Lost in space
Weekend subscriber roundup and ... going off the edge with #FlatEarthTok
Happy Friday, raqueteros. There have been a lot of things making plays for our attention this week. I’m going to list a few reading recommendations in the second section below. But first — here’s something completely different.
Last week, after a day spent absorbing the horror of yet another mass shooting, I took a break and turned to everyone’s favorite Chinese dance app. For some reason, the TikTok algorithm keeps feeding me videos about the Flat Earth conspiracy theory. More precisely, it keeps presenting me with a steady stream of live debates, in which people who understand basic planetary science invite Flat Earthers to argue with them.
This is all indescribably entertaining. At least one of these debates seems to be happening somewhere 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Indeed, mere hours after the shooting, one was in full swing, as if in an alternate universe where there is no war, mass shootings, or politics, but only one question: Is the Earth round or flat?
The debate room I ran into on the night of the shooting was the one the app feeds most often. It’s hosted by a blonde, bespectacled Danish woman named Maria. She acts as a mostly silent moderator, her face is projected in front of a Notes app screenshot that reads, simply: “The earth is round. Prove me wrong.”
Maria seemingly always makes sure to have at least one Flat Earther and one scientist in her panels at all times. The Flat Earther is invariably named something like “SeekTheTruth_316.” The scientists — mainly engineers and astrophysicists, as far as I can tell — tend to have the word “globe” in their handles. (The one who shows up most often, and I am dead serious about this, calls himself Globey McGlobeface.)
And these sessions are interminable. Sometimes I’ll look in at midday, listening to insane arguments about the size of the sun or how far you can really see over the ocean. Then I’ll check back in, eight or ten hours later, at a time that’s nearly 6 a.m. in Denmark, and there, still, is Maria, trying with modest success to keep the conversation from going off the rails.
Who the hell in 2022 honestly believes the Earth is flat you may be asking right now. And that is obviously the hook that sometimes gets thousands of people watching these things every day. It is also a very good question.
From having listened to these debates, I can propose a couple of answers. Some are Christian
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to The Racket to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.