“Repent Or Perish! Trust Jesus!”

“Naysayers Make Us Stronger!”

“FLAT EARTH: It’s easier to fool people than to convince them. THEY HAVE BEEN FOOLED.”

“LIARS: Faking Space Since 1958 – Research Flat Earth”

The fanatical messages proudly plastered across parked cars and the anti-science t-shirts donned by the crowd gathering at the Emporium Suites hotel on the 6th of November were extreme, even by North Carolinian standards.

They did, however, confirm that after 30 hours and 15,000 kilometres of travel I had finally made it to the curious event I’d been ruminating over for the last 6 months: The 2017 Flat Earth International Conference.

Led by morbid curiosity, I’d come to meet the people behind the movement that Neil deGrasse Tyson dubbed “a deep failure of our educational system”.

The conference room could have been lifted straight out of a 1980s sales convention: Tacky orange and peach sponged walls lined with bawdy teal trim rose to meet oversized gold light fittings, and an aura of disconcertingly unbridled enthusiasm permeated the wide-eyed crowd.

Organiser Robbie Davidson wasn’t lying about the event selling out: 500 flat-earthers had paid up to $249 each and travelled from as far as Belgium, Ireland and New Zealand to be amongst their people.

The opening speech, delivered by Darryle Marble (the conference’s youngest and only black presenter) was initially every bit as hilarious as I had anticipated.

His conversion to flat earth belief started when, after binging on Netflix’s “Under the Dome”, he turned to YouTube for more dome-based entertainment. Four months and hundreds of hours of videos about 9/11, the Rothschild family, the Bilderberg group and, of course, the “spherical lie” later, Darryle “came out” as a flat-earther.

Now he stood, proudly proclaiming to a captive audience that the curvature of the earth “is implanted memories”, that the globe can’t be moving because “our senses don’t tell us we are spinning”, and that the surface of a half-drunk bottle of water is always flat therefore the earth’s oceans can’t possibly curve around a globe (this, by the way, is by far the most popular “proof” parroted by members of the flat earth community).

Smiling smugly at the sheer ridiculousness of his claims, I looked across the dimly lit room in search of other amused faces.

There weren’t any.

After bragging about making international media, throwing in a few well-received jibes at the expense of “old Joe bag of donuts globe head” (this, along with “globetard” is a popular insult amongst flat-earthers) and making half a dozen allusions to other conspiracy theories he subscribed to (yes, he was an anti-vaxxer), Darryle finished his speech with a rousing call to action.

He, like every other presenter, urged attendees to convert their friends and family because “In the next 5 years this will become common knowledge. There is no greater cause.”

“This is a battle between good and evil,” he proclaimed and the crowd roared with approval. Some gave a standing ovation.

A realisation dawned on me, and my initial amusement evaporated in an instant.

Holy shit.

These people were fucking serious.

————————————————————————————————-

If I were looking to write a “hit piece” (which, by the way, is what the perpetually suspicious presenters had dubbed the print media coverage they’d received thus far), the Flat Earth International Conference would provide me with no shortage of material. Over the next 48 hours, these are just some of the claims put forward by official presenters:

  • Electricity powers the sun.
  • There may be multiple suns.
  • It is daylight across the world at the same time.
  • The moon emits “dark” or “negative” light which actually makes things in its shine colder.
  • There are no pictures of earth. Every picture from NASA is a CGI image.
  • Rocket launches are fake, and the moment the camera turns away, they come back to earth.
  • The government staged 9/11 and the Sandy Hook shooting.
  • NASA will “be gone” by the end of the year (tick tock, guys).
  • The evening news was, in the past, infused with subliminal messaging that read “Trust the government” and “The government is God.”
  • Smoke, helium and clouds rise, therefore gravity does not exist.
  • The sun and the stars are constantly moving.
  • The moon is actually in the sky all day, it just becomes transparent and fades.
  • Jupiter is locked to the earth and that is why we always see the same red spot on it in photographs.
  • The moon is not a sphere.
  • The atmosphere has no frictional force. Therefore it can’t attach itself to the earth and spin at the same time as the globe does.
  • “Ether” exists.
  • Jesuits, Freemasons and Jewish bankers control the world.
  • All astronauts are actors.
  • Edward Snowden is an actor employed by the CIA.
  • NASA and Disney are behind the moon landing, which was filmed in Arizona.
  • The Jesuit Sun, 666 and the Eye of Providence are all embedded in official NASA and Disney imagery.
  • The aurora borealis is a manifestation of an evil dragon spirit.
  • International military forces patrol the Antarctic coastline, and nobody has ever crossed the continent because they kill anyone who tries.
  • The Mars rover was filmed in Antarctica.
  • The Garden of Eden is in the middle of Antarctica, and nobody can go there because people “are like demons”.
  • Planes mapped Google Earth.
  • Satellites are held up by giant, transparent weather balloons.
  • NASA is the sci-fi wing of Disney. Clouds on an official photograph of the globe spell “sex”, and this is a nod to the controlling elite’s debaucherous plans for the world.
  • Pluto the Dog was invented at the same time that the dwarf planet Pluto was “invented”, and Disney’s cartoonists took the piss by drawing a picture of Pluto the Dog onto official images of Pluto.
  • Stars are “a class of heavenly angels”. These sentient beings are called “lumines”.
  • At one point in history mesas were giant trees. The tablelands we see today are just giant petrified tree stumps.
  • These giant trees oxygenated the old world, making everything grow bigger and live longer.
  • The tides are caused by water “inflowing and outflowing from the centre of the North Pole”.

This is not a comprehensive list of beliefs championed at the conference. Overwhelmed, I stopped studiously recording every bizarre claim I heard after the first day.

And, while the flat-earthers relished the rare opportunity to speak freely about their beliefs in a “safe space”, nonbelievers at the conference (myself and other journalists) soon clung to each other for sanity. None of us had prepared for the onslaught of zealous anti-intellectualism that we were to be exposed to.

The first day of the Flat Earth International Conference was a deeply unsettling experience that left me with more troubling questions than answers.

Is this a cult? Why had these people become so radicalised? How can anyone with a primary school education actually hold these beliefs?

Pulling my Hyundai Accent out of the parking lot that first evening, I felt violated in a way I’d never quite experienced before.

I felt like my intelligence had been raped.

 

STAY TUNED FOR PART 2, GLOBEHEADS!

 

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