For those of you w/ Netflix accounts, there’s a documentary recently added to their lineup — “Behind the Curve,” directed by a Daniel Clark. Looks like it’s also available on Amazon Prime & iTunes. I stumbled upon it this past weekend, and was fascinated by it in a “wreck on the side of the road that you just can’t pull your eyes away from” kind of way. Once I started watching it, I just couldn’t stop.
The film chronicles the present-day flat earth movement, and the director does a remarkably even-handed job of allowing the various flat earth advocates he interviews to present their perspectives w/o subjecting them to ridicule. (If you’re familiar w/ the documentary filmmaker Erroll Morris, he often takes a similar approach…letting the eccentric folks that he interviews have their eccentricities speak for themselves, without additional comment or input.)
The principal flat earth advocate in the film is a guy from the Seattle area named Sargent. If you watch the trailer below he’s the middle-aged guy wearing cargo shorts, a cap & a black t-shirt…one gathers from the documentary that this appears to be what Mr. Sargent wears every day of his life. And he may or may not still live w/ his mom; I couldn’t quite tell. He does podcasts & the YouTube channel thing, and is one of the flat earth movement’s most influential figures. The camera crew follows Sargent to a prime viewing spot for the solar eclipse back about 18 months ago (in one of the film’s more ironic moments), and also to the International Flat Earth Convention (or whatever it was officially called) in Raleigh, NC a couple years back.
As an aside, I live in Raleigh, and I remember this thing making the local news back when it happened. I have no idea how that convention ended up here, other than they apparently must’ve gotten a really good rate at the Embassy Suites.
On the counterpoint side are a couple physicists, a couple psychiatrists & astronaut Scott Kelly. You may recall that the latter spent a year on the International Space Station, and thus has personally orbited the earth more than a few times, with a window to look out of while he was doing so.
The flat earth movement appears more broadly to be a haven for conspiracy theory types of multiple stripes — anti-vaxxers, 9/11 truthers, anti-CIA tin foil hat wearers, as well as a variant of Young Earth Creationism, though without an apparent attachment of the latter to the sort of fundamentalist Christianity with which most of us are familiar. But familiarly, there’s a suspicion of “science” and “scientists” as either (a) those who blindly accept whatever they’ve been told along the way, or (b) part of some nefarious global conspiracy…albeit one whose presumptive end-game goals are never quite articulated.
A few of the flat earther’s discuss the kinds of experiments that they need to do to prove their claim, including one involving a laser (SPOILER ALERT…the laser “experiment” does not confirm that the earth is flat, in spite of multiple do-over’s; this leads to compete exasperation on the part of the guy running the laser).
I found it also surprising that there are such pronounced rifts within the flat earth community. There’s another podcaster/YouTuber who really has it in for this Sargent guy, and Sargent’s maybe Platonic/maybe not quasi-girlfriend (the cute redhead in the trailer) is another podcaster who is a rather polarizing figure among flat earther’s. Some of the conflict clearly revolves around (pun intended) influence & power within the community, but there’s also an element of orthodoxy involved, with often zero tolerance for anyone who deviates from accepted flat earth purity. And anyone who does deviate in some fashion risks being labeled an apostate, or worse, a planted CIA operative. For such a fringe group, with such a fringe foundational position, the flat earther’s appear to keep their tent pretty small.
Even though there are presumably very few flat earther’s within North American Christian YEC-ism — for practical purposes, I’ll assume that number is zero — there are unmistakable parallels. One is left asking the question, “Why do people like this believe what they believe?”…especially w/ regards to:
(a) a sincere conviction that “we” — and only “we” — are the keepers of The Truth, ie, this special knowledge which everyone else could possess, too, if they would only remove the scales from their own eyes,
(b) an insistence upon adherence to accepted group orthodoxy,
© a rigid adherence to their position in spite of the complete lack of supporting peer-reviewed scientific evidence,
(d) a mistrust of said peer-reviewed conventional science, and of those who engage in such work,
(e) as a corollary to both of the above, an inexplicable optimism that it’s simply a matter of time before they themselves pull off the experiment or observation that will definitively prove their claims to the world, and
(f) an inability to rethink one’s underlying position when such experimental attempts fail so spectacularly.
Three stars. Definitely worth a view.
Link, which has the trailer imbedded…