The unsettling thing about spending two days at a convention of
people who believe that Earth is flat isn’t the possibility that
you, too, might come to accept their world view, although I did
worry a little about that. Rather, it’s the very real likelihood
that, after sitting through hours of presentations on “scientism,”
lightning angels, and nasa’s many conspiracies — the moon-landing
hoax, the International Fake Station, so-called satellites — and
in chatting with I.T. specialists, cops, college students, and
fashionably dressed families with young children, all of them
unfailingly earnest and lovely, you will come to actually
understand why a growing number of people are dead certain that
Earth is flat. Because that truth is unnerving.
In recent years I’ve begun to feel conflicted about the internet. On the one hand, it’s been wonderful in so many ways. I’ve personally built my entire career on the fact that the internet enables me to publish as a one-person operation. But on the other hand, before the internet, kooks were forced to exist on the fringe. There’ve always been flat-earther-types denying science and John Birch Society political fringers, but they had no means to amplify their message or bond into large movements.