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“Flat Earth” more popular than MRA, MGTOW and PUA combined, Google Trends suggests

Do we live in a giant terrarium?
Do we live in a giant terrarium?

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.

flat earth1

 

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.

flat2

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.”

flat3

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.

flatpoop

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.

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CriticalDragon1177
4 years ago

David Futrelle,

No surprise. Turns out the misnamed “Men’s Rights Movement” is an utter fail!

weirwoodtreehugger
4 years ago

Interesting. It looks like there was a spike in MRA searches around the Elliot Roger murder spree. At least that’s my guess.

Imaginary Petal
Imaginary Petal
4 years ago

When I read about Flat Earth theories years ago, I remember their explanation for what we call gravity was that the Earth, which is a flat disc, is travelling “upwards” with a constant acceleration. Or something? I’m no physicist.

Also this:

http://i.imgur.com/UFh5hFr.jpg

Imaginary Petal
Imaginary Petal
4 years ago

I’m just gonna make an OT comment here:

The Minecraft server I’ve been playing on, on and off, for a few years is doing a map reboot this week because of 1.9, and I’ll probably get back to playing on the server again. This is the server that PZ Myers has posted about on Pharyngula. Does anyone here happen to be a Sitosis player? Or would like to be? 🙂

VioletBeauregarde
VioletBeauregarde
4 years ago

Isn’t it hilarious when people who believe the Bible also hate Jews? They seem to miss one tiny little detail: Jesus was a Jew…so was his mom!

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
4 years ago

It’s a bit of a myth that flat earth was a common belief in ancient times. The Greeks not only knew the Earth was a sphere, they had a pretty good approximation of its size. The reason people were sceptical about Columbus wasn’t because they didn’t know the Earth was round, it’s that they thought he’d under-estimated the size. They were right too; good job for him the Americas were in the way.

The oldest property deeds we know of describe ownership of land being from the centre of the Earth all the way out to infinity.

Boring Alan Fact Warning:

The US deliberately allowed the Russians to orbit Sputnik first so as to establish a precedent that space flight didn’t violate usual rules about overflight of territory.

Robert
Robert
4 years ago

VioletBeauregarde – alas, some of them have come up with explanations for why Jesus *wasn’t* a Jew. Don’t forget, they overlap with the people who claim that the Nazis were leftists.

There’s an anti-Masonic Catholic writer who is also promoting Biblical geocentricity. Presumably he and his associates have realized that ‘geocentricity’ sounds less ridiculous than ‘the earth is flat’.

Judas Peckerwood
4 years ago

Everyone knows that it’s turtles all the way down.

bekabot
bekabot
4 years ago

But I am a little puzzled by poop’s declining popularity.

Mmmm…maybe people have caught on that it’s always going to be around and that we’re never going to have to deal with a shortage. Which means the law of supply and demand stands unchallenged, along with the law of, um, gravity.

When I read about Flat Earth theories years ago, I remember their explanation for what we call gravity was that the Earth, which is a flat disc, is travelling ‘upwards’ with a constant acceleration.

That’s a bow towards Einstein…apparently flat-earthers can do without Newton in a pinch but still need Einstein. Maybe they think that Einstein refuted Newton so they’re willing to give him (Einstein) the time of day. (Though if they think Einstein refuted Newton, they’d be wrong.)

Addition: upvote to Judas’s comment.

guest
guest
4 years ago

Last year I was fortunate enough to get hold of this book for review:

http://galileowaswrong.com/

It took some doing–there were apparently no copies at all in the UK; the copy I got came from a Catholic university in Indiana.

There is a lot of fascinating stuff going on here, but the biggest takeaway I got from it was that the author and people like him have no problem with ‘poetic’ language in the Bible; what makes them so desperate to ‘prove’ that everything we know about physics and astronomy is wrong is that Paul V in 1616, Urban VIII in 1633 and Alexander VII in 1664 made it absolutely clear that heliocentrism was wrong, and papal decrees are infallible.

And as Saint Paul says in 1 Corinthians, ‘But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised.’ If you let one thing slide, then what good is the rest?

Ohlmann
Ohlmann
4 years ago

That depend on what you call “refute”. Einstein did point that gravity did not work the way Newton though. But on the other hand, it’s mostly a refinement of its description.

Flat earthers have the advantage that the belief of Flat Earth isn’t directly harmful, even if David show how it can lead to actual toxic belief.

Now, how the fuck can the earth being a flat disk that travel upward, without it having a lot, and I mean a lot, of various problem ? And upward compared to what ? And what do they do when they take a plane ? Or even climb a high mountain ? I have lived in the alp, the horizon is something that can be seen !

