The Earth is flat. NASA is a tax scheme. All you’ve ever heard of satellites, space travel and (of course) the moon landing – is a fraud.
Let that sink in for a moment.
If the statements above sound crazy to you, it may come as a surprise that some of those who read posts on the internet and watch YouTube videos made by a group called “The Flat Earth Society”, including influential celebrities, actually think some of it – or all of it – makes a lot of sense.
We might ask ourselves: “How is it possible that in #current_year, almost 23 centuries after the Greek astronomer, Eratosthenes, calculated the size of the spherical Earth with a minor error, do people still believe it is flat?” Furthermore, the most amazing thing about this phenomenon is that the number of “believers” in this conspiracy theory is actually rising!
It is important to note that “The Flat Earth Society” is not a new group. In fact, it has been around since the mid-1950s and until very recently (no more than half a decade ago), it influenced – at most – a few hundred people (an example). So how on Earth (the round one) do they have over 68,000 followers on their Facebook page, and almost 12,000 followers on Twitter? And why do we have (at least in the United States) a debate about it in the media, which involves some distinguished scientists, explaining things to us which are clear-cut and obvious to most?
My answer to these questions is that people don’t reject the exceptional – it makes them curious about it. A common urban legend in Israel claims that “if you want to make money in Europe or North America, you should open a falafel restaurant”. The reason for this common belief is that people are attracted to the unusual, the innovative, the unique.
Another reason for the partial success of “The Flat Earth Society”, at least when it comes to creating a discussion on a non-issue, is that they use the common man’s lack of faith in the government and traditional systems. In some of their videos they aim the arrow directly at the public education system. It is easier to make people doubt a subject, when you make them believe their basic instincts are right, and that which others are telling them is a lie. If the flat-earthers would have appealed to logic and science, no one would have been convinced in the first place.
But the feature which is most remarkable, in my perspective, that gave me the idea to write this column in the first place – is the power of the internet, which makes small things look huge. A few weeks ago, I found on 9GAG a post with Andy Dwyer (a.k.a “Afraid to Ask” Andy) asking why there is even a discussion about Earth being flat? Here’s the reason:
Vegans, feminists and other minority groups are already using the accessibility of the internet to make them look stronger than they might actually be electorally, and “The Flat Earth Society” is no different. As I was watching a video on YouTube by “The Anthony Cumia Show”, which has more than 1.5 million views so far, there was an option to answer a survey which had only one question: “Do you believe the earth is round?” 89% replied “Yes, it’s round!”, while 11% replied “No, it’s flat!”.
Read the results again, please.
Eleven percent, one of every ten people who have access to YouTube and Google, believes the Earth is flat! That is simply IMPOSSIBLE! But here is the trick: flat-earthers are searching these videos, answering surveys online, and making it seem like their numbers are actually much larger, by scale of 100 or 1,000 times greater than their real presence in society (and we have a serious problem if they make up more than 0.01% of Western population).
This long introduction was meant to help you – the activists who promote liberty – understand nothing is impossible, and your ideas can always be heard and actually attract new people.
“Crazy” also means “unusual” and our curiosity makes us want to check ourselves if something is indeed – “crazy”.
To conclude, you can never know who you are influencing through social media or how this influence manifests. Yes, the struggle for liberty is not easy. We’re all aware of that. But with the right tools, even “The Flat Earth Society” makes a debate arise, and we have a far better starting point and the best ideas.
Isaac Freeman is a 32 years old MA student for German and European Studies at the University of Haifa and a Local coordinator for ESFL in Haifa, Israel.
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