” It takes every kind of people, to make the world go round…” sings TV presenter turned singer Nick Knowles in his new record. Except that the earth doesn’t go round according to the recently formed Chester Flat Earth Society. Baffled by online posts and hundreds of years old conspiracy theories espoused by Flat Earth advocates we went along to one of the monthly meetings with a list of questions and a curious mind…
As we joined the group they were discussing their belief that the space programme including the moon landings never happened. Arguments supporting this, and counter responses/evidence from the scientific community can be found in many places online so we won’t cover that here, except to say that the depth of the alleged conspiracy surprised us from the start. Not only is the earth flat, we are all living in a fake reality, state the society. Initially good humoured, the group explained how they have been regularly speaking on the streets of Chester to spread the news about the flat earth.
One of the society’s leading speakers on the night was John- who with his brother runs the YouTube account “Peter Peterson” said that he knew the earth was flat, because his senses told him it was:
” I don’t see any curvature. You’d know, if you were hanging upside down you’d know, because your senses would tell you. When I look at the moon, the moon is evenly lit, if it was a spherical solid rock the light wouldn’t be evenly distributed. If you look at the alleged craters they don’t recede backwards as if you were looking at a sphere.”
Another key member of the group, Vic Button, who maintains the society’s website at http://www.chesterflatearthgroup.com asked us if we believed humanity had ever been to the moon ? Attempting to keep our own views out of the discussion I asked if the faked space programme was where their flat earth beliefs came from :
John: “they’re not beliefs!”
Vic: ” NASA actually say themselves that they couldn’t go to the moon..”
John: “There was a young guy from NASA who was explaining the Orion space capsule. He was saying that Orion has been specially designed to go through the Van Allen radiation belt… not once but twice. But he also states that they’ve basically never been outside of that. It doesn’t make sense. So many people have pulled apart the photographs, the footage.. a lot of the shadows are black. We look for genuine authenticity and there is a lot of fake stuff about.”
Swiftly the group attacked the media for spreading fake news, throwing in the Grenfell Tower disaster and the Manchester arena terrorist attack. This left us baffled and we asked how these issues were related to the flat earth?
John told us that it was “all about trust in society…You’ve got to weigh up if I trust someone I don’t know or do I trust myself?” Thrown off by the scope of the conspiracy I attempted to return to the main issue we had come to discuss:
“So you don’t trust established science, and 100s of years of scientific progress?”
John replied : “No, we’ve all come to the conclusion that a lot of science has developed into pseudo science. Its like the globe earth, theres no real proof. I did a video on my channel about oxygen and there is no real evidence that there is oxygen in the air that we breathe, how can you prove to me that there is oxygen… Its like gravity, they know the effects of gravity, they can describe it, but if you don’t know what it is, how can you prove what it is. Lets go back to religion, they can describe God, but what is God, they can’t define it….”
“I can accept that God can’t be measured, but science is quantifiable…” we countered
“So what’s gravity then? Evolution and natural selection, come about because of chance and randomness.. That’s rubbish. Its all myth.” replied John. The group argued that homosexuality would have died out “due to survival of the fittest” which shocked and angered us.
The society state that there are no pictures of the earth from spaces, with images supplied by NASA composited and enhanced. The society also state that satellites don’t exist. When we pointed out that photographs were available from multiple sources, we were asked: “But how do you know its true?”
Moving on we asked about the conspiracy and how far back in history it stretched. Without answering the question directly, John replied that :
“We have these stories that the Ancient Greeks knew the earth was round, but how on earth did they know that ? All they did was put a stick in the ground from a position where the earth was overhead, and he measured the angle . These were just theories that were put out….”
Vic Button said that he went along with the globe theory until a few years ago but after doing some internet research he developed an interest in flat earth. He says that a video of a 6 mile straight canal showing that someone could be seen from 6 miles away using a telescope made him realise that the earth wasn’t curved. “There are so many structures that shouldn’t be seen due to the earths curvature. Think about lighthouses, if the earth was a ball, why would we put lighthouses near to sea level, we would put them on the cliffs? You can see Blackpool tower from Llandudno when you’ve got favourable conditions. You can see all this on the internet!” Vic also stated that the earth couldn’t be spinning because the centrifugal forces would throw everyone off, in a similar fashion to a fairground ride. Again, if you choose to look into these points counter views from the established ( or fake as FE claim) scientific community can be found.
At this point we questioned the scientific backgrounds and research methods of the flat earth community, which seemed limited to looking things up on “the google”.
John stated that he had done a lot of research via his YouTube channel. “You research a lot of stuff. You find out so much about the ball earth.. these guys know very little about the globe earth” indicating at myself and my colleague.
We were still puzzled as to how the conspiracy was maintained and were struggling for answers: “Why should we believe what you say, you say you’ve done research, but scientists study at university for years… You said yourself Vic you didn’t know anything about it so how do you know its rubbish?”
