My Journey to the Center of the Flat Earth Society

Recently I’ve been doing some research. That’s not abnormal for someone in my particular state of academic indentured servitude, but the topic I’ve been looking into might be a little out of the ordinary. A while ago I learned that some people believe the Earth is flat. Not long after, I learned those people have a website. From that first meeting on, I have been enraptured by the Flat Earth Society. I’ve never even remotely subscribed to their beliefs, but I want so much for them to talk to me, to give me the chance to get to know them, to understand them, to really see into the minds that flattened the Earth.

To do this, I’ve plunged into their website which you can find here

This is a log of my journey to the center of the Flat Earth.

The stock photo website I use doesn’t have any pictures of a flat Earth, so just imagine someone has stepped on this and that science isn’t real

The Flat Earth Society condemns the recent vandalism of a community park in Pennsylvania and warmly welcomes Dr. Shaquille O’Neal to its ranks. Pete Svarrior writes that “the Flat Earth Society is appalled to hear that there are people in our community who would willfully damage public property,” a flat, unequivocal denouncement of the vandals. Svarrior also acknowledges an understanding of the zeal individuals might feel in regards to spreading the message of the planar nature of our great blue pancake as no astronauts have famously called it. Svarrior concludes his brief reprisal with a call to action: “please continue educating people on the Earth ‘s shape. Do encourage them to research it and formulate their own opinions. But please, do so in ways that do not harm the community around us. Let’s do better than this.” If this levelheaded critique and call to action are any indicator of the quiet dignity of the Flat Earth Society, then Dr. Shaquille O’Neal is going to be right at home.

Don’t spray paint the benches, and also don’t sail too far because you’ll fall into space.

I’ve seen a fair few home pages in my time, and The Flat Earth’s is clean, well organized, and host to the most recent posts by prominent members of the society. Imagine if you met a guy at a bar and he drunkenly confesses to you that he’s the one who discovered the ingredient they put in peanut butter to make it taste so good when paired with milk, and then imagine that he pulls out a thousand dollar iPhone and shows you his amazing website. That’s what the Flat Earth Society is like.

I continued my search by reading into Pete Svarrior’s profile.

Pete Svarrior’s profile indicates that he is not online, but it does inform me that he has 5862 posts, his age is “N/A,” his location is the letter “e,” he joined on March 15, 2012 at 11:50 AM, and it offers unique insight into the person beyond the screen. Svarrior ambiguously writes “Do I really have to write 6000-word sentences just to remove all ambiguity from everything I’m saying?” but it would take five thousand nine hundred and eighty-three more words to understand exactly what he meant by that. Under the option for “personal text,” he has included a happy little emoticon, composed of parentheses and symbols and looking like it has a flower on it. I wonder if the whimsy this emoticon lends to his profile is an accurate summation of his true personality, if the flower runs deeper than the screen, if unlike the flat Earth’s planar boundaries, Pete is a character of vast and ambiguous depths.

The Flat Earth’s personal wiki page looks enticing. I will move there next.

The Flat Earth’s website is “dedicated to unraveling the true mysteries of the universe and demonstrating that the earth is flat and that Round Earth doctrine is little more than an elaborate hoax.” In elaborating how the society came to the conclusion that the Earth is less a cosmic bowling ball and more a great frisbee, the society cites the work of Dr. Samuel Birley Rowbotham, a lecturer from the 19th century. If my doctor told me she was medicating me based on research done 200 years ago, I would run from her office because there is a very good chance she would be oiling her favorite bone saw and telling her nurses to strap me down. However, the society specifies that Dr. Rowbotham’s data was “easily reproducible” with only “a long body of standing water and a little trig to conclude that the water is not convex.” Much like my own experiment to ascertain whether that my cat prefers Temptations brand cat treats more than the generic Dollar Tree substitute I buy her instead, the data from the experiment is poorly gathered, and the results do not equate any tangible measurement of reality because she ate both piles of food. I wonder was Pete thinks of the idea of lining a bit of string up with the horizon, seeing both appear to be level, and declaring with all the confidence the 19th century could instill that the Earth is clearly flat.

“Oh, Winifred, get those womenly fancies out of your head. The Earth is as flat as a silver dollar, and I’ll have no more of your nonsense.”

They have a frequently asked questions page. I must go to them. I must know what people ask them. I must know what they answer.

