However Weiss is a flat Earther. Ever since he tried and failed to seek out proof of the Earth’s curve 4 years in the past, he is believed with an evident ardour that our planet is each flat and stationary — and it is turned his world the wrong way up.

“I completely freaked out,” Weiss tells CNN in a telephone interview. “It actually whips the rug out from beneath you.”

Now, Weiss finds it tedious to affiliate with the vast majority of folks — although he “sadly” nonetheless has some associates who consider in a spherical Earth. “I’ve no downside with anyone that desires to consider we reside on a ball. That is their alternative,” he says. “It is simply not one thing I resonate with.”

Weiss’ most well-liked group is those that share his life-altering perception.

And that group is huge.

This week, the businessman attended the third annual Flat Earth Worldwide Convention, held at an Embassy Suites resort in suburban Dallas, Texas. Organizers informed CNN that about 600 others went too.

Earlier conferences have taken place in Raleigh and Denver — whereas Brazil, Britain and Italy have additionally held flat-Earth conventions in recent times.

The occasion’s schedule resembled any company convention, with some pretty noticeable twists. Audio system gave displays together with “Area is Faux” and “Testing The Moon: A Globe Lie Perspective.” Awards for the 12 months’s greatest flat Earth-related movies have been handed out. And believers reveled in a chance to fulfill a number of of the motion’s most influential minds.

A merchandise stall at last year's Flat Earth International Conference in Denver, Colorado.

“We have all been speaking on-line (however) this brings us collectively so we will shake arms and provides one another hugs,” says Weiss. “We are able to collaborate, we will make new associates. As a result of guess what, our outdated associates… we misplaced loads of associates.”

On a transparent day, the curvature of the Earth could be seen from an airplane window. However remarkably, the tons of of flat Earthers on the Dallas gathering have been only a small portion of the motion.

Folks in each pocket of this spherical planet are rejecting science and spreading the phrase that the Earth is flat.

There is not any clear examine indicating how many individuals have been satisfied — and flat Earthers like Weiss will inform you with out proof there are tens of millions extra within the closet anyway, together with Hollywood A-listers and industrial airline pilots — however on-line communities have tons of of hundreds of followers and YouTube is inundated with flat-Earth content material creators, whose productions attain tens of millions.

Rapper B.o.B thinks the Earth is flat, has photographs to prove it

A YouGov survey of greater than 8,000 American adults instructed final 12 months that as many as one in six People aren’t solely sure the world is spherical, whereas a 2019 Datafolha Institute survey of greater than 2,000 Brazilian adults indicated that 7% of individuals in that nation reject that idea, in response to native media.

The flat-Earth group has its personal celebrities, music, merchandise — and a weighty catalog of pseudo-scientific theories. It has been the topic of a Netflix documentary and has been endorsed by figures together with the rapper B.o.B.

Annually, extra flat-Earth occasions fill the calendar, organizers say.

“I’ve by no means seen something develop this quick,” says Robbie Davidson, the founding father of the Dallas convention. “I’d say that inside 10 years, the numbers are going to be astounding… subsequent 12 months, there’s going to be a convention in each main nation on this planet.”

However specialists are questioning if the motion is absolutely innocent — and whether or not we’re even approaching the sting of its affect.

Falling off the sting

When Davidson first heard that individuals actually do consider in a flat Earth, “I simply laughed and stated, ‘they have to be the stupidest folks ever.’ Who of their proper thoughts might consider one thing so dumb?”

A few years later, Davidson was establishing the primary worldwide flat Earth convention. Like many of the audio system on the occasion CNN spoke to, he was satisfied after he determined he could not show the Earth’s roundness.

For Davidson, a born-again Christian, probably the most logical rationalization for the conspiracy of the millennium goes like this: “Let’s simply say there may be an adversary, there’s a satan, there’s a Devil. His complete job can be to attempt to persuade the world that God does not exist. He is performed an unbelievable job convincing folks with the concept we’re simply on a random speck in an infinite universe.”

A digital illustration of a flat earth.

The fact, says Davidson, is that the flat Earth, solar, moon and stars are contained in a “Truman Present”-like dome. From there, pitfalls could be simply dismissed — like pictures of the Earth from house, which flat Earthers consider are photoshopped. “This all goes away in the event that they put a 24/7 digicam feed on the moon,” he provides.

And Davidson rapidly discovered a big on-line group believing the identical factor. “I believed doing a convention would simply take it to the subsequent stage the place the media and the world will take a look at it and say, ‘wait a minute — one thing should be happening. This isn’t just a few web fad, or a bunch of loopy folks on-line. They’re now assembly in buildings.'”

He has a number of issues he needs to clarify to a flat-Earth novice. Firstly, and most significantly — “none of us consider that we’re a flying pancake in house.” The group merely believes that house doesn’t exist, the world sits nonetheless and the moon touchdown was faked. The jury is out on gravity — however as Davidson notes, nobody has ever seen it.

Secondly — no, you will not fall off the sting. Whereas flat Earthers’ views of the world range, most consider the planet is a round disk with Antarctica performing as an ice wall barrier across the edge.

And thirdly, trendy flat Earthers have little in widespread with the Flat Earth Society, a bunch that has existed for many years and has greater than 200,000 followers on Fb.

Samuel Shenton, founder of the International Flat Earth Research Society (IFERS), in 1967.

That group, some audio system informed CNN, is a government-controlled physique designed to pump out misinformation and make the flat-Earth trigger sound far-fetched to curious minds. Davidson calls their theories “fully ridiculous.”

