You might say, “John, do we REALLY need a column explaining why the Earth can’t be flat?” Unfortunately, yes we do. Why? Well, because among others, here are some of the celebrities who have come out at one time or another and said that the Earth is flat or at least, that they’re not sure about it: Shaquille O’Neal, Kyrie Irving, B.O.B., Tila Tequila, Thomas Dolby, A.J. Styles, Sherri Shepherd, and Draymond Green. There are also millions of other people, most of whom were probably convinced by the YouTube algorithm, who also believe that we live on a flat Earth:
Researchers believe they have identified the prime driver for a startling rise in the number of people who think the Earth is flat: Google’s video-sharing site, YouTube.
Their suspicion was raised when they attended the world’s largest gatherings of Flat Earthers at the movement’s annual conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 2017, and then in Denver, Colorado, last year.
Interviews with 30 attendees revealed a pattern in the stories people told about how they came to be convinced that the Earth was not a large round rock spinning through space but a large flat disc doing much the same thing.
Of the 30, all but one said they had not considered the Earth to be flat two years ago but changed their minds after watching videos promoting conspiracy theories on YouTube. “The only person who didn’t say this was there with his daughter and his son-in-law and they had seen it on YouTube and told him about it,” said Asheley Landrum, who led the research at Texas Tech University.
The interviews revealed that most had been watching videos about other conspiracies, with alternative takes on 9/11, the Sandy Hook school shooting, and whether Nasa really went to the moon, when YouTube offered up Flat Earth videos for them to watch next.
Some said they watched the videos only in order to debunk them but soon found themselves won over by the material.
Typically, most people just roll their eyes at this kind of thing, but I am from the mindset that it’s a mistake not to counter conspiracy theories. Maybe at one point in time, when there were a handful of gatekeeper news sources, that was a viable strategy, but today? Bad ideas can spread easily among like-minded thinkers if people aren’t exposed to counterpoints.
So, let’s start with the basics. First of all, the Flat Earth Theory IS NOT being offered in a vacuum. There is a popular competing theory that has been around for thousands of years (around 500 BC, the Greeks figured out that the world was round and at around 240 BC, Eratosthenes figured out the circumference of the Earth) that has large amounts of scientific proof undergirding it. So, for the Flat Earth Theory to be viable, it has to make more sense than the idea that the Earth is round. That is not an easy task because of some very big, very obvious flaws in the Flat Earth Theory.