Friday, May 20, 2016

The "Flat Earth" Movement Gains Ground

It’s the ultimate conspiracy, involving all governments, their space programs, the entire scientific community, as well as the airlines. Other minor co-conspirators include GPS manufacturers and cartographers.

The secret, according to some die- hards, is out and the truth is gaining momentum. And once you go down this rabbit hole, you may never see light of day again.

The earth, you see, is flat. Or so asserts the Flat Earth Society, whose website features “evidence” galore, including videos of the moon landing which the proponents of this theory assert are photoshopped, denial of the existence of gravity and claims that star trail photography provides the final nail in the coffin for the “unsupportable claim” that the earth is a globe.

In the third century B.C., Eratosthenes first provided mathematic proof that the earth was spherical, as well as calculating its circumference.  It was not until the 1600s, when Galileo made his startling assertions that the Earth indeed revolved around the Sun, rather than the geo-centric model, that the general perception of man’s place in the cosmos began to assume its actual dimension. Galileo, as we recall, was imprisoned for heresy for his work on this issue.

The Flat Earthers got their first head of steam with the publications of Samuel Rowbotham (1816-1884), who is generally viewed as the founder of the modern Flat Earth movement.  Rowbotham was a nineteenth century inventor and writer, whose experiments are reproduced on the Flat Earth Society website. He authored Zetetic Astronomy: Earth Not a Globe (1st ed. 1849, 2nd 1869, 3rd 1881), which is considered the seminal work on the subject.

Rowbotham’s ideas saw a revival with Charles K. Johnson, head of the Christian Apostolic Church in Lancaster, California, who employed Biblical passages as providing evidence of the flat earth. More recently, the flat earth has seen a revival among conspiracy buffs. The current head of the Flat Earth Society is an Englishman named Daniel Shenton.  Internet icon Tila Tequila and rapper B.o.B endorse flat earth beliefs.

The Flat Earth Society lists 554 official members as of 2014. The Flat Earth Society Facebook page has over 21,000 likes.

Essentially, this is what Flat Earthers believe:
1)      That the earth is a flat plain centered at the North Pole and enclosed by a 150 ft. ice wall, which we call Antarctica.  
2)      That the sun and moon are only about three thousand miles above earth. 
3)      That the earth may be enclosed by a transparent dome. 
4)      That the sun and moon revolve above the flat earth.  
5)      That eclipses are explained by the existence of an “anti-moon. 
6)      That gravity (which is known to create spherical objects) does not exist and what has been mistaken for gravity is actually the continuous acceleration (up to a rate of 32 ft. per second) of the flat earth. 
7)      That a force simply called “dark energy” is providing the accelerations. 
Some Flat Earthers assert that the plain beyond the ice wall is endless.
Diana, who received her college degree in liberal arts at a West Coast State University and works in a bookstore, is a Flat Earther. “It just doesn’t fit with my perceptions,” she asserted concerning the concept that the earth is a globe. “I don’t see that. I go with what I see and perceive.”

According to University of Minnesota McKnight Professor Emeritus Jim Fetzer, despite a plethora of YouTube videos, the Flat Earthers have failed to substantiate their claim. According to Fetzer, there may in fact be a conspiracy behind the “flat earth” movement.

Fetzer, who studied philosophy at Princeton University and earned his PhD in the History and the Philosophy of Science, sees the emergence of the Flat Earth movement at this juncture in time as “most peculiar.”
“They are trying to bamboozle people,” declared Fetzer in a recent interview. “They are cleverly taking advantage of the fact that Americans are not well grounded in science.”  
“If you can get the members of truth groups divided over an issue, you can create internal dissent which will devalue the issue they may be formed to consider, like 911 truth, like JFK truth,” stated Fetzer.
Fetzer raised concerns that the hidden hand of propagandist Cass Sunstein might be at play here. Sunstein is a legal scholar and college professor who for a couple of years was Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration. In a 2008 paper, entitled “Conspiracy Theories,”  which he co-authored with Adrian Vermeule, the authors openly proposed a program for government infiltration of truth groups (Sunstein called them “conspiracy theory groups”) for the purpose of sabotaging their efforts.

According to the authors: "The existence of both domestic and foreign conspiracy theories, we suggest, is no trivial matter, posing real risks to the government’s antiterrorism policies, whatever the latter may be." After considering various alternatives, the authors propose that "the best response consists in cognitive infiltration of extremist groups."  The article repeatedly describes such groups as those who believe the US government had a hand in the events of September 11.

Some recent activity on a conspiracy oriented Facebook group raises the red flag that Sunstein’s suggestions may have been acted upon. A rather modest post, suggesting that the time span between the attacks of September 11 and the subsequent media pronouncement that the perpetrator was Bin Laden was suspicious, given how quickly this determination was made--in light of the time it takes for a federal investigation to take place--was met with an onslaught of verbal abuse. One respondent suggested that the author of that post needed a “strait jacket.” Others joined in calling the poster a “moron” and stated falsely that no evidence was provided.

The Real Deal Ep #136 included a debate on whether Earth is flat

However, if, as Fetzer has suggested, the Flat Earth movement is a “government op,” this would take the most dedicated efforts of those in federal employ to discredit alternative groups to quite another level. Fetzer has called the Flat Earth movement “An elaborate form of sowing dissension” which may result in fracturing existing truth oriented groups into an argument from which the integrity and purpose of the group may not recover. 

According to Flat Earthers, the actual motive of this enormous conspiracy to promote the globe earth is somewhat murky. But Diana made a statement that fits well with certain social and New Age trends when she said, “It’s about keeping from us who we are. They don’t want us to know who we are.”

Maybe that’s true. Maybe we are so gullible and ill-informed that we would be an embarrassment to ourselves if we actually knew it. Although that’s not what I think she meant.

Editor's note: The "flat Earth" movement appears to share many beliefs with Creation Scientists and may be inspired, not by government agencies, but by those who accept a literal interpretation of the Bible, instead.