The Flat Earth Society has not responded to CNN’s request for remark.

However flat Earthers do not faux to have all of the solutions. “Folks do not actually know 100% what (the Earth) is, we’re simply questioning what we’re being informed it’s,” Davidson explains.

A number of members of the group have carried out their very own experiments, like bringing spirit ranges onto airplanes, which have supposedly proved their thesis.

They have not. To be completely clear, the Earth isn’t flat — as NASA explains in a fact sheet aimed toward fifth to eighth graders.

However most adherents say they’re simply curious, as all good scientific minds ought to be. “We love science,” Davidson insists.

‘It is tough to interrupt out of that mindset’

Nonetheless, most adherents display loads of anti-scientific tendencies. It is arduous to discover a flat Earther who does not consider most different conspiracies below the solar; a flat-Earth convention is invariably additionally a gathering of anti-vaxxers, 9/11 truthers and Illuminati subscribers, to call a number of.

It is that hyper-skeptical mindset that helps flat earthers reply the large questions — like who’s hiding the true form of the planet from us?

“The ruling elite, from the royal household to the Rockefellers, the Rothschilds … all of these teams that run the world, they’re in on it,” says Weiss.

Two women at a Flat Earther meet-up in Orange County, California, in 2017.

However “when you get into flat earth, the opposite (conspiracy theories) get knocked down into one other tier,” says Mark Sargent, a filmmaker and stalwart of the motion who was featured within the 2018 Netflix documentary “Behind the Curve.”

“Everyone right here, they have their high 20 conspiracies — and you could possibly stroll round door to door and people high 20 would differ from individual to individual. However all people’s primary is at all times flat Earth,” he tells CNN.

It helps that the group has a mutual goal. “Most of our ire is pointed in the direction of NASA. That is our bread and butter,” Sargent says of the company flat Earthers consider is finally behind the conspiracy.

However why, and the way, might folks consider a conspiracy principle so out of this universe?

“Folks, in essence, are simply making an attempt to grasp the world,” says Daniel Jolley, a senior lecturer within the psychology of conspiracy theories on the UK’s Northumbria College. “And so they’re trying on the world in a gaze the place they’re biased of their considering.”

“They could have mistrust in the direction of highly effective folks or teams, which may very well be the federal government or NASA, and once they look in the direction of proof that is sensible to them … this world view (is) endorsed,” he says. “It is tough to interrupt out of that mindset.”

Scientists have additionally famous {that a} social motive attracts folks to conspiracy theories — the need to “preserve a optimistic view of the self and the teams we belong to,” as social psychologist Karen Douglas of the College of Kent says.

And few teams have as sturdy a group as flat Earthers.

“This (convention) is an outlet for lots of people which may in any other case get ostracized by family and friends and associates. After they come right here, they know it is completely a secure house,” Sargent says of this week’s occasion.

Timothy John at last year's conference.

However maybe a very powerful driver is an underlying want for energy and management. “Folks wish to really feel secure and safe on this planet,” Douglas says. And energy comes from data — regardless of how questionable it could be.

“Whenever you discover out the Earth is flat … you then turn out to be empowered,” Weiss says.

That feeling helps believers to grasp the world higher, as they see it. “You’re feeling such as you’ve bought a greater deal with on life and the universe. It is now extra manageable,” provides Sargent.

‘It is not going to hurt anybody’

Sargent might arguably be considered the godfather of the fashionable flat-Earth motion. “In case you bought into flat Earth, there is a actually excessive likelihood you learn into my stuff first,” he tells CNN.

However he had assist — it was the arrival of YouTube that gave him a platform to unfold his personal views, which he says the motion “would not exist with out.”

“Flat Earth was a binge watch on YouTube,” he provides, aided by algorithms and personalised suggestions that turned flat earth analysis right into a endless rabbit gap.

YouTube says it will crack down on recommending conspiracy videos
Earlier this 12 months, YouTube started burying those videos and decreasing suggestions of “borderline content material,” however video makers like Sargent really feel it not makes a lot distinction. “Something on social media is at all times going to be useful if it goes viral, proper?” provides Davidson. “Effectively flat Earth has gone viral.”

CNN has contacted YouTube for remark.

However the alleged speedy progress of a motion so enthusiastically rejecting elementary scientific beliefs does have some frightened.

“It appears that evidently more and more, folks do not belief scientists and specialists, or their motives,” Douglas says. “Extra analysis must be performed on this space, and I am positive there are some optimistic penalties to believing in conspiracy theories, however early indications means that they’re extra hurt than assist.”

A medieval engraving of a scientist leaving the world, representing the change in conceptions of the world in the 16th century.

“I do not say this typically, however look — there’s a draw back,” admits Sargent, reflecting on the motion he helped encourage. “There is a facet impact to flat Earth … when you get into it, you mechanically revisit any of your outdated skepticism.”

“I do not assume they’re simply linked,” Sargent says of flat Earthers and populists. “They form of feed one another … it is a slippery slope while you assume that the federal government has been hiding this stuff. Rapidly, you turn out to be a kind of those who’s like, ‘are you able to belief something on mainstream media?'”

For Davidson, the subsequent stage is to debate main members of the scientific group, however “they only snort at us and say, ‘you guys are dumb.'”

However he isn’t deterred.

“It is touching everybody … it isn’t going away, and it isn’t going to decelerate,” Davidson says of the motion. “This factor is out of the can.”

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