Alternative Reality

Next time you feel too sane, check out flatearth101.com. (Don’t worry, I’m going somewhere productive with this.)

This particular splinter of the Flat Earth “movement” has helpfully provided, among other things, a list of 200 “proofs” that the earth is flat, a lurid explanation of the motives underpinning the grand round-earth conspiracy, and at the end of it all, a link to an entire site devoted to their line of “Truth Smacks” trail mix.

It is… a lot.

The Flat Earth worldview is grounded in two assumptions. First, gravity is a deceitful invention of a class of shadowy elites. This assumption conveniently expunges the pesky obstacle of modern science; explaining the ‘how’ of the grand conspiracy. The second assumption provides the ‘why.’ Apparently, these shadowy elites, driven entirely by their lust for power, are intrinsically interested in controlling us.

I will proceed with the tacit assumption that most of us view the Flat Earth movement as ridiculous in the truest sense of the word: worthy of ridicule. Unfortunately, the present state of America’s partisan divide suggests that the essential underpinnings of conspiratorial thinking are far more common than we realize.

Ideally, political discourse would involve voters choosing smart representatives to debate which policies best serve the people based on a shared reality.

While I could argue that this ideal vision fails on multiple fronts (e.g., corporate influence, gerrymandering, voter suppression, etc.), I’m particularly interested in the last three words: a shared reality.

Before I proceed, I’d like to clarify that this piece is not intended to be a blanket takedown of Conservatism. My Liberal leanings aside, I believe in a Conservatism rooted in reality; I think that a reasonable Liberal and a reasonable Conservative can debate productively over what the minimum wage should be, how to regulate firearms, where to set tax rates, etc. I personally think that Conservative economic arguments are uncompelling and often insincere (re. corporate influence), and I’d even go so far as to say that certain Conservative social philosophies repel me, but I know that a rational person could subscribe to them based on objective reality.

That being said, it seems clear to me that the prevailing organizational front of American Conservatism has gone off the rails and down a rabbit hole of their own invention. The Republican party has created their own reality; a 4th dimension where Donald Trump is a humble and honest servant of God sent to save America from a power-hungry, perhaps even pedophilic class of Liberal Elites. This alternative reality features a stolen election, a Satanic child sex ring of prominent Democrats, an exaggerated pandemic, a potentially deadly/mind-controlling vaccine, a long list of Clinton murder victims, a “deep state,” fake climate science, and yes, even Jewish Space Lasers.

To be clear, not all Republicans subscribe to these conspiracy theories, and belief in the examples above is not uniform. That said, most of them boast followings that represent considerable chunks of the party’s rank-and-file. 66% of Republicans believe that the 2020 election was “stolen.” 56% endorse the Q-Anon pedophile conspiracy theory. A staggering 78% do not believe in anthropogenic climate change.

Beyond being absurd, these beliefs are quite literally incompatible with productive governance. All of these ludicrous conspiracies share a self-sealing centerpiece; an evil group of elites bent on destroying America, God, and Trump to satisfy their lust for power and evil. It is essentially impossible to reason your way out of an argument where you’re immediately pinned as a part of the conspiracy that you seek to disprove. It’s an unwinnable game with infinitely-high stakes.

I know that there are people who genuinely believe that the earth is flat; I’m sure that many of them would deny the existence of a globe with their dying breath, but the intensity or sincerity of a belief has no bearing on its veracity. If you are a Republican who believes in any of the conspiracy theories above, please get off the ride while you can. The six hundred and ninety-five federally-charged Capitol rioters could have gotten off the ride before it made them felons. Countless anti-vaxxers would have lived if they got off the ride in time to get a shot. An unknowable number of Americans and their descendants will suffer the devastating effects of climate change because too many of us failed to get off the ride.

While it’s unlikely that you’ll ever see this essay, if you are an elected official or media personality who has promoted these conspiracies, please consider the stakes of the game that you’re playing. I know that you probably don’t believe any of it; I understand that these conspiracies represent a uniquely effective way to win votes and views, but you’re essentially scuttling our ship and burning the lifeboats. We’re rapidly losing our ability to function as a cohesive society, and your electoral fortunes and/or ability to get a picture with/endorsement from a certain former President aren’t worth it.

Let the 4th Dimension go. Come back to the real, round world.

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A proponent of the objective, the empathic, the interesting, the sustainable, and above all, bicycles.

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Joe Draper

Joe Draper

A proponent of the objective, the empathic, the interesting, the sustainable, and above all, bicycles.

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