The society moved onto criticism of the education system : “When you go to university you are taught as a mainframe. Theres a lot of things we can agree on , like what constellation is which and so on. But theres certain things in education , the mainframe is rubbish, like gravity for example” stated John . The education system failed because it taught “rubbish” and didn’t focus on life skills or things that mattered. When we thought back to maths lessons of years ago, we did hold some sympathy for this view. “The globe society fails a lot of people…” Or is it just society that fails people ?
” A lot of people that teach it have to teach it otherwise they don’t get paid.. We live in a blackmail system… ” stated John. He was unsure how far teachers across the world knew about the flat earth but did state that “A lot of teachers have their heads up their backsides…”
We asked if all of modern science was a lie?
At this point John’s brother joined the conversation ” You have to understand that the way the universe is put across, its the understanding that they want to put to the masses to get them to think that this how the world is.. It doesn’t mean to say its true.. ” Thus the entire reality we are experiencing is a fake, with the truth hidden by unknown forces to control the masses. We were struggling to see what difference a flat earth would make on the socio-economic structures of society…
“We all live in a rich mans dream, its wealthy people that designed Chester for example. us lot dont have any say in how the streets are designed..” At this point, more down to earth motivations seemed to be slipping through as Vic shouted out that the council were:
“Destroying Chester market !” Incredulous I asked how this was connected to the flat earth
“There is a link. The people have no say, the Northgate development, the people have no say.. ” was the response. I argued that I had attended several consultations on this topic and several others. Broadening the debate even further to include the entire operating methods of Cheshire West and Chester council, we were left confused once again. “If the council want to do something they’ll do it.” Perhaps we could list examples where public opinion has been apparently ignored, but we could also list examples of where public outcry has led to policy changes, both locally and nationally.
“So would you say you’re all quite anti authority? ” I asked. “Is it the feeling of being a rebel part of your inspiration?”
“Can I ask a question what have the council done for you ?” was the response.
“Storyhouse?!” I ventured.
“Rubbish!” shouted back Vic.
“That’s a matter of opinion” I replied.. “Theres loads of council services I don’t really understand the question.” But the society were dismissive questioning what input any citizen had into decision making. “The right to vote ? Stand for election, speak to your councillor ?”
“I was thinking of standing for election with the Flat Earth!” said Vic briefly dispersing the growing tension in the room.
“You’ve had very little input” said John despite no knowledge of me or my activities. The mood was gradually becoming hostile with issues personalised to a worrying extent. According to the society, council business is merely rubber stamping of prior decisions.
“But we live in a nice city, the council provide services, education…” we argued, but the negative views of Chester were deeply held.
“It isn’t about the globe earth its about YOU as an individual …” We were desperate to learn more about the conspiracy. We were told that ALL world governments, aviation companies, media, education systems were all in on it together”. Essentially everything is under control by a massed secret authority which has been kept secret for hundreds of years. I asked if Kim Jong-un and President Trump were secretly in cohorts?
The society were unclear on this, but the answer must be yes, if we believe their words. The sheer scale of the “secret” made the claims mind staggeringly implausible. Take how fast a piece of gossip spreads around your workplace. Then take the biggest lie ever and somehow coerce everyone from EasyJet to Prof Brian Cox, to David Attenborough to Granada Reports- and nothing slipped out ever?? Vic provided an anecdote of a Dutch air crew member who was sacked for stating the earth was flat. We couldn’t find any further details on this.
“The BBC do not have an obligation to provide content that is truthful and honest , if you read their editorial guidelines they strive to produce that. ” stated John. “By agreeing to that you’re saying that all media outlets don’t have to produce honest truthful information. They can lie through their teeth and get away with it.”
“But according to what you’re saying every media outlet world wide is telling the same lie..” We wanted to discuss the “ice wall” which supposedly surrounds the flat surface of the world.
“All I can say is, I’ve never been to Antarctica.” replied John.
“Do you say that Antarctic doesn’t exist ? I know someone that’s actually been there..”(polar photographer Sue Flood http://www.thechesterblog.com/2016/12/18/cold-places-with-sue-flood )
“Sure…” said John. “I trust what my senses tell me rather than what other people tell me… I trust water…you can take a bowl of water and take it anywhere on the earth and it will always be flat. You can trust that all the time. Well, when you get your politician turning up saying “trust me.. we can do this if you elect me” … Gordon Brown by 2016, free swimming for everyone, it never happened…. I put more trust in water than people. So when people tell you water can curve, it makes you think “hold on somethings wrong here…” How ? Trillions of gallons of water, how does it do that. gravity of course, but how does gravity do that , what the f**k are you on about, you’re talking nonsense!” Again the society seemed to be deflecting and focusing on political grievances.
“Why cant we just get on a boat and go and see the ice wall? Does the ice wall stop the oceans falling off ?” we asked.
