We have to talk about conspiracy theories

Earth is a 4.5 billion-year-old terrestrial planet that revolves around the Sun, which is at the center of the Solar System. In an ideal world, we would stop explaining right there, because the facts are that obvious. No surprise, this is not the case; we are living in strange times, when the numbers of self-nominated scientists are rising. These guys, deliberately or not, with all their absurd, unproven claims, are doing nothing but creating chaos.

It starts with a thought. At first glance, it seems like an innocent idea just pops up out of nowhere. Sooner or later, it turns out to be a sly one which sticks in the brain and slowly but surely grows. These beliefs could stick so deep that people just stop doubting them. On the contrary, they start to look for evidence which proves their points – this is the so-called Confirmation Bias.

The ultimate problem is that people collect and remember information selectively, but they still draw conclusions. It does not matter if these claims, statements, or allegations are true or not; people only need to confirm their preexisting beliefs and hypotheses for their own comfort. Here is where the famous Dunning-Kruger effect comes in: people of low ability have illusory superiority and mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is.

In this modern age, where a single Tweet could start and stop a war, billions and billions of people are able to make contact with each other and spread the most ridiculous views in Facebook groups or on YouTube.

YouTube has enough space so anyone can make revealing videos about a secret group who rules the world, or about a soon-to-be 89-year-old man who wants to fill Europe and the United States with illegal immigrants, or about NASA, the CIA, the FBI — you name it — who are all lying to the people about the moon landing, aliens and 9/11, just to mention the popular ones.

The easiest targets who tend to buy into conspiracy theories are those who no longer believe in state or government-run authorities. A lot of people claim that they have “woken up” while the majority of the population is being brainwashed by the establishment-ruled media.

It is rather hard to imagine, but in all other ways these people are just like anyone else. Netflix’s new documentary, Behind the Curve, gives an exclusive insight into their unique world.

In their own micro-society, everyone knows the names of Mark K. Sargent, Patricia Steere, or the best of the best, Darryl Marble. (Darryl claims that Sargent and Steere are CIA agents, though.) The business is booming, millions of people around the world are following them – I kid you not, in addition to videos and merchandise, there is also even a dating app for believers.

Behind the Curve follows Sargent, a 40-something guy from Washington State who is still living with his mother. Sargent is a celebrity among the Flat Earthers and his YouTube channel has more than 76,000 subscribers. He is an old-fashioned, talkative guy who truly believes in the cause; that’s why it is hard to choose between simply laughing at him and feeling sorry for him.

Sargent clearly does not know what he is doing. He makes some ludicrous claims in the documentary which a couple of real scientists refute in seconds.

My personal favorite is the one when Sargent said he had checked before but no airplanes were flying above the Indian Ocean because, you know, the earth is flat. In the very next scene, a scientist finds at least ten of them on the flight radar.

The documentary does a great job balancing between humorous and serious issues, stories and messages. Behind the Curve does not judge anybody on their views, but by the end of the film, it is crystal clear which side holds the truth.

A couple of tests are conducted in the film to prove the Earth is not even revolving, but they all fail spectacularly. None of the Flat Earthers quit; on the contrary, they offer some pathetic excuses.

“Interesting. Interesting there. That’s interesting,” says one of them in shock, who accidentally sums up the movie’s main message while failing to deliver two tests in front of the cameras.

The thing is, because being a Flat Earther is not a crime and not a disease, most people will continuously turn their heads away. Ask yourself: could you rely on somebody who thinks the Earth is flat? Would you let that individual teach your children? Although belief in such a thing does not cause any trouble, trying to convert people, especially the young ones, might.

Behind the Curve shows how much the majority of Flat Earthers sacrifice – including friends and family — for something they have never had and probably will never have in their lives: acknowledgement.

Cover photo by Netflix

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