EJ (The Other One)
EJ (The Other One)
4 years ago

@IP:

Re minecraft: Yes, I’d love that. Me please!

Re that picture: That’s hilarious. I adore it.

@Ohlmann:
As someone who’s done a lot of orbital mechanics equations, please allow me to assert that believing in a flat earth (and thus getting your orbit wrong) can be immediately harmful, both to you and to the people you land on.

kupo
kupo
4 years ago

No direct flights from Australia to South America? Wait, then what is Quantas trying to pull, here?!?

http://www.qantas.com/au/en/destinations/south-america.html

LOOK AT ALL THOSE LIES! I’m off to hypothesize what their end game is.

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
4 years ago

@ EJ

Orbital mechanics gas to be one of the biggest mindfucks going. How can throwing a hammer forwards make you go faster!

J^3 (@JoeKlemmer)
J^3 (@JoeKlemmer)
4 years ago

Being a particle/astrophysics nut, I am still psyched about the recent proof in the existence of Gravitational Waves. As the news was being reported it was fun to watch the flat earthers go bonkers trying to prove that the whole thing was a lie/propaganda. They had diagrams and everything. And it’s amazing to me that there are more believers in flat earth than ever before. Not just in numbers, but in overall percentage of the population.

There’s two things I got from this discovery; people can be morons, and Einstein was inhumanly brilliant.

2D-Man
2D-Man
4 years ago

There’s an anti-Masonic Catholic writer who is also promoting Biblical geocentricity. Presumably he and his associates have realized that ‘geocentricity’ sounds less ridiculous than ‘the earth is flat’.

Actually, those aren’t the same. Geocentrists believe that the Sun goes around the Earth. Flat-earthers believe that the Earth is flat. If it seems like I’m splitting hairs, well, think of MRAs vs. MGTOWs vs. PUAs vs. redpillers vs. ROK bugfuckers. This kind of thing tends to happen in movements that can’t supply evidence to suport their claims. See also: theology.

guy
guy
4 years ago

Flat earth and geocentrism are actually pretty distinct, despite both being wrong. In a geocentrist model the earth is a sphere at the center of the universe and everything orbits around it, as opposed to it being a flat disk.

EJ (The Other One)
EJ (The Other One)
4 years ago

@Alan:
Orbital mechanics is perfectly sensible. It merely requires you to accept that your intuition is wrong, because your intuition only works for the special case where we’re standing on the surface of a ball of rock. Once you teach your intuition to work for the general case of physics, it’s much easier.

This is probably true for most disciplines.

@J^3:
I know, right? It was the coolest thing ever. We’ve already picked up several other black holes’ waves. This looks like an amazing technique and it’s going to revolutionise astro in our generation.

If you had asked me last year what the best thing in our generation would be, I would have said this, or possibly the discoveries around Hubble’s Constant. This is new and exciting and will make those particle people stop mocking us makes me remember why I love astro so much.

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
4 years ago

@ EJ

It merely requires you to accept that your intuition is wrong

Yeah, but that would mean accepting I don’t know everything; and you know I have issues around that 🙂

(What was that other anti intuitive thing we were on about recently?)

Jamesworkshop
Jamesworkshop
4 years ago

The similarities between the “manosphere” and the flat earthers

Mano(sphere), however, does describe the shape of the earth more accurately.

I don’t see the point of flat earthing, it doesn’t provide any useful purpose, why would anyone need a vast army of fakers to stop people knowing what shape the earth was.

maybe in a few decades space tourism will be so cheap, you can just go to space and look at earth directly.

David
4 years ago

Seriously, I’m pretty worried about the direction that the world seems to be going. With the resurgence of homeopathy, anti-vaccination, flat-earth… these are all things that go against accepted science (and… you know, facts) for no reason – all of these people combined with MRAs and the like would seem to want to get us back to a time when men were banging rocks together and relationships were about clubbing a woman over the head and dragging her back to the cave by the hair. Because that’s somehow safer – it doesn’t challenge their beliefs.

Imaginary Petal
Imaginary Petal
4 years ago

@EJ

The server is officially closed to new applications right now, but it’s not because we have too many players. It’s just because we don’t have any proper griefing protection, so a stream of new unknown players could become a problem. Bringing in friends shouldn’t be a problem, so do you want me to send your Minecraft name to the mods for the whitelist? (If so, what’s your Minecraft name again? I forget.)

Here’s the map that’s about to be reset:

http://mc.sitosis.com/map/

I made that unfinished giant square in the ocean at -3000, -3600. It’s a Minecraft replica of the Sinnoh region from Pokémon Diamond/Pearl. I never had the patience to finish it. :/

I also made the incredibly long rail (8K blocks or so).

katz
4 years ago

The Galileo Was Wrong people seem to be geocentrists, not flat-earthers. Technically it should be Copernicus Was Wrong, of course, but hey, he doesn’t fit as neatly into a science-versus-religion narrative.

