There is disturbing proof that Luddites are real and a growing problem that is being driven by technology. The Denver Post uncovered a growing Flat Earth movement with several dozen members in Colorado.
This is not your father’s Flat Earth Society; which consisted of a couple of cranks meeting in somebody’s rec room. Instead around three dozen people meet every Tuesday in the backroom of a coffee shop in Fort Collins; one of America’s most sophisticated cities, The Post’s Graham Ambrose reported.
Fort Collins is home to Colorado State University (CSU); and numerous scientists. yet the Flat Earthers totally reject modern science. They even think gravity itself is a hoax and there is no globe, Ambrose wrote.
Taking Science Back to the Middle Ages
The Flat Earthers reject all of modern science; including Newton and Einstein, and want to go back to the Ptolemaic system of Science of the Middle Ages. Ptolemy was a Greek-Egypt philosopher who lived around 150 AD and taught that the Earth was the center of the universe.
Note: the Flat Earthers also reject at least part of Ptolemy’s system – because he at least accepted the fact that the Earth is round. So they’re actually trying to drag science back to the time of the Pharaohs or earlier.
The embrace of this drivel should scare thinking people; because rejection of the Ptolemaic system was why the Roman Catholic Church prosecuted Galileo in the 17th Century. The Pope was scared because Galileo dared suggest that the Earth was not the center of the Universe.
Is YouTube Responsible for Flat Earth’s Revival?
Even though most people will laugh at the Flat Earthers; we should be scared of their popularity, because it can form the basis of a popular Luddite movement. The Flat Earthers are meeting openly, promoting their views and even planning to erect a billboard touting them on Interstate 25; one of America’s busiest freeways, in Northern Colorado.
The Flat Earth nonsense is more popular than many believe. The organizer of the Fort Collins meet up Mark Sargent, claims that his YouTube Channel has received 7.7 million video views, and has 40,000 regular subscribers.
Sargent is also a highly sophisticated guy he worked as a software analyst for 20 years before converting to the Flat Earth gospel. A rival Flat Earth video maker Bob Knodel claims to have attracted two million views to his Globebusters YouTube channel. Among other things Globebusters claims are that NASA is lying and outer space itself is a hoax.
The danger from Luddites; like Sargent and Knodel, is that they can reach tens of thousands of people online. Thirty or 40 years ago a Flat Earther might have reached a few dozen people with a photocopied newsletter. Today he or she can reach an audience of millions all over the world.
To make matters worse the videos are slick and often as convincing as anything on commercial television. 40 years ago the Flat Earth Society newsletter looked like something a 10-year old kid ran off on the school mimeograph machine. Today, its’ propaganda looks as good as typical network TV show did back in the 1960s.
Such sophistication and slickness adds credibility and legitimacy to Flat Earthism because its’ propaganda looks mainstream. It should also worry us because there is a real danger here. It is far harder to dismiss these cranks; because they do not look like cranks, and their message doesn’t look like something a traditional crackpot would create.
Is Flat Earth the Gateway to Racism or Marxism?
The obvious danger from Flat Earth is that it will serve as a gateway to other more dangerous forms of pseudoscience for example racism, Marxism and antisemitism.
If Neo Nazis or White Supremacists held a meeting in Fort Collins, there would be protests, TV cameras; and a dozen undercover cops taking down the names of everybody in attendance. Call it a Flat Earth meeting; and nobody pays attention, but a few curious people come out.
Worse, Flat Earth can serve as a gateway belief to worse ideas; just as marijuana or alcohol can serve as a gateway drug to heroin. Once the person is hooked on Flat Earth he or she can be quietly led into other beliefs; such as evidence for the inferiority of nonwhites, the World Jewish Conspiracy or the economic theories of Karl Marx.
This may not be what people like Knodel and Sargent want, but sooner or later Neo Nazis, racists, radical fundamentalist Christians, Marxists and perhaps ISIS will notice their movement and take advantage of it.
Why Flat Earth, Why Now?
Many will wonder why Flat Earth is suddenly so popular right now. The most likely answer is that many people are very uncomfortable with the contemporary world.
Ambrose noted that most of the people at the Fort Collins Flat Earth meet were male and white and largely middle aged. That sounds disturbingly like media descriptions of Trump supporters; another group uncomfortable with contemporary society.
Knodel; who worked as an engineer for 35 years, and Sargent seem to the paradigm of the new Flat Earther or the new Luddite. This would be an aging technocrat who devoted his; or her life to technological progress, but is now very uncomfortable with its’ outcome.
People who worked for decades to create a world where white men would be dominant; as in 1950s or 60s science fiction, and instead found themselves a minority in a multicultural world. Instead of utopia they find themselves in a world they do not understand and confused by those around them.
Other factors like rising income inequality, growing poverty and technological unemployment drive the movement as well. As with many other radical movements; the real motivation behind Flat Earth is partially economic. Some of its adherents are undoubtedly those who have lost jobs or cannot find jobs because of technology.
The Dangers from Flat Earth
There are some serious dangers from Flat Earth the most likely is that it will form the basis of an anti-technology movement. Those who reject science will next reject tech and perhaps try to suppress it.
One obvious outcome might be a wave of machine smashing or violent attacks on tech companies. Another will be efforts to create low tech utopias where people where try to live out Little House on the Prairie fantasies.
An even greater threat is to free speech, tech companies and governments might try to start censoring media like YouTube in order to block messages like Flat Earth. All it would take is one bomb at one big data center; to convince the Silicon Valley big wigs that they need something like the Great Firewall of China to control those ignorant yahoos.
The Flat Earthers might be funny now but I have a feeling we will not be laughing at them for long. Even though they are a minority, such sophisticated cranks can wreak a lot of havoc if they set their minds too.
Here’s a little food for thought, Ambrose estimates that around one in 500 Americans might share the Flat Earth beliefs. That’s about the same percentage of Russians who believed in Communism in 1917; or Germans that believed in Nazism in 1932. And remember just like Flat Earth the Nazis and Communists were dismissed as cranks until they took over.
So yes America the Luddites are real and they are a potential threat to progress and our future. All Flat Earth will need to go mainstream is a dose of religion (just a few Bible verses) and a glamorous and media-savvy spokesperson such as Jenny McCarthy.