There have been a lot of angry messages sent to my various inboxes and social media accounts in response to my stories over the years. Some were fair, polite and well-reasoned. Others not so much, but still had a semblance of a point from an often useful perspective other than my own.
Then news about the Flat Earth Global, sorry, International Conference (an actual gathering that's headed to Frisco in November for people who sincerely believe that the Earth is the universe's largest Lazy Susan) came across my radar. I wrote an essay about the conference that took a noticeable pro-spherical Earth stance because our planet is a sphere and what followed it was a stream of the strangest series of responses to any story, column or essay I've ever written in my 19 some odd years as a compiler of words.
Someone whose identity I've kept hidden sent me a direct message calling me a "globetard." I laughed so hard that I'm thinking of having T-shirts made so others can share my joy.
How did this happen? Let's do a roundup. Shoot, sorry, these globe puns are going to happen a lot. I'm just warning you that if you also hold the belief that the Earth is a giant spinning plate on a stick as part of some cosmic "Circus of the Stars" routine, or if you also happen to be part of an anti-pun league that's prone to violence.
Last Tuesday, I wrote a story about the upcoming conference, explaining how scientists and the vast majority of humans know that the Earth is in no literal way, shape or form a flat surface, a fact that has been known since before "A-goddamn-D." The piece included some jovial japes, smart-ass comments and researched evidence proving the shape of our world. The story also included some of my favorite curse words that I will never apologize for using because they were created and shaped for our language to respond to outrageous ideas, like how the Earth is the biggest pizza tray in human existence.
The hits and comments started to pile up pretty quick. At first, the response was what you'd expect from the 98% of Americans who don't buy the notion that humans live on a massive hipster's turntable. The remaining 2% were not so happy to read what I had to say even with my likable brand of angry wit and insistence that people who disagree with them should "still be polite, courteous and a little affable."
The first few messages and comments that trickled into my Facebook page from flat Earth believers accused me of being brainwashed and a blind believer of science. Then the article caught the attention of Robbie Davidson, a filmmaker, speaker and founder of the same flat Earth conference that launched my story, and it became a whole new ball of Earth... wait, wax! I meant, wax.
Needless to say, he wasn't happy and he's considering either denying us media credentials or outright banning anyone from the Dallas Observer from even buying a $250 ticket for the conference, before we even asked to attend. He's expressed both ideas in his Facebook posts and comments discussing the story in question so it's not clear to me which he's leaning toward with his approval, and I want to do my best not to mischaracterize his words. You know what they say. You may make an "ass" out of "you" and "me" when you "assume" — unless one of us believes that the world is a giant Pog.
According to his Facebook page, Davidson consulted with conspiracy spouting bigot and alt-right comedian Owen Benjamin, who will headline a show at the conference, and Benjamin was not amused either. Getting banned from attending Benjamin's comedy shows feels exactly like the time my doctor told me that I didn't need to have a cystoscopy.
To be fair, it sounds like Davidson has been struggling with the idea of banning a media outlet from covering his conference and started a poll on his page asking his Facebook followers if the ban should be instituted. As of Friday afternoon, the vote is much closer than I would have anticipated. Davidson and his followers don't trust science but they still believe in math.
Some of Davidson's followers also urged him to reconsider the notion of banning a media outlet from covering his conference and that censorship is not the right answer. I thought it was rather noble and made me wonder if I was a little too rash in my response even if it's toward a crazy notion nonsensically rebelling against basic science.
Then Davidson's response wiped that thought off my mind like a windshield wiper scraping off the splattered remains of a squashed bug. He asked if he should also allow in Logan Ball, dammit, Paul, the YouTuber who pranked the conference by pretending to be a flat Earth believer for an online documentary. He's even crazier than I thought possible. Just put aside the idea of censorship for a minute. Who in their right mind would pass up a chance to yell at Logan Paul?
Other folks also tried to find the bright side of my smackdown with a peace offering courtesy of their faith. I'm not a follower of any faith but I do appreciate when someone's belief in a higher power moves them to make honorable choices that promote peace for everyone regardless of who they are or the beliefs they hold in their heart.
Then this guy smashed the dove of peace he offered to me into a fine, pink paste. He posted a follow-up response saying what he'd really like to do to me and the rest of my fellow Globetrotters (not the team, I assume) if his pesky religion had just edited out the "Love thy neighbor" crap before Jesus printed the final draft.
The anger reached a boiling point where the criticisms and analogies became nonsensical to the point of hilarity, which I understand on some level. I've spent many nights racing to meet a deadline on little sleep and too much caffeine causing the brain to produce endocrine cocktails that could make the strongest Sazarec feel like a watered down Mountain Dew Code Red.
There are too many examples to share but this is my favorite.
The last one not only produces the amusing image of someone wearing a diaper on their head in the rain but it's just all over the place in so many ways. The fact that they think that "you can't pour sense into a head with no brain" is a riotous misunderstanding of the most basic tenets of scientific thought, state of matter and basic chemistry. They describe "sense" as a liquid state of matter in this context. So technically you could pour it into a "head with no brain" depending on the volume of my solid, empty skull and their pitcher of "liquid sense." How can anyone think they are a brilliant astronomer, geologist and cosmologist if they can't handle basic metaphorical physics?
I could MST3K these comments and messages for more column inches than this fine publication could physically allow, and I'm sure I'll get even more after this reply makes the rounds on the Internet. What I really want to convey are my intentions and sin-sphere, dang it, sincere hopes no matter which side of the aisle you stand on an issue that hasn't been an issue for 2,000 years.
I know that it's very improbable that anyone will change their minds when they've spent so much time and energy defending their flat Earth theory as immutable fact or any false stance for that mater. Trying to convince someone that they are wrong isn't just an emotional, physical or even logical challenge. It's a scientific one. It's known as the "backfire effect" in which attempts to correct to a person's belief further solidify their misconceptions because they are interpreted as a threat regardless of intention, according to one study published in the journal Political Behavior.
We see this almost everyday in our modern bizarro timeline along which facts somehow co-exist with "alternative facts," and "fake news" now stands as a position on almost every issue. If you can make people believe the Earth is flat despite all the available evidence, then you can get them to believe bullshit that can actually harm people or wreck their lives like how vaccines cause autism in children, climate change is a hoax, mass shootings are staged by the CIA and wives should "submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife," a quote from Ephesians 5:22 in the New Testament that Davidson wrote on his Facebook page the day after he started the poll.
Changing minds may be difficult and changing hearts may be even harder the more we harden them. It's my sincere hope that someday we can all reach common round.