ETA: Everyone else is already on this. “Flat earth” is just kind of a straw catch-all term for reality-deniers and I’m not super fond of it.

katz
4 years ago

Orbital mechanics is perfectly sensible. It merely requires you to accept that your intuition is wrong, because your intuition only works for the special case where we’re standing on the surface of a ball of rock. Once you teach your intuition to work for the general case of physics, it’s much easier.

This is probably true for most disciplines.

You know, I actually think most disciplines work best if you assume we’re standing on the surface of a ball of rock, given that we usually are.

anon
anon
4 years ago

@David

Add in “racists are being persecuted by minority bullies” and “we have to vote for fascists to counterract the tolerant “pc” people.”

kupo
kupo
4 years ago

The Galileo Was Wrong people seem to be geocentrists, not flat-earthers. Technically it should be Copernicus Was Wrong

Well, if we want to get technical, it should be Aristarchus was wrong, as he was the earliest heliocentrist and Copernicus based his work off Aristarchus’ work. Copernicus is the one who brought popularity to the idea, however.

Brony, Social Justice Cenobite

@ David
Since you are thinking about revisiting the topic I would suggest thinking about “names of groups” vs. “names of explanations”. That might throw some problematic variables in there that complicate even a humorous comparison. To me they tend to be little more than “sexist” or “misogynist” with different expressions of those. The self-selected name and externally applied name might be significant too, as well as the fact that it’s an acronym name.

That comparison between “gamergate” and the others is more interesting. Perhaps “gamergater”? There has to be a name of a group that would better fit. I realize that I’m overthinking this but I like to overthink things like this.

I’m in the process of analyzing that awful video Dawkins posted on Twitter and I needed to read up on the current theories of humor to get a good explanation of how humor works and now my imagination is using the info.
*Why did the MGTOW cross the road? Because the chicken crossed to the other side to get away from the complaints about women and feminists.
*Why did the MRA cross the road? Because the chickens getting petitions signed to have a crosswalk installed were making them look bad.
*Why did the PUA cross the road? Because…
(I’m still working on this one, something about predatory behavior, gas-lighting or weakening confidence)

anon
anon
4 years ago

Why did the PUA cross the ro

I’m sorry sir, but you have to add “allegedly.” All of these accusations against my client are completely unfounded even though he brags about what he totally didn’t do in his books and in speaking engagements.

Imaginary Petal
Imaginary Petal
4 years ago

PUA crossed the road = negging the sidewalk?

weirwoodtreehugger
4 years ago

Q. Why did the PUA cross the road?

A. It was satire!

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
4 years ago

@ brony

Re: gaslighting

Why did the chicken cross the road? It didn’t; you’re just imagining that it did.

Buttercup Q. Skullpants
Buttercup Q. Skullpants
4 years ago

“Assume a perfectly spherical flat earth…”

The rise in conspiracy beliefs/cultish thinking (and I would definitely lump MRA/RedPill/MGTOW in there) perfectly parallels the rise in distrust of authority figures and institutions over the last few decades. People have gotten really cynical about government, corporations, democracy, Wall Street, the media, the military, academia, etc. Instead of acknowledging that these institutions need reform, there’s this sense that everything is rotten, money corrupts, and the only trustworthy people are outsiders with no axe to grind. They turn to YouTube randos and InfoWars rather than traditional, more credible sources for explanations of how the world “really” works. Hucksters like Roosh, Paul Elam, and Rush Limbaugh amass sizeable followings by channeling the anger of people who truly have been screwed over by global capitalism, and redirecting it safely downward rather than at its true target.

It’s ironic, and sort of infuriating, that the Dunning is getting ever more Kreuger in an age where people literally carry around the sum total of human knowledge in their pockets.

Buttercup Q. Skullpants
Buttercup Q. Skullpants
4 years ago

False road-crossing allegations are much more frequent than actual road crossings.

Imaginary Petal
Imaginary Petal
4 years ago

Why did the PUA cross the road? To impress a lady by ramming into people on the sidewalk, of course.

https://wehuntedthemammoth.com/2015/10/13/impress-the-ladies-by-ramming-into-people-on-the-sidewalk-red-pill-writer-suggests/

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
4 years ago

I’d like there to be a new political scandal about the Watergate hotel itself, just to see what they called it.

EJ (The Other One)
EJ (The Other One)
4 years ago

Q: Why did the MRA cross the road?
A: FEMINISTS CROSS ROADS TOO YOU KNOW! STOP PICKING ON US! YOU’RE BIAS!

