I would like to start this article with a reassurance to anyone already foaming at the mouth with condescension: I, myself, am not a member of the Flat Earth Society.
But I am a fan 😉
It’s crucial to establish my “Globe Earther” status before expressing any sympathy for Flat Earthers, because people tend to throw their babies out with their bathwater. If a person says one thing that’s been Officially Declared Wrong by some people in white lab coats, then the whole person is stupid and can’t be trusted to speak on any issue. It’s basically Cancel Culture, but under the guise of Science™. (Those actually interested in seeking truth might posit this unwarranted social rejection somewhere between the fallacy of virtue and the fallacy of composition. But anyway.)
It’s the year 2020, and we are balls-deep in what I call Conspiracygeddon. Pedogate, the Illuminati, time-traveling Presidents, microchip-based mind control delivered via vaccine… It seems no topic is too out-there to circulate on social media — and wreak absolute havoc in the process. But few conspiracies rile up the masses quite like Flat Earth does. The mere mention seems to trigger remarkable rage from self-perceived intellectuals. “People still believe the Earth is flat?!” they cry, beating their chests and throwing dust on themselves. Yes, love. They do. Shall we break out the smol violins?
Perhaps as a result of this collective rage against such obvious idiots, even social media giants like YouTube have taken it upon themselves to redirect “Flat Earth” searches to Globe Earth content instead. Now all those endearingly amateur slideshows and low-budget documentaries, dutifully compiled by Flat Earth’s proudest representatives, have been buried under pages… and pages… and pages… of Globe Earth propaganda.
Naturally, this algorithmic suppression on Big Brother’s — sorry, I mean Google’s — part, only further stokes the conspiratorial flames that drive Flat Earthers to viciously distrust mainstream information-sharing platforms in the first place. As a result, the Flat Earthers’ conviction (and consequentially, their evangelism) grows and grows, hilariously backfiring on the Ministry of Truth’s — dammit, Google’s — attempt to curtail this conspiracy’s growing popularity.
And I’ll admit, I too have wondered why Yougle seems to care so damn much whether people watch Flat Earth documentaries on their platform. Unlike the (so-called) logic behind their (aggressive) censorship of COVID-19 ‘misinformation’ (read: speculation), I hardly see the argument that someone’s homemade Flat Earth PowerPoint presentation could pose a significant threat to public health.
If anything, open discussion of outlandish ideas is evidence of thriving public health! Complaints about black-and-white, cultic politics are widespread. We all seem to intuitively understand that censorship and information control are, you know, bad. And yet so many people make an exception for this particular conspiracy. Why’s that?
If you ask me, many Flat Earthers (though not all) exhibit precisely the kind of curiosity and relentless skepticism that the world needs more of. Read me: I’m not saying we need more of the Flat Earth conspiracy, per se. I’m saying we need more of the spirit that inspires people to investigate the Flat Earth conspiracy. The same spirit you might call, ahem, scientific inquiry.
Let’s talk about how scientific some of these ridiculed conspiracists actually are. A Netflix documentary called Behind the Curve, which attempts to depict flat earthers as scienceless buffoons, actually showcases them running a variety of independent tests and experiments to determine the shape of the Earth. One flat earth believer, Mike Hughes, even went through the trouble of building his own rocket in the hopes of photographing Earth from a bird’s eye view. Sadly, the rocket crashed, killing him inside. And what did his critics do? Oh, they celebrated his death of course! They called it Darwinism in action (which is an embarrassing misunderstanding of natural selection theory, by the way — further cementing my point that many self-described “science enthusiasts” are not nearly as scientifically literate as they fancy themselves to be. But anyway.)
Here’s my thing: How many of us would go as far as this man did to investigate what others take for granted? How many of us have dedicated our own money, resources and free time to any scientific pursuit? How many of us would so brazenly defy social ordinances in search of truth, instead of surrendering our perception of reality to the whims and wishes of establishment authorities?
If you say “Flat Earthers are stupid for even questioning the shape of the Earth,” you’re not advocating for facts. You’re advocating for blind trust. Blind trust has no place in science, if we’re defining science as the pursuit of knowledge. This is something many Flat Earthers understand. In fact, they understand it so well that they are willing to be publicly ridiculed for their unabashed skepticism of “official” narratives. How is this not the very spirit of scientific inquiry? How has science ever progressed, except by the contributions of society’s most lurid rebels and authority-defying cynics?
Now obviously, as with any belief-based subculture, Flat Earthers are not without their flaws. Some have religious blind spots, leading to a general perception of them all being Bible-beating nutcases. And some are unwilling to admit that they simply don’t have the resources or intelligence to single-handedly verify the Earth’s shape. That said, would you be willing to admit the same? If you like being taken seriously by your friends and family, probably not.
Sincere truth-seeking requires a vulnerability akin to ego death. It is a frustrating inevitability that people will stumble and embarrass themselves on the way to knowledge. But as long as they are actively seeking it, I believe they deserve some credit — if not outright respect. They certainly don’t deserve to be laughed at, or dismissed, or algorithmically buried alive. Besides, in my humble opinion, questioning the unquestionable is the most fun you can have without taking your clothes off.
Hear that, Yougle? Put the Flat Earth documentaries back in your search results.
This diehard fan needs her fix.