Category Archives: Flat Earth
I see there’s another Jurassic Park movie out soon (June 9) to kick off summer blockbuster season, so I thought it was as good a time as any to talk about a special breed of conspiracy theorists sometimes called “dinosaur deniers.” Me and Heidi talked about this on the Tea’s Weird Week podcast after I joined a viral Facebook group called Christians Against Dinosaurs. There were quite a few laughs. The group says that “Big Paleo” is the force of greed that perpetuates the “Dino Lie” to eager “dinophiles” so they can rake in the big money selling phony fossils to museums.
But in scrolling through the group it was really difficult to determine if these people truly held these beliefs or if it was a master class of trolling. And if it was trollcraft, it seemed likely it had inadvertently attracted some people who do believe that dinosaurs never existed.
Their have been legit dinosaur deniers in the past, and the main talking points are either religious– fossils were fakes created by Satan to bolster evolution theories or some such, or are theories cherry picking hoaxes and scientific error.
While working on my book American Madness, Dr. Daniel White of University of Sydney was helpful in explaining the appeal of conspiracy belief. Here’s a quote from him in the book:
“Those ‘selling’ conspiracy theories are better at selling themselves as experts than their mainstream alternatives, as well as what their ‘research’ finds. Science is very self-doubting in its presentation; usually, a finding is put forward as something along the lines of ‘based on our findings we can predicte that the most likely explanation is…however, here are the limitations of our study.'”
Compare that to someone like Alex Jones slamming his fist on a desk screaming about how he has “irrefutable proof” of some “false flag” attack. A lot more confident!
American Madness also took me to the International Flat Earth Conference in Dallas. Although there obviously were some other media types there and maybe a couple of undercover “globehead” (that’s the term for dum dums that believe the world is ball shaped) gawkers, I can say that the majority of the roughly 500 people there were legit Flat Earthers, so dinosaur deniers is not far fetched by comparison.
But there are several examples of conspiracy movement hoaxes. Before the modern wave of Flat Earthers, there was a Canadian group in the 1970s called the Flat Earth Society, based out of Saint Thomas University, a satire group of poets and philosophy students. A more recent example is the Birds Aren’t Real, a group of jokers who say they believe birds are actually government surveillance robots. But these days, things are so fucking nuts, who can tell what is real and what isn’t?!
I read a good article about all this from 2015 titled “Poes, Trolls, and Dinosaur Deniers” for skeptic.com, written by a paleontologist named Dr. Donald Prothero. He warns of Poe’s Law, described in this passage:
This (the Christians Against Dinosaurs group) seems so over the top that it immediately struck me as another example of extreme satire and parody which are so common on the internet. Often referred to as a “Poe,” these satirical pieces are intended to mock the bizarre beliefs of many groups of people from the extreme political and religious fringes. According to RationalWiki, the idea was first coined by Nathan Poe in a 2005 post, and “Poe’s Law” is the “observation that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish between parodies of fundamentalism or other extreme views and their genuine proponents, since they both seem equally insane.”
He points out solid evidence that the Christian Against Dinosaurs group started, at least, as a joke, with admins tied to other satire sites. Kristin Auclair, who recorded videos for the group talking about dinosaur denial, claims on a post that her videos were “satire,” though like third-rate knock-offs of The Onion, it’s hard to see the satire because of Poe’s Law, which makes it pretty unfunny, in my opinion.
To add to the confusion, Christians Against Dinosaurs encouraged a protest against a Tucson McDonald’s that has a statue of a dinosaur outside it on Tanque Verde Road in August 2020. Someone inside the group encouraged people to call the franchise’s management and a “spokesperson” told the local Patch.com affiliate (one of several local media outlets to pick up the story) that “We’re fed up with everybody acting like the people of Tucson are imbeciles and we want to help.”
This was certainly more trolling, but as Dr. Prothero notes:
We are also in the tricky position demonstrated by all Poes: the crazies out there are so bizarre that it’s often impossible to tell a well-crafted parody from the real thing.
My latest books are:
Brady Street Pharmacy: Stories and Sketches (2021, Vegetarian Alcoholic Press)
American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (2020, Feral House)
OR… STOP THE FLAT EARTH, I WANT TO GET OFF
November is Conspiracy Month at Tea’s Weird Week. Reporting live from Dallas…
Well, as I mentioned on Facebook, here in Dallas is probably where my story jumps the shark or falls off the edge of reality. The edge of the Flat Earth, that is. Yes, this “globehead” (which is what suckers like me who believe the world is a sphere are called) went undercover to hang out at the Flat Earth International Conference the last two days here in a suburb called Frisco in a hotel conference center.
You’ll be able to read more about the experience in my upcoming book, American Madness (Feral House, August 2020) but for now, here are some random notes, observations, and a couple photos.
