The Flat Earth phenomenon on YouTube
First Monday

The Flat Earth phenomenon on YouTube by John C. Paolillo



Abstract
An active contemporary discourse on YouTube revolves around the idea that the Earth is flat instead of round, and how Flat Earth cosmology is related to contemporary political, religious and cultural issues. Thousands of such videos have been produced, gathering multiple millions of views. Flat Earth discourse sometimes crosses into other public discourse, but YouTube remains singularly important in promoting Flat Earth belief and encouraging development of its supporting arguments. The videos at the source of this stir are highly ambiguous. I argue that this phenomenon represents fusion of multiple influences unique to YouTube, including conspiracy theory, climate change denial, science documentaries, clickbait, viral videos, trolling, Russian propaganda, and young-Earth religious fundamentalism. The phenomenon cannot be properly understood without recognizing the distinct contribution of all of these elements.

Contents

The Flat Earth on YouTube
Themes in Flat Earth videos
A timeline of Flat Earth on YouTube
Discourse dynamics of Flat Earth

 


 

The Flat Earth on YouTube

On 2 December 2017, retired limousine driver and amateur stunt man “Mad” Mike Hughes publicly declared his intent to launch himself in a homemade, steam-powered rocket using a converted mobile home as a ramp. The flight, canceled due to weather and mechanical failures, was intended to carry him 1,800 feet in the air over Amboy, California; his principal sponsor was a YouTube channel Research Flat Earth (channel ID UCXa5atseqfc03pzESmb1nKg). Hughes and his sponsor are not alone in believing that the Earth is flat. Rather, they represent a community of people who primarily communicate through YouTube. This community produced the first Flat Earth International Conference 9–10 November 2017 in Raleigh, North Carolina. In 2016, celebrity rapper B.o.B. and reality television star Tila Tequila declared their Flat Earth belief on Twitter, challenging their audiences to refute their views by posting video evidence online. To an outside observer it could appear that all of these these events were publicity stunts with no broader relevance, yet to anyone aware of it, their Flat-Earth communications were clearly influenced by an active YouTube discourse and intended to contribute to it.

One might still question the relevance of the events. After all, Flat Earth belief is widely taken to be synonymous with a completely wrong world view. Flat Earthers are a tiny minority, and modern technologies like the Global Positioning System, telecommunications satellites, and even the Internet are inconsistent with such beliefs. When people want to discredit scientific theories or other ideas, they compare them to Flat Earth belief; Darwinian evolution was notably promoted this way (Gould, 1995; Russel, 1991). For the YouTube discourse, these issues are relevant, but much more is involved.

Contemporary social media exhibits a range of phenomena in which adherence to objective truth is strained. Social media underpins a robust industry in “fake news”, which is sometimes satirical, sometimes malicious, and sometimes simply sensational (Allcott and Gentzkow, 2017; Berkowitz and Schwartz, 2016; Fenton and Freedman, 2018; Lazer, et al., 2017; Sydell, 2016; Pennycook and Rand, 2017). Some of these stories involve conspiracy theories that become news events, such as the “pizzagate” shooting at a Washington D.C. pizzeria (Dean, 2017; Debies-Carl, 2017; Miller, 2015). Russian disinformation is a major component of some stories (Aro, 2016; Khaldarova and Pantti 2016; Sindelar, 2014; Zelenkauskaite and Niezgoda, 2017), and trolling (Chen, 2016; Fichman and Sanfilippo, 2016) and toxic discourse (Gallagher, et al., 2018; Hoggan and Litwin, 2016; Massanari, 2017; Risam, 2015) are endemic to most social media forums. Against this background, Flat Earth belief in mainstream media might seem unremarkable.

Such a view misses an important point, namely that all of the above phenomena are deeply connected within YouTube, and the larger context subsumes them together with Flat Earth, which in turn exemplifies the course such ideas can take. External events influence the YouTube Flat Earth discourse and facilitate crossover into other media; Flat Earth and similar conspiracy beliefs can thus overcome their stigmatized, marginal status and attain greater influence. The goal of this article is to describe Flat Earth discourse on YouTube, and to explain its relation to the broader context. The argument is developed through two distinct approaches. The first of these is a critical examination of the texts of several hundred Flat Earth videos, examples of which are listed in the Appendix, the second being a timeline of events in Flat Earth discourse as constructed from a large sample of YouTube metadata, chronicling its growth and relation to external events. The article concludes with a discussion of the discursive dynamics of Flat Earth and conspiracy belief on YouTube, and its relation to other discourses.

