deep breath. sigh. nervous pause.
i get that there’s actually stuff to sort through here. i get that the movie very passionately argues that it’s not just “haha omg look at these weirdos.” despite that being so easy and so tempting. i mean… so, so tempting. i get as i’m typing that out loud that it makes me sound like a terrible, mean-spirited person. i hope that the body of work i’ve presented to you all on numerous platforms makes it pretty clear that isn’t the case.
i hear and completely understand the distrust and frustration people are expressing… and just wanna scream,
HOW IS THIS WHAT YOU PICK TO QUESTION???
you are living in a country whose entire, intended purpose is to funnel life and labor from the vast majority of its citizens to a privileged few who live in absolutely fucking morally repugnant luxury right in plain sight. and even those exploited masses in this country are still better off than all the vast majority in the rest of the world whose entire countries are exploited in much the same way. and most people just… kind of silently agree to pretend this isn’t happening or to only bring it up when it’s advantageous for them. and the thing you really want to devote your time to debunking is THAT THE FUCKING PLANET IS ROUND???
it gets even more frustrating when people are so close to being right about something. like, they start to talk about how the government and military are involved in hollywood, and at first you’re like YES! YES! THAT’S A THING! THAT’S ACTUALLY A THING! GOOD JOB! … but then they think the reason the government and military are involved in hollywood is to perpetuate the idea that the earth is fucking round and you’re like NO! YOU WERE SO CLOSE!
and then you kinda take a deep breath and a step back and listen to very persuasive, educated people telling you that shaming and ostracizing these people isn’t nice. and like… at first all i can think is yeah, ok. that’s a really difficult thing to want to be on the other side of, and i really interrogated a lot of what i felt about the rest of the movie when this part happened. and on top of that, i know that i shouldn’t necessarily be having this kind of frustration towards other workers for choosing to question the absolute least germane thing to be focusing their skepticism on rather than the predations of the ruling class. i just…
i also remembered that most of the faces i was seeing were white men. (and believe they are persecuted because they think the fucking earth is flat.)
i also remembered that most of these people subscribe to other conspiracy theories, which are not nearly as harmless as being a flat earther. (and believe they are persecuted because they think the fucking earth is flat.)
i also remembered that like the second flat earther you meet in this movie suggests that transgender people becoming more visible is a sign of a global conspiracy. (and believes he is persecuted because he thinks the fucking earth is flat.)
again, though, i super want to interrogate my own reactions to this movie as much as possible and make sure it is mostly these things that are frustrating me, and not like… the harmless parts of it. like. i have to be completely honest, there were times when i literally had to hit the pause button on netflix and ask, “are you fucking kidding me?” about what was happening on the screen.
and like, to be even more transparent, my two absolute favorite parts of the movie were kinda mean-spirited. in the first, after a flat earther has been talking a bunch about how there aren’t any transatlantic or transpacific flights in the southern hemisphere, one of the scientists (who i had a very small crush on throughout the movie tbh) is on her computer looking at… transatlantic and transpacific flights in the southern hemisphere. and just kind of pointing at them and going, “huh, where are you going buddy?” and “huh, where’d you come from?” in this really cutely condescending voice whilst blatantly trying very hard not to laugh and… yeah. (for the record, this scientist later joins pretty much everyone else in talking about not ostracizing flat earthers.)
my other favorite part is… whew, ok, this one is kinda meaner. so there’s this part where two flat earthers are going to a space museum, and they’re just making all kinds of scathing comments about how it’s fake and a conspiracy and all that usual stuff. and one of the things they decide to focus their ire on while they’re in the museum is that a video simulator of a spaceship “isn’t working.” one of them keeps hitting “start” on the screen over & over again, and it doesn’t work. this btw is apparently a sure sign that flat earthers are “winning.” anyway, once he gets up out of the seat, the camera very cheekily pans over so you can see that right next to his armrest the entire time has been a physical button that says “start.” and is flashing. to make it easier to see. (to be fair, the button is round, so maybe… sorry.)
and, yeah, when the last sequence of the film abruptly shifts gears to be about the impact of ostracization and features some testimonials of flat earthers talking about losing friends/family over it and has a bunch of scientists talking about how we need to engage with them etc and just… at this point my thoughts became a very jumbled, confusing mess that i am still kind of working on sorting out. and like. i want to be very, very careful to make sure i am not just letting myself be a jerk for the sake of being a jerk here. but like… on reflection, i do honestly have a few problems with how this was handled. and i want to be very specific about why.
when i was in college, i briefly joined my campus’s society of conservative students. and the hook that got me in was that several of my friends who were part of it said they were being bullied. they talked very persuasively about how everyone else on campus was supposedly so unfair and mean to them and just… persecution complexes can be really easy to identify with or sympathize with if you aren’t looking at them critically. and i think this segment of the documentary, and the way it represents a sharp departure from the tone of the rest of the documentary, comes dangerously close to vindicating the persecution complex that a lot of these flat earthers are clearly experiencing. ultimately, we need to make it clear to people that they can come back from this kind of thing, but just… we really do not need to be uncritically accepting these narratives that are driven by an unhealthy desire of mostly-white/mostly-male people to feel special and persecuted. especially when many of these same people are directing scathing hatred towards people who are actually oppressed.
i do think it’s true that we shouldn’t just point and laugh at flat earthers, and i do feel ashamed that that impulse is so easy to succumb to, and that i did succumb to it a whole bunch while i was watching this despite the fact that the person who recommended this film explicitly mentioned the themes about not ostracizing/shaming people when they recommended it to me. i do agree with the notion advanced in this part of the film that it’s a good invitation to be self-critical and cognizant of the ways in which we ourselves are being “flat earthers” about some other topic. that’s all good. i just… the juxtaposition of all of that with white people talking about their unjustified persecution complexes feels super irresponsible to me, and i just wish that aspect of it were approached a whole lot more critically.
the earth is fucking round, though. just, like. for the record.