- First of all, yes, these people really do believe the earth is flat. Or at least they think that they think they do. I think it’s more cult-like, a group of people looking for a place to belong.
- Some demographics: my estimate was 300-500 attendees. Mostly white, but not exclusively. Wide age range and I would say more men than women, but not by much. Some observations from my note pad, people that looked like “eccentric professors” “kind of punk rock” “family: man with beard, woman in prairie dress, 3 kids–Amish? Mormon?” “bros with backward baseball caps” “Latino bodybuilder with Flat Earth tank top” “sunburnt bald guy with Snidley Whiplash mustache.” But a lot of people looked like regular everyday people you might see in line at the grocery store.
- Enemies of Flat Earthers, called out repeatedly during the conference: NASA (“masonic and Satanic,” as one speaker said), Neil Degrasse-Tyson, Bill Nye, MythBusters (all guilty of ridiculing flat earth), Albert Einstein, Elon Musk, and mainstream media. They did seem to admire Nikola Tesla.
- There were about a dozen young kids in attendance. I did make me really sad to think of these kids growing up being told that space and space exploration and science in general is FAKE. Science is very cool, kids.
- I recommend the Netflix doc on FLat Earthers. Behind the Curve. Most of the people in that doc were here, including main subject Mark Sargent.
- There are religious flat earthers, who believe the Bible provides clues that the earth is flat. Then there are flat earthers who have pieced together some pseudo-science experiments, like bring a carpenter’s level onto an airplane or shining a laser across a flat area to prove there’s no curvature.
- One moment I kept thinking about– during a break I went across the street to get a slice of pizza from 7-11. I sat on a bench outside to scarf it down. A guy came walking up and gave a little wave. “Hey, fellow Flat Earther,” he said. “Hey man!” I replied. He looked like he wanted to say something more, but he shyly turned away. I saw him around the conference, sitting by himself. He seemed awkward, lonely, in need of a friend. He probably fell down a YouTube hole (that’s how many Flat Earthers are converted) and ended up here.
- The most popular flat earth pseudoscience podcast is GLOBEBUSTERS (their experiments were featured in the Behind the Curve documentary). I got to see a recording of the podcast including a live performance of the Globebusters theme song! It’s not quite a parody of the Ghostbusters song, but kind of an odd remix and it’s been stuck in my damn head all day.
- Speaking of music, Flat Earthers have a rich output of music geared toward them, which makes them unique in conspiracy culture (where is the anti-vaxx or Reptilian themed songs?) Flat Earth Man sings country tunes on flat earth related topics. He sadly didn’t perform live this year, but he popped up in no less than four Flat Earth Video Awards nominees and I bought a signed copy of his CD.There also is a flat earth hip hop genre, there were a couple of live performances of booty shakin’ hits like “Lean Flat.” I think I’ll be writing a column or article on flat earth hip hop someday soon.Also performing were a couple of vocalists I’d describe as…pop? Soul? Imagine Mariah Carey singing about how NASA lies and believing your own eyes about not seeing a curvature on the earth.
- I was excited to see a “Flat Earth Game Show” but it turned out to be a scene they’re shooting in a movie about Flat Earth…but the cast were all Flat Earthers (Mark Sargent was the host).
- When I saw a comedy show listed, I had high hopes it would be like an open mic where Flat Earthers roasted globeheads or made Seinfeld like observations about day-to-day life on flat earth. I did get to see a bit of this at the awards show, but the main comedy event was Alt-Right comedian Owen Benjamin who has been shunned by mainstream comedy and has found refuge here in the fringe. His set bashed gay and transgendered people, he ranted a defense about being able to use the N-bomb in a comedy bit, blah blah– complete shit. Bad form, Flat Earthers.
- I watched about six talks, including “NASA: Going Nowhere Since 1958” and “Coming Out of the Flat Earth Closet: A Call to Activism.” In between, I checked out the vendor floor, spread down the conference hallway. It included flat earth models, clocks, posters, self-published books, DVDs, clothes, jewelry, and busts of Nikola Tesla.
- I was really excited to see the “Flat Earth Mega Panel” and submitted questions to it, but because the other speakers were longwinded, it was canceled. Flat Earthers not only don’t use globes, they also don’t like to use watches, apparently.
- The conference ended with the Flat Earth Video Awards, aka the “Flattys.” It featured live music performances, and included awards to “Best Flat Earth Awakening Video,” “Best Flat Earth Proof Experiment” and “Best Flat Smacking.””Flat smacking” is when you drop the truth bomb that the world is flat on a poor, unsuspecting globehead, you see. Now you know! The conference was a very interesting experiment, and I’m excited to write on it in more detail for American Madness. Time for me to get to work, my friends– as the Flate Earthers like to say– keep it flat!
Next week: My conspiracy journey continues here in Dallas. Will things get even weirder? I don’t think that’s possible. Will they remain reasonably weird? Yeah.