Social media data like that from YouTube sometimes contain personal information, necessitating a statement about the ethics of this research. All of the data collected for this research are public data, made available through the YouTube platform and its public data API. The videos, their metadata, and the channel metadata are knowingly made public by channel owners under agreement with YouTube, whose motto “broadcast yourself” is a strong suggestion to make information public. Under the relevant legal definition, public data do not require further human subjects protocols (e.g., informed consent) because human subjects are not involved in the research. The fact that many videos and channels have empty descriptions [1] indicates that users can and do take action to conceal information they do not want public. Some video sharing is nonetheless potentially personal. For example, a channel with a political video might also have videos of family members at home. In this article, persons are not identified beyond the information made available on YouTube, and all such cases were examined individually to determine potential risks to persons. All channels reported on have large public audiences in the thousands or millions. This study therefore makes no new information public.

 

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Themes in Flat Earth videos

Flat Earth videos on YouTube express a number of recurring themes. Most salient among these is the framing of the “Globe Model” as a conspiracy of powerful elites, an idea which makes little sense outside of this specific discourse. Yet Flat Earth discourse is not isolated, and is replete with references and discursive features found in other YouTube genres, such as clickbait, other conspiracy theories, trolling, Russian media, and propaganda. Furthermore, it is deeply engaged with contemporary political discourse, especially on climate change denial and Young Earth religious fundamentalism. The following subsections examine salient themes manifest in Flat Earth videos and their inter-discursive context. Flat Earth belief is shown to be like other conspiracy theories in representing a minority political view that holds fast to a stigmatized form of knowledge (Barkun, 2013). Citations are given to illustrative videos using their sequence numbers from the Appendix, where full citations appear with sequence number, date, channel name, and video ID (together in parentheses) and verbatim title [2]. Videos and channels often go missing, typically through YouTube’s enforcement of copyright and other policies. Where this has already occurred, a second ID may be given if known. Readers may verify the claims in this article from the citations given.

Flat Earth as YouTube media

YouTube supports an economy of attention: videos and their creators are rewarded for the length of time that people spend watching them (YouTube Creator Blog, 2013). Consequently, techniques that grab and hold attention are favored. One such technique is “clickbait”, or using titles and thumbnails that viewers are likely to click: titles that are provocative, have exclamation points and use all caps, etc.; images of scantily-clad women, of celebrities, from popular media, etc. Flat Earth videos tend strongly toward clickbait. For example, a video titled Gravity Does Not Exist! features a thumbnail with bikini-modeling Kate Upton on a zero-G airplane (42). The implicit promise in the link is usually irrelevant to the video, simply serving to generate traffic. Grammatical and semantic anomalies characteristic of non-native English are common in titles, suggesting convergence to the language norms of internationally produced clickbait, even though Flat Earthers are predominantly English speakers.

Flat Earthers compete with one another for attention on YouTube, claiming priority for ideas and engaging in one-upmanship, as between Paul Michael Bales (18–22) and Eric Dubay (35), or the competition in range and instrumentation in (53), (55), (66), (77), (78) and (79). At times, especially when a channel is taken down, participants appropriate each others’ work, although it is difficult to tell if this represents mutual support of community members preserving valued work or opportunistic looting of views from videos with proven audiences. Open confrontations over proper credit do occur (45), as does “shill shaming”, the put-down of competitors as covertly representing the interests of elite oppressors (41).

Science celebrities are widely viewed on YouTube (Tyson, 2012) and also draw the attention of Flat Earthers. Neil deGrasse Tyson is probably the most mentioned; others include Stephen Hawking (55), Elon Musk (38), and International Space Station (ISS) astronauts Scott Kelley (49), and Chris Hadfield [3]. Often, their treatment reduces to racist, ableist or vulgar epithets: e.g., “astronots”, “ass-tronauts,” and “actornots”, for a tamer example. Science celebrities are seen as representing the “big science establishment”, i.e., part of a conspiracy. SpaceX and NASA both conduct extensive publicity campaigns on YouTube, with real-time streaming video and footage of missions and launches (61, 83) and cultivation of celebrity (13). SpaceX also demonstrates awareness of YouTube-specific genres in producing its own fail compilation (77). Flat Earthers clearly dislike these publicity stunts and often attempt to debunk them (38). The space programs of Russia, China, and India are rarely mentioned in Flat Earth videos (86), even though ISS missions depend critically on Russian cosmonauts and material support. YouTube videos from these sources are rarer, however.

