Behind the Curve (2018)
April 8, 2019 9:51 PM - Subscribe

“Behind the Curve” is a surprising and empathetic documentary that explores the psychology of the people who believe that the earth is flat.
posted by chrchr (5 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I really enjoyed this documentary for the glimpse it gave into the lives of the Flat Earthers. I wouldn't call it empathetic, though - rather than have someone come on and yell at the Flat Earthers it sort of let them bury themselves by revealing hypocrisies and just how much a few of their incomes really, really need them to keep 'believing' this stuff.

If you'd like similarly skeptical but not outright derogatory Flat Earth content, check out the series Oh No! Ross and Carrie did on their podcast. A lot of it was recorded around the same time the documentary was being made, so some of the same names and people show up.

Parts 1 2 3 4 (3 and 4 cover the conference you see in the doc) 5 (Mark Sargent interview) 6 (Salton Sea Test #1) 7 (Jeran Campanella interview) 8 (Salton Sea Test #2)
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:52 AM on April 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

A Lot Of People Are Saying
You will not be surprised to learn that the Flat Earth movement includes all sorts of theories about what the Earth is other than a globe spinning around the Sun. The most popular is that it’s a disk, surrounded by a high wall of ice, aka Antartica. What’s on the other side of the Wall? Nobody knows, or maybe They do but they won’t tell us, because we can’t handle the truth.

Ok I should try to be as understanding as the filmmakers, I really should, because these people are sad and pathetic and lonely and deeply alienated, which is ultimately why they believe what they believe, but it’s hard Ringo. It’s real hard.
One of the more jaw-dropping segments of the documentary comes when Bob Knodel, one of the hosts on a popular Flat Earth YouTube channel, walks viewers through an experiment involving a laser gyroscope. As the Earth rotates, the gyroscope appears to lean off-axis, staying in its original position as the Earth’s curvature changes in relation. “What we found is, is when we turned on that gyroscope we found that we were picking up a drift. A 15 degree per hour drift,” Knodel says, acknowledging that the gyroscope’s behavior confirmed to exactly what you’d expect from a gyroscope on a rotating globe.

“Now, obviously we were taken aback by that. ‘Wow, that’s kind of a problem,’” Knodel says. “We obviously were not willing to accept that, and so we started looking for ways to disprove it was actually registering the motion of the Earth.”

Despite further experimental refinements, Knodel’s gyroscope consistently behaves as if the Earth is round. Yet Knodel’s beliefs seem unchanged when discussing the experiment at a Flat Earth meetup in Denver. “We don’t want to blow this, you know? When you’ve got $20,000 in this freaking gyro. If we dumped what we found right now, it would be bad. It would be bad. What I just told you was confidential,” Knodel says to another Flat Earther in attendance.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:27 AM on April 15, 2019

He is reading while DRIVING THAT CAR! NO
posted by Going To Maine at 9:50 PM on May 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Listening to the Oh No Ross and Carrie takes are a good complement to the movie. While there’s a bit of an edge to the flat earthers in the film, they generally come off as willfully deluded and kind of sad - as people whose minds are just too open. The podcast really forwards the anti-semitic aspects and Islamophobic aspects of the whole thing in a way that the movie just misses. The thing about the flat earth is that it seems kind of gentle and ridiculous -almost like a “gateway” conspiracy, in the same way that marijuana has been construed as a gateway drug. Yet in practice it’s the absolute opposite: to believe in the flat earth means you probably think the moon landing is a hoax, that you accept that there’s some kind of super-powerful, unified global cabal that’s keeping people in the dark, and on and on. Believing that 9/11 was an inside job just requires you to not rust the US government, which is peanuts in comparison.

The idea that it’s a social club of people with little authority and control in their lives is compelling and true, but that desperate failure to believe in the government seems so much more telling. The flat earth might have been the last conspiracy Mark Sargent reached, but how did he get there? How did he go through all the others? I’d like to hear that story as well.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:13 PM on May 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

I’ve been thinking about this documentary again, as we are in the midst of a coup based on conspiracy theories and QAnon is rampant. Might be time for a rewatch.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:11 AM on November 20, 2020

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