Members of the Flat Earth Society take themselves seriously at a level directly inverse to how little they are taken seriously by everyone else. The more critics and scientists and cartographers argue about the spheroid nature of the Earth, the harder the Flat Earth Society will rage against it. For every globe they are sent, they have an intern with a sledgehammer whose duty it is to pound the third dimension until it resembles a more manageable second. What is real if the Earth is flat, what could be trusted if, as the Flat Earthers claim, so much of modern humanity is founded upon a lie. On the subject of photographic evidence of a round Earth, the Flat Earth Society says “In general, we at the Flat Earth Society do not lend much credibility to photographic evidence. It is too easily manipulated and altered.” Text can be edited, pictures doctored, sound distorted. That something has the possibility of being false does not guarantee its falsehood. I could lie to my nephew, fill his world with distorted truths that will be the foundation of his existence forever. But I’m not going to do that, and when he’s an adult, and he learns that I had the potential to saturate his spongy baby brain with lies, he won’t suddenly distrust every single thing any person has ever told him just because lying is something people can do.

By the time you’ve delved into the Flat Earth Society’s website long enough to find the page titled “The Conspiracy,” the Flat Earthers have demonstrated something truly dangerous about their ideology: they can choose what to believe. The problem with truth is that, when confronted with the evidence, a rational person has no choice but to acknowledge that truth. Fact is not a choice. However, the Flat Earthers have found a nefarious way to circumvent the trappings of fact by systematically discrediting for themselves any evidence they do not want to believe. Pictures can be doctored, so the pictures the Flat Earth Society accepts as evidence are credible only if they decide those particular pictures have not been edited. Videos can be staged, and The Flat Earth Society has a lot to say about the faking of the moon landing. According to the Flat Earth’s analysis of video from the first moon landing, the astronauts were on a stage, supported by wires, and the entire endeavor was a ploy to distract the world from the real goal of NASA which was to put ballistic missiles into space. The source the Flat Earthers continue to cite and rely upon is Dr. Rowbotham’s Zetetic Astronomy: Earth Not a Globe, but I could just as easily say that the bulk of Dr. Rowbotham’s work was done under duress as he was held hostage by map printers who, upon seeing the growing globe industry, had to do something drastic to keep their two-dimensional maps a viable business. Knowing as I now do that Dr. Rowbotham was forced to make such farcical claims, I cannot in good conscience believe a thing he says or anything from anyone who believes in him.

The existence of the Flat Earth society is owed to a group of people responsible for drawing cool sea monsters in oceans guessing the shape of continents.

 

The Flat Earth Society’s privacy policy is as follows: “There is currently no text in this page. You can search for this page title in other pages, or search the related logs, but you do not have permission to create this page.” The Flat Earthers are not private, are not hiding their ideas for fear of rebuke, are not trying to appear as anything other than exactly what they are: people who truly believe the Earth is flat, that NASA is conspiring to put missiles into space, that  photos of the Earth have all been altered, that the sun works like a spotlight, that the Earth is being eternally accelerated upward at a rate of 32 feet per second. The first question on their Frequently Asked Questions page is naturally “Is this site a joke,” and the response is an unequivocal, unashamed statement: “This site is not a joke. We are actively promoting the Flat Earth Movement worldwide.” With all the confidence of a 10-year old lying about the awesome trick he did on his skateboard while he was alone in the park, the Flat Earth Society unabashedly shrieks “you can’t prove that” to every bit of evidence against them and “we told you so” to every bit that validates them. The Flat Earthers represent an interesting paradox of whimsy and absolute sobriety. They believe in something fantastic with the stoic resolve of fanatics in the face of irrefutable evidence which they refute with their fingers in their ears and their eyes closed. With news that broadcasts pear-shaped truth and truth labeled fake, the Flat Earthers with their strange maps, mistrust of science, and Dr. Shaq, are in good company.

11 Replies to “My Journey to the Center of the Flat Earth Society”

  1. You have just presented to me something that America and Spain have in common that I was totally unaware of. Quite a long time ago I discovered some weird shit about a Spanish society that was holding on to some old shit beliefs about a series of 19th-century battles known as the Guerras Carlistas. There is still to this day a society of Carlistas who want a Hapsburg monarch instead of rule by the Bourbon dynasty. Weird shit out there.

    Like

  2. “…how such a huge group could be so hilariously wrong while still being so confident”. For a moment there, I thought you were talking about religious people. I mean, isn’t that how religion caught on too?

    Like

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