Among YouTube’s popular channels are a number devoted to science education. These also are drawn into Flat Earth discourse by opposing it. Vsauce posted explanations of the effect of gravity on a disc Earth (23) and of the movement of Earth through space (52); while not mentioning Flat Earth ideas directly, they implicitly debunk them. Similarly, Smarter Every Day (29) and Veritasium (30) demonstrated complementary Northern and Southern hemisphere Coriolis effects, clearly responding to Flat Earth challenges. Cody’sLab used a telescope to measure Earth’s curvature (74) correcting Flat Earthers’ ongoing misuse of similar techniques, and responded to Flat Earthers in (76), which offers a lengthy explanation of atmospheric lensing. YouTube science educators devote significant energies to addressing Flat Earthers.

Flat Earth videos regularly employ references from cinema, especially the authoritarian dystopias favored by conspiracy theorists (The Matrix, They Live). Others are peculiar to Flat Earthers, such as enclosed dome dystopias (The Truman Show, Under the Dome) evoking the Biblical cosmology of the books of Isaiah and Enoch. Many of the references are visual, though some are simply textual, e.g., “red pill” and “down the rabbit hole” from The Matrix. The channel name Globebusters obviously refers to Ghostbusters [4] and suggests confrontation or debunking, a common theme for Flat Earth videos. Hence, Flat Earth pop culture references resemble those of other conspiracy theories, but remain particular to their own milieu.

Russian videos provide another reference point for Flat Earth; they are widespread on YouTube, from dashcam videos of the Chelyabinsk meteor, to heavy equipment accidents, to maker and hacker projects, to automotive reviews, to political analysis, to the state propaganda network RT (formerly Russia Today). One well-known Flat Earth channel uses the name russian vids, referring to this environment. The connection is deeper than incidental: (54) was posted by a Russian man using the channel name Людин Рɣси (in Ukrainian, apparently meaning “man of the people” [5]). The video had little to do with Flat Earth (see below), but Flat Earthers accepted it, replacing the Russian-accented English with their own voice-over tracks, expanding upon the theory etc.; the many versions have received several million views in aggregate. Another notable Russian influence comes from a 1950s Russian propaganda film about the U.S. Antarctic expedition Operation High Jump. An English-subtitled version disappeared shortly after it was posted, but Russian-language versions remain (40, 58), and it triggered repostings of the public domain U.S. Navy documentary (48, 66). Flat Earthers are aware of Russian video content and respond directly to it.

Flat Earth videos might be most easily understood as trolling, a phenomenon on social media in which people are deliberately insincere, whether as satiric pranksters or simply to disrupt others’ discourses (Fichman and Sanfilippo, 2016). Although large-scale hoaxes are not unknown [6], the cost and complexity of establishing an international, two-day conference (81) suggests more than a mere prank. A characteristic of Flat-Earth that does suggest trolling is ambiguity. Video titles like 100 Proofs That the Earth is not a Globe (17–21) and the later 200 Proofs that the Earth is not a Spinning Ball (35) simultaneously share the archaic, infelicitous use of “proof” as a plural count noun, covertly reference Carpenter (1885), and hint at alcohol intoxication. Similarly, for ISS Hoax — the International Space Station Does Not Exist! (24), is the ISS the hoax, or the claim that it doesn’t exist? Dubay also repeatedly uses an image in which the word “joke” has the letter “o” replaced by a NASA whole earth image. What exactly is the joke? The globe earth? NASA? Or Dubay’s video? Whichever way this is resolved, the joke is at the expense of the viewer, who has been duped by either the globe conspiracy, NASA or Dubay, “globe conspiracy” itself being a potential pun on “globalist conspiracy”. These and other ambiguities are not readily resolved, and one is forced to look beyond the videos' literal message.

Flat Earth videos thus incorporate many elements characteristic of the YouTