I met with a conspiracy theorist this week, a bona fide Flat Earther. And not just any Flat Earther, but one of the society’s leading voices. I found him personable, easy to talk to and kind. I liked him immediately.
He’s also utterly and unequivocally wrong. Furthermore, like the concept and disturbing popularity of “fake news,” the message feels like a slap in the face to the working professionals who have dedicated their lives to their crafts, in the one case journalism and the other science — the noble pursuit of helping humanity to better understand its place in the universe.
So why did I write about it? Frankly, I sat on this story for several weeks debating with myself whether or not to move forward. Would penning it legitimize something that flies in the face of what I and most reasonable people would consider irrefutable evidence, or is refusing to publish something based on my own beliefs and conception of modern society the ultimate form of censorship and bias, the very thing that’s fueling the fires of fake news? But then again I make editorial decisions every day, deciding what will and won’t be included in the paper. How is this any different? And then even if I do a story, is it possible to tell it with proper respect to my source while at the same time not insulting the intelligence of readers with the endorsement of the absurd?
These were all questions I asked myself.
After much discussion, I decided to proceed with the story and here’s why. Whether I like it or not the phenomena of fake news is real. People believe it. And no matter how preposterous it may sound, there’s also people out there who believe the world is flat. These are realities of the world today, and they are not for me or anyone else to hide from history.
It’s for us to understand and then, I hope, for us to reject. And just to be clear I’m talking about the message, not the person. The purpose of this story was to inform, not embarrass. It’s why I decided to focus on the human side, and the attraction flat earth doctrine has to its followers rather than on the group’s claims or creed.
We’re living in an interesting time, a period where people are actively rejecting fact and reason for what feels good, right or easy. As a society, this is something we cannot endorse and cannot accept. I won’t do it and neither should you.
He really is a nice person, though.