So yesterday I fell into an internet hole watching “flat earth” videos on YouTube.
In case you haven’t heard, the ancient idea that the world we live on is flat, stationary, and perhaps the center of the universe has been having a bizarre revival lately.
The topic jumped off the internet and into the mainstream media last month when rapper/producer B.O.B. started Tweeting about his newfound faith in flatness, ultimately getting into a sort of rap battle with everyone’s favorite astrophysicist Neal deGrasse Tyson.
It turns out it’s not only B.O.B. who has decided that the globe is a lie. Over the past year, a sort of flat-earth counterculture has blown up online. On Youtube, a small battalion of flat earth “truthers” spread the new gospel to hundreds of thousands of fans in videos that range from the charmingly amateurish to the surprisingly slick.
The new flat earthers don’t just reject the idea of the earth as a spinning ball; they reject the concept of gravity itself (suggesting that things fall to earth simply because they’re denser than air, which, what?), not to mention evolution and pretty much most of modern science.
Many of them see the Bible as a better source of information about the earth than science, and rail against what they see as a vast conspiracy to keep the supposed truth about the flat earth from the public. Naturally, it’s all the fault of the freemasons and the Jews. (It’s telling that B.O.B. is not only a flat earther but also, apparently, a Holocaust denier who referenced the discredited historian David Irving in a dis track aimed at Tyson.)
One of the reasons I’ve been so obsessed with MRAs and other misogynists over the past five years or so is that I think they offer an instructive case study in the cultural and intellectual history of bad ideas, and the subcultures that nurture them. Obviously the flat earthers do as well.
The similarities between the “manosphere” and the flat earthers are considerable, and not just because both groups have found their ideal audiences on Youtube; like their MRA and MGTOW counterparts, popular flat earth Youtubers have tens of thousands of subscribers, and their most popular videos get hundreds of thousands of views.
Members of both subcultures not only have their own interpretations of the world but an array of shared “facts” as well, which they cling to with the misguided arrogance of the fanatical autodidacts they are: MRAs insist that domestic violence “isn’t gendered”; flat earthers insist that there are no direct flights from Australia to South America. (No, really.)
I may return to this topic in more detail later but I thought you’d find the following charts from Google Trends to be of some interest, since they show that the public’s newfound interest in flat earthery has evidently eclipsed its interest in Men’s Rights, MGTOW, and pickup artistry combined.
Not only is “flat earth” way more interesting to people than all that manosphere stuff but interest in Men’s Rights, pickup artistry, and MGTOW has been declining. Have they all peaked?
This isn’t a perfect representation of interest in these topics. People searching for “pua” might actually be interested in retired soccer star Víctor Púa; people searching for MRA might be interested in Magnetic Resonance Angiography. Alternately, people interested in any of these topics may have used different terms — though when I searched for ‘men’s rights” there were almost no searches for that term.
Hey, let’s add feminism to the mix.
D’oh! “Flat Earth” beats feminism, too! But, hey, at least feminism is still doing better than “men’s rights,” and it’s been on an upswing.
Let’s swap out feminism for “gamergate.”
No surprise it’s been on the decline, but I would have expected a lot more interest at its peak.
Now let’s put all this in perspective.
POOP BEATS EVERYTHING!
But I am a little puzzled by poop’s declining poopularity.
I’m going to keep watching the flat earthers, and will report any interesting findings. If I find an explanation for the poop conundrum I will share that as well.