I have a friend, Luc, who listens to talk radio. There are only two kinds of people who listen to talk radio: conservatives and masochists. And Luc isn’t conservative. Somehow he can listen to crackpots blowing steam out of their ears without losing his mind. Oh, he gets riled up – that’s kind of the point – but it doesn’t make him lose his faith in humanity. I cannot say the same for myself, which is why I avoid indulging in or even acknowledging this stuff in the least. People who are willfully ignorant really get my goat. Sean knows this, and it was not without a gleeful glint in his eye that he proposed watching Behind The Curve, a documentary on Netflix about the flat earth conspiracy.
Flat Earthers are…ugh. There’s no excuse and there’s no understanding them, not from a rational perspective. Although I did get the feeling that they, and conspiracy theorists in general, share a common mistrust for authority. They’re a group of outsiders who find a brotherhood in “believing” this stuff. And I’m still not 100% certain they’re not just having us on. I mean, can they truly believe that the Earth is not a sphere? That Big Globe has been the sinister force behind science and reality for hundreds of years?
Thankfully, this documentary doesn’t try to give credence to their impossible theories. But we do get a brief look into their psyches, into what might attract an otherwise reasonable human being to the murky world of hating science and believing in baloney. And what we uncover are basically just some sad and lonely people looking for connection, and maybe a moment or two in the spotlight. On the fringes of society, there aren’t a lot of options for these people. How fantastic that all it takes is inventing an inflammatory piece of fake news, and building a community around it. That’s all it is – that, and making a few coins from the merch, which seems to double as evidence as far as these people are concerned.
The interesting thing about this documentary is that it doesn’t just give a soapbox to crackerjacks who put a little too much value into Youtube and not enough into critical thought. It tells us how we contribute to the problem – and I think the message transcends beyond just the conspiracy nutters. I think it’s also a reminder on how to speak to anyone whose views are polarizing to your own. It gives us all something to aim for as we hurtle through space on our beautiful, round planet.