When dealing with the issue of something being a hoax or not, it is important to evaluate what kind of effort and result is expected to determine whether such an event is likely.
It is far too easy to give in to cynicism and assume that because of a fundamental distrust of government or large organizations, that everything that happens is necessarily a conspiracy or hoax. Regardless of whether the government would exploit such an opportunity, the real question is what are the possibilities that it could?
Assuming that we’re not prepared to put the entire space program in the trash heap of skepticism, then the primary focus of a hoax would be the Apollo moon landing specifically. The people involved would have to include those in political positions to advance the idea, as well as those specifically that would have to fabricate the events. All the other people, such as news reporters, would have to have been fooled since extending the hoax to include all those would be extremely risky.
While one can argue that the news reporters helped perpetrate the hoax, it would seem to be stretching credulity to suggest that all the reporters and the government would actually cooperate to such an end.
Let me also state, that it is important to place these events within the context of actual government secrets, such as MK-Ultra, and how successful the government was in keeping these things secret. What is significant about this is that in cases where the government really had something to hide, it wasn’t very successful. Why should we assume a more successful subterfuge for a program that clearly had less of an impact? Even if we accept the argument that it was a distraction from an unpopular war, there would be no incentive for those involved to maintain this perpetual silence. It is also relatively easy to review history and see that the Apollo program did absolutely nothing to change the perspective on Viet Nam by the American people.
However, we have a bigger problem in assessing this as a hoax. For this hoax to succeed would require that all the other countries in the world, most significantly our cold war adversary; the Soviets, participate. Since they were also competitors in this “race” it should be clear that a failure by the United States would have been a propaganda victory beyond their wildest dreams. Even if the accusation is that the American people were duped by their government, one can hardly make the same claim for the other nations with which we were competing.
Considering that nearly 40 years has passed since the Apollo moon landing, an additional argument can be made, that given our current level of space technology, we would have simply gone to the moon at a later date. Once again, if this feat hadn’t actually been accomplished, then there are plenty of competitors that would love to claim the achievement.
The argument has also been advanced regarding the issue of WMD, weapons of mass destruction, in IRAQ as evidence of the government lying. However, this is a perfect example of how poorly the government actually manages such secrets.
The technical data is readily available for those interested in the history of space exploration, and the various NASA missions. Similarly, while a healthy dose of skepticism is necessary when evaluating information from various sources, the simple fact remains; belief is not evidence. Cynicism is no substitute for an actual review of the facts. To accept, at face value, the assertions made, simply by the device of asking leading rhetorical questions, well that would be gullible.