For days now, I’ve been pondering whether or not to post a link to this story, but after a talk with my closest friends about how much we despise anti-vaxxers – they just had their first baby – I feel like the story in question highlights a very uncomfortable truth we have to face.
If we can agree on anything anymore, it’s that we live in a post-truth era. Facts are no longer correct or incorrect; everything is potentially true unless it’s disagreeable, in which case it’s fake. Recently, Lesley Stahl, of “60 Minutes”, revealed that, in an interview after the 2016 election, Donald Trump told her that the reason he maligns the press is “to discredit you all and demean you all so that when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you”. Or, as George Costanza put it, coming from the opposite direction, “It’s not a lie if you believe it“.
This is an article by Alan Burdick, who decided to investigate the “flat earth movement” by going to a flat earth conference and speaking with the attendees and speakers. It’s a revealing piece that makes it clear flat earth crackpots are deeply intertwined with virtually every other crazy conspiracy theory, with the “flat earth theory” serving as an umbrella to all other conspiracy theories. Add in large doses of antisemitism, creationism, and Christian extremism, and you’ve got the general feel of the flat earth movement.
The uncomfortable truth we have to face is not that the earth is flat – don’t worry – but that insanity like this used to remain confined, isolated, and harmless. Thanks to the internet, however, this insanity is free to spread and infect others, causing real harm to real people. Whether it’s believing that the government is spreading dangerous chemicals through the air in form of “chem trails” or abusing, harming, and even murdering your and other people’s children by not vaccinating them – it’s the internet that allows this dangerous insanity to spread and cause real harm.
The internet is one of the greatest inventions of mankind, but it’s also having dark, unsettling effects on our society that we need to address. I don’t have any solutions, but we better start doing a better job of arming ourselves against the constant barrage of attacks on science, or we risk our society descending into chaos.
hasn’t truth always been relative? we all thought earth was flat, then we all thought the universe revolved around earth, then came Newtonian physics, then health benefits of margarine… on and on… each of those theories had been disproved but for some reason we think our current knowledge base is ironclad and the “real” truth.
im not defending the flatearthers just pointing out our own blindspots…
the internet makes it easier for like minded people to find and support one another, regardless of the relative merits of their views. it is comforting to the ego to find agreement among “peers” and lock oneself in a echo chamber. the courage to doubt one’s existing views and actively explore uncomfortable views is the truly rare quality in humans.