In a lengthy CNN feature on the spread of the Flat Earth community — cheekily titled “The flat-Earth conspiracy is spreading around the globe” — a couple of people attending a recent conference in Dallas, Texas whine about how they’ve lost friends over their lunacy.
“I don’t want to be a flat Earther,” David Weiss says, his voice weary as he reflects on his personal awakening. “Would you wake up in the morning and want everyone to think you’re an idiot?”
“This (conference) is an outlet for a lot of people that might otherwise get ostracized by friends and family and co-workers. When they come here, they know it’s absolutely a safe space,” [conspiracy theorist Mark] Sargent says of this week’s event.
For Davidson, the next stage is to debate leading members of the scientific community, but “they just laugh at us and say, ‘you guys are dumb.'”
That’s because these guys are dumb.
At least they admit they live in a (flat) bubble. Just because they’re ostracized doesn’t mean their views deserve any respect. In this case, their friends are right to distance themselves. Why surround yourself with people unable to accept even the most basic of realities?
But if I try to find some sympathy for them, I can admit their comments echo my own past figuring out the whole atheism thing. Any subculture that grew online could find common ground in the idea of the joy of finding a like-minded community, having your worldview turned upside-down, believing something that’s incredibly unpopular, and losing friends.
The difference, of course, is that these people just believe anything that sounds conspiratorial enough. They don’t care about facts or evidence. They don’t have any respect for science. They value trolling over truth. Just because a belief is unpopular doesn’t mean it’s legitimate. Just because people shun you doesn’t mean they don’t have a point. Just because you say you’re a critical thinker doesn’t make it so. Just because something goes viral doesn’t mean people are on your side.
That’s especially true here.
… most [Flat Earth] adherents demonstrate plenty of anti-scientific tendencies. It’s hard to find a flat Earther who doesn’t believe most other conspiracies under the sun; a flat-Earth conference is invariably also a gathering of anti-vaxxers, 9/11 truthers and Illuminati subscribers, to name a few.
These people aren’t harmless. By celebrating their own gullibility, they’re making it easier for more harmful beliefs (like anti-vaxxer theories) to spread. They’ve created a rabbit hole where dangerous conspiracies can thrive. That’s the problem here. I’m not worried the Flat Earth belief will create any long-term harm. It’s what else these fools might accept that should worry us.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Jay for the link)