1968. A couple of kooky counterculturalists called Kerry Thornley and Robert Anton Wilson develop Operation Mindfuck (OM). In short, a decentralised campaign of guerrilla ontology employing elaborate pranks and performance art, designed to shock ‘victims’ into questioning their everyday realities.
By the time Wilson would develop the idea in fiction, the imagery of hippies freaking out the normies with outlandish displays of free love and industrial-scale drug use was practically old news.
Ideas, like matter, cannot be destroyed, they just change state. The idea of forcing a species-wide paradigm shift through what we’d now call provocative acts of trolling is not new. See also Diogenes the Cynic, the old Greek philosopher who lived in a barrel, barked like a dog, and pissed on his critics because of reasons.
People have been dicking with your idea of ‘normal’ for as long as you’ve had one.
I open with all this to illustrate the point that I am neither worried, nor particularly surprised by the fact that there are, in 2018, people who will argue tooth and nail that the Earth is flat.
But we’ll get to them.
When Charlie Manson was programming members of his family, the acid helped, but he also fell back on techniques as old as collectivist human thought. His followers were required to believe that there was a hole in the ground somewhere in Death Valley, down which they would find their very own Shangri-La.
With the focus of some pretty gnarly brainwashing thus placed, Manson’s children found the smaller lies more manageable, the hidden messages in the Beatles and the upcoming race war were easier to swallow. Whether they truly believed in that magic hole in the ground wasn’t important. It was the totem pole around which his ‘us’ gathered, separate from the ‘them.’
Everyone does it. Students at Oxbridge colleges find themselves suddenly calling everything by silly names. They don’t even get kicked out, they get ‘rusticated.’ Silly but seemingly harmless traditions, which combine to create a completely different set of mental patterns. Then there’s the military, an example so obvious that we need not devote unnecessary consideration here.
Those who understand this principle can achieve great things. Great, terrible, horrendously unethical things.
Now combine this with the fact that, today, we exist immersed in so much data and so little context for that data, it’s possible to ‘prove’ any nonsense one cares to come up with. It can be achieved via simple dataswarming. Present so much ‘evidence’ that you drown out the voice of reason and sense.
In advancing the idea that the Earth is flat, a tiny splinter sect of Operation Mindfuck inadvertently struck upon occult gold. An idea with its roots in ancient Mesopotamia lay waiting for its time to change state and the conditions for such an idea to have its time once again, it turns out, weren’t even that complex.
All you need do is to disconnect man from his spiritual element via a few generations of hypermaterialism. Say what you like about consumer capitalism, it is ruthlessly efficient at shielding us from the primal realities of our human condition.
Then, obviously, as people demand ever-shinier tat, technology will rise to flood our minds with aforementioned data, catching us unawares as we drift through a directionless void of facts-without-truth.
Thus, we become desperate to once again believe in something, and capable of believing anything. Given all this, I’m amazed so many people latched onto something as sane as the idea of a flat Earth.
Of course, the game is rigged to a certain extent. The utmost is being done to disarm us of language which can argue against our consumerist prison. You can’t argue against global capitalism or unchecked economic growth. You can’t fight Israel or Saudi Arabia. You certainly can’t advance the opinion that man is a fighting, farting, fucking, shamanic beast. That would alarm the parish!
But a flat Earth? Start ‘em there and lead up to the real stuff.
At least, that’s what the optimist in me thinks. The Inner Circle of the Flat Earth movement, if they are wise, will understand what they’ve got here, the lost tools to ignite our spiritual instinct, our lust for the unknown. They’ll be keeping notes, and looking for ways to replicate this success on a grander scale, with ever more pseudo-plausible pyschoguff.
Whether their goal, or the goal of their successors, is humanity’s liberation or its confusion and entanglement is now for the gods to decide. And it’s up to you, if you’ve made it this far, to stay on your toes.
The next time someone starts telling you about Kubricks’ coded messages about faked moon landings in the Shining, keep an eye on their other hand and see what they’re sneaking by you while they think you’re distracted.
Or better yet: buy a ticket, and become a player yourself.