Q: Why did the PUA cross the road?
A: He wouldn’t cross the road to speak to you. You’re barely a 7.

Q: Why did the MTGOW cross the road?
A: Because his ex-wife couldn’t see him going his own way on the far side.

Q: Why did the #Gamergater cross the road?
A: Gamergaters don’t cross roads. That’s slander. You probably crossed the road yourself. Anyway, I already reported that road-crossing.

Q: Why did the Honey Badger cross the road?
A: She’s not really a Honey Badger. She’s pathetic. You should give your money to me instead.

History Nerd
History Nerd
4 years ago

The Catholic Church and the Protestant churches never taught that the Earth is flat. People like Thomas Aquinas read Ancient Greek philosophers and understood the geometric arguments for a spherical Earth. A tiny minority of Protestant theologians argued that the Bible describes a flat Earth covered by a dome, but they were pretty much ignored since most theologians were aware of Ancient Greek philosophy and didn’t want to go there.

Uneducated people probably mostly thought the Earth was flat before the 1800’s. The modern Flat Earth theory became popular in the UK among a small proportion of evangelicals in the late nineteenth century, but the movement almost completely collapsed after airplanes became a thing. Then Flat Earth societies became popular among a few highly eccentric evangelicals who were also interested in “alternative science” stuff and their focus was less religious. Charles K. Johnson brought back the religious focus.

In the current YouTube iteration it seems to be mostly crackpot conspiracy theorists and occultists with a minority of Christians and Muslims. I’d suppose there are still a few isolated and uneducated religious people who always accepted Flat Earthism.

EJ (The Other One)
EJ (The Other One)
4 years ago

@IP:
My minecraft name is my real name, because I have no imagination. If you can’t remember my real name, send me a Steam message and I’ll contact you. You do have my steam ID if I recall?

Brony, Social Justice Cenobite

@everyone
XD

katz
4 years ago

I’d like there to be a new political scandal about the Watergate hotel itself, just to see what they called it.

Watergategate, obviously.

Makroth
Makroth
4 years ago

Only on the internet can these bullshit theories become popular.

Imaginary Petal
Imaginary Petal
4 years ago

@EJ

Sure, I’ll message you on Steam then. I know your last name but I’m not sure what exactly the MC handle would be. I’ll message you in the morning.

Imaginary Petal
Imaginary Petal
4 years ago

If Watergategate turns out to be a false flag, is it Watergategategate?

EJ (The Other One)
EJ (The Other One)
4 years ago

I’ll be at work tomorrow morning, but I’ll get the message tomorrow night. Thanks; I really enjoyed minecraft on Kirby’s server and would like to play some more socially.

Paradoxical Intention - Resident Cheeseburger Slut

@Buttercup: It’s mostly just cherry-picking, I imagine. People can go to the world’s repository for knowledge and start with a biased conclusion and work backwards from there.

Like in one episode of If Google was a Guy, there’s a woman who goes in and ‘searches for’ “vaccines cause autism”.

ColeYote
ColeYote
4 years ago

flat earthers insist that there are no direct flights from Australia to South America.

Well, that took all of five seconds to debunk. Went to the Sydney airport website, looked at international arrivals, one of the first things was a flight from Santiago, Chile. (via Auckland, but it still debunks this)

When I read about Flat Earth theories years ago, I remember their explanation for what we call gravity was that the Earth, which is a flat disc, is travelling “upwards” with a constant acceleration.

Not sure why they even bother with that sort of a half-assed explanation, believing the Earth is flat kinda requires you believe everything we know about physics is wrong anyway.

epitome of incomprehensibility

“The flat earth society has members all around the globe” – I love this.

But how do they suppose the sun and moon work? Okay, they might think the moon is a shiny disk with a black disk in front of it that slides back and forth. Still, the sun? And how would they explain the sun being at different places in different parts of the world?

My brain hurts. Where are all the nonsensical but simple beliefs? …Oh, that’s right, the assorted anti-feminists have got ’em.

(Also I’m laughing at the chicken-crossing-the-road jokes here. I can’t add anything, but I’m laughing.)

Jamesworkshop
Jamesworkshop
4 years ago

GAmergater

Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Literally.
Literally who?

Buttercup Q. Skullpants
Buttercup Q. Skullpants
4 years ago

@Paradoxical – Yeah, I think consumer-driven content feeds into it in a major way. In the US, back when the evening news was Walter Cronkite and the three major networks, there was something of a national consensus on what was going on. It was highly problematic, of course, because of all the voices that got excluded, but at least people accepted a common set of facts as a starting point. Now we can’t even agree on the facts. How can you even debate people who believe in a flat earth, or that feminists secretly want to be raped? Nothing about conspiracy thinking is falsifiable, so any bullshit goes.

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