The flat Earth Conspiracy is spreading around the world. Does it hide a darker core?
But Weiss is a flat earth. Since trying to find evidence of curvature four years ago, he has an obvious passion for believing that our planet is both flat and stationary – and has turned his world upside down.
"I'm totally nuts." Weiss tells CNN in a telephone interview. "It literally whips out the rug under you."
Now Weiss finds it hard to get in touch with the majority of people – even though "unfortunately" he still has friends who believe in a round earth. "I have no problem with someone who wants to believe we live off a ball. It's up to you," he says. "It's just nothing I resonate with."
Weiss's preferred community are those who share his life-changing beliefs.
And this community is huge.
This week, the businessman attended the third annual Flat Earth International Conference, which took place at an Embassy Suites hotel in a suburb of Dallas, Texas. The organizers told CNN that there were about 600 more conferences.
Previous conferences have been held in Raleigh and Denver, while conventions have also been held on flat earth in Brazil, Britain, and Italy in recent years.
The schedule of the event was similar to any corporate conference with some rather noticeable twists. The speakers gave presentations, including "Space is Fake" and "Testing the Moon: A Globe Lie Perspective." Awards for Best Flat Earth Videos of the Year were awarded. And the faithful had the opportunity to meet some of the most influential minds of the movement.
"We all communicated online, but this brings us together so we can shake hands and hug each other," says Weiss. "We can work together, we can make new friends, because guess what, our old friends … we lost a lot of friends."
On a clear day, you can see the curvature of the earth from an aircraft window. But remarkably, the hundreds of shallow earthlings in the Dallas congregation were only a small part of the movement.
Humans in every pocket of this spherical planet reject science and spread the word that the earth is flat.
There is no clear-cut study that shows how many people were convinced of it – and flat earths like Weiss will tell you without proof that there are millions left in the closet anyway, including Hollywood A listeners and commercial pilots Airlines Hundreds of thousands of followers and YouTube are flooded by creators of flat content whose productions reach millions.
A YouGov survey among more than 8,000 American adults suggested last year that so many Every sixth American is not sure if the world is around. According to a 2019 Datafolha Institute survey of more than 2,000 Brazilian adults, according to local media, 7% of people reject this concept.
The Flat Earth Community has its own celebrities, music, merchandise – and a weighty catalog of pseudoscientific theories. It was the subject of a Netflix documentary and was advocated, among others, by the rapper B.o.B.
According to organizers, more flat-earth events fill the calendar every year.
"I've never seen anything grow that fast," says Robbie Davidson, founder of the Dallas Conference. "I would say the numbers will be amazing in 10 years … next year there will be a conference in every major country in the world."
But experts are wondering if the movement is really harmless – and if we are even approaching the edge of its influence.
Falling from the Edge
When Davidson first heard that people really believe in a flat earth "I just laughed and said they must be the stupidest people that ever existed. " Who could believe something so stupid with reason? "
A few years later, Davidson hosted the first international Flat-Earth conference, and like most speakers at the event, to which CNN spoke, he was convinced that he had decided not to prove the roundness of the earth.
For Davidson, a born-again Christian, the most logical explanation for the conspiracy of the millennium is this: "Let's just say, there's an adversary, there's a devil, there's a satan. His whole job would be to convince the world that God does not exist. He has done an incredible job of convincing people of this idea that we are only in a random spot in an infinite universe.
But "as soon as you fall into the flat earth, the others (conspiracy theories) are plunged into another plane," says Mark Sargent, a filmmaker and unwavering connoisseur of the movement, who was featured in the Netflix 2018 documentation "Behind" the Curve. "
" Everyone here has their Top 20 conspiracies – and you could go door to door And these Top 20 would differ from person to person. But number one is always the flat earth, "he tells CNN.
It helps that the group has a common goal." Most of our anger is directed at NASA. That's our bread and butter, "says Sargent of the flat earthers agency, which is ultimately behind the plot.
But why and how could people believe a conspiracy theory outside of this universe?
" People essentially, "me Just try to understand the world, "says Daniel Jolley, associate professor of psychology of conspiracy theories at British Northumbria University. "
" You may have mistrust of powerful people or groups that could be the government or NASA, and if you are looking for evidence that makes sense to them … this belief is advocated, "he says difficult to break out of this way of thinking. "
Scientists have also found that a social motive attracts people to conspiracy theories – the desire to" maintain a positive view of themselves and the groups we belong to, "as social psychologist Karen Douglas from the University of Kent says.
And few groups have such a strong community as flat earthlings.
"This (conference) is an outlet for a lot of people who could otherwise be marginalized by friends, relatives, and employees, and when they come here, they know it's an absolutely safe room," Sargent says of the weeklies Event .
But perhaps the most important driver is a basic need for power and control. "People want to feel safe and secure in the world," says Douglas. And power comes from knowledge – no matter how questionable it may be.
"If you find out that the earth is flat … then you are empowered," says Weiss.
This feeling helps the believers to understand the world better as they see it. "They feel they have a better grip on life and the universe, so it's easier to handle," adds Sargent.
& # 39; It will not hurt anyone & # 39;
Sargent may well be considered the godfather of the modern flat earth movement. "If you fall flat, there's a big chance you'll read my stuff first," he tells CNN.
But he had help – it was the emergence of YouTube, which gave him a platform to spread his own views, without which the movement "would not exist".
"Flat Earth was a binge watch on YouTube," he adds, supported by algorithms and personalized recommendations that made exploring the flat earth an endless rabbit hole.
At the beginning of the year, YouTube began to bury these videos and reduce the recommendations of "borderline content," but of video makers, as with Sargent, it does not make much of a difference. "Anything in social media will always be helpful when it gets viral, right?" Davidson adds. "Well, the flat earth has become viral."
CNN has asked YouTube for a comment.
The supposedly rapid growth of a movement that so enthusiastically rejects fundamental scientific beliefs, however, is disturbing.
"It seems that people increasingly do not trust scientists and experts or their motives," says Douglas. "There is more to do in this area, and I am sure that belief in conspiracy theories has some positive consequences, but early signs indicate they are doing more harm than good."
"I do not say that often, but look, there is a downside," admits Sargent, pondering the movement he has promoted. "Flat Earth has a side effect … as soon as you get involved, you automatically return to your old skepticism."
"I do not think they're just connected," says Sargent about Flat Earther and populists. "They nourish each other … it's a slippery slope, when you think the government hid these things, and you suddenly become one of the people who say," Can you trust the mass media? "
For Davidson, the next phase is to discuss leading members of the scientific community, but" they just laugh at us and say you are stupid. "
But he is not deterred. "It touches everyone … it will not go away and it will not slow down," says Davidson about the move. "This thing is out of the can."