The society were vague on this, stating that as they had never been there themselves they didn’t know. This apparently contradicted their deeply held faith in flat earth. We were also told there was no consensus amongst flat earth believers, and that the earth “may be square.” I was unhappy with their answers and asked what would happen if I booked a holiday to Antarctica ? And what about the countless expeditions, bases, documentary evidence of the continent the society state, may not exist?
“You can go for a tour, a guided tour, but you can only go where they say…” said Vic, citing the 1959 Antarctic Treaty as evidence of governments conspiring to hide the truth. In fact the Treaty was signed to protect the area ecologically and outlawed military activity on the continent. Unless I’m lying to you of course, which Flat Earthers believe is endemic to human nature.
John: “You had Scott, Amundsen (1911) … they both went into Antarctica from opposite ends. Amundsen got there first , two weeks before Scott and he put up a tent with a Norwegian flag on top. Two weeks later, Scott turned up and found the tent, how on earth could be have found the tent, how amazing is that ? How did they get to the South Pole in those temperatures?” Focusing on these specific anecdotes when the entire existence of the area was being denied was another head scratcher for us.
Questions about why no one had taken a photograph of the ice wall , particularly via the shortest route from the bottom of South America were only vaguely responded to. Photos on twitter of glaciers presented as memes are unsatisfactory and we question how the supposed pictures were taken given that the area is supposedly defended by a United Nations fleet. “There was a guy who went down to Antarctica, can’t remember his name, he went down there and got arrested” we were told, with no more detail.
If the forces of deception are so strong, why then have you been allowed to even hold this meeting , I challenged ?
“Because no one has told us to stop yet. I’m surprised I’m still doing it on a Saturday morning, I’ve not had one police man come up to me. I’ve not had any hassle from anyone..” Striving to find out what else motivated the group and realising how deeply held their viewpoint was, I asked what difference it would make to society if the earth was indeed flat? How would it affect house prices, people’s love lives, interest rates or Brexit negotiations ?
“You’re living a lie” I was told in response, with debate jolting backwards to NASA’s fake space photographs.
“Go on google and you’ll see pictures of the Runcorn bridge being constructed. Try and find an image of the ISS being built or even the parts being put into the space station, you won’t find them. They use CGI, green screen, a lot of virtual reality to fool people . People don’t realise how much they’re bent over backwards and shafted…
“Theres no such thing as (home) ownership… the reason house prices are so high because they want people renting to prop up businesses. The globe society is about money, they care more about money than they do people.” The globe earth system is a system consciously designed to keep 40% of the world’s population poor and deprived, we were told. Would a flat earth revelation lead to a utopian post capitalist age ?
The fake reality we were living leads to mass unhappiness we were told. ” I see people who are very miserable in Chester.” John said. I have my issues with depression but I can assure people it is NOTHING to do with the earth being flat. Blaming unhappiness on a flat earth felt like another bizarre deflection . After being told that “most people” in Chester were unhappy I had to challenge the arrogant view- given that the group aren’t privy to everyone’s personal circumstances. The most awkward exchange of the night followed:
“You’re not happy” I was told ” You have no confidence. Your head and heart aren’t connected” John said.
“You don’t know me” ” I replied ” I don’t want to get into personal commentary, we’ve come to hear your story and you’re making personal comments about me .. which I don’t think is appropriate “. At this point serious discussion was essentially over.
“In my understanding a lot of people are unhappy “you go to places in Chester and you can cut the air with a knife.. people don’t communicate or talk to each other. People live in a dream globe society… A lot of people out there have problems”… People are demented. They are filled with so much rubbish that society has put in their heads… “I look at life in a very different way to people and I see insanity on the streets. A lot of people are pretentious, they’re not who they say they are… They don’t know who they are..” said John with no hint of irony.
“Well I know who I am..” I said
“I don’t think you do !” replied John with a staggering insight into someone he had known for an hour
In another side row, John’s brother commented on the number of unhappy faces in the room. “Yeah not in this room no!” I laughed “But if depends where you are, if you went to a comedy club or..”
“But why should people have to pay for that to have a bit of laughter?” I struggled to see the relevance again. “We’re all living the same life, we’re all going to die… ”
John rounded off the night saying he trusted what was in his heart. Does everyone have their own truth then? “Why is your truth superior ?” I asked.
“Ah but you can still take your bowl of water and it will still be flat. And I wouldn’t lie to you either..”
“But a minute ago you were saying that all humans were liars so how can I trust you ?”
“Maybe I should have said the majority of people. Honesty: You’ve heard of Billy Joel. “Honesty is such a lonely world“, why do you think the lyrics are there ?”
In the Wes Anderson film Rushmore , the lead character Max Fischer comments wistfully that the secret to life was that ” you’ve just gotta find something you love to do and then… do it for the rest of your life. For me its going to Rushmore “. The Flat Earth Society have found their own “Rushmore” perhaps looking for somewhere to belong due to their own grievances with the world.
I wish them all the best but will not be returning.
with thanks to ShirtChester. Lead photo credit: Mark Carline