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Bat-people on the Moon – what a famed 1835 hoax reveals about misinformation today

While the social media age may allow misinformation to spread like a highly contagious virus, ‘fake news’ is, of course, as old as the news itself. And, as The Great Moon Hoax chronicles, the Moon proved fertile ground for misinformation long before the persistent conspiracy theory that the Apollo landings were faked. In this short, the Australian journalist Kirsty B Carter interviews the US writer Matthew Goodman who explains how a series of stories, originally intended as satire and published in 1835 in the New York paper The Sun, convinced millions that the Moon was teeming with life – including, infamously, a race of bat-people. Explaining why the articles ended up being taken seriously, the video details how profit, entertainment value and the nature of belief intertwined to perpetuate this fantastical hoax, mirroring trends that continue, amplified, today.

Video by BBC Reel

Producer: Kirsty B Carter

12 January 2023
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