know that in the desert around Area 51, there is sand very similar in texture to moon dust/sand? And (and I know this is hard to imagine), the desert is barren just like the moon, complete with craters! Why, even astronauts see the similarities! Yes, this is the kind of ridiculous associations made by these conspiracy theorists.

Unfortunately, the program along with the conspiracy theory is chock full of these astounding assumptions, all of which are necessary to uphold the absurd claims made by those who believe them. As noted by a NASA spokesman in the program, every single piece of evidence showing a moon landing must be refuted in order to allow the conspiracy theorists their day in the spotlight. However, all the theorists have is conjecture, presupposition, and a whole rocket load full of faulty assumptions. They even go so far as to claim that NASA purposefully murdered astronauts in order to keep the hoax a secret. As pointed out earlier, they “have a hunch” or present what happened “in their mind” or what “could/may have happened”– all this without one shred of evidence to support these hunches. Overall, this program, like the theory it is about, can have holes poked in it as easy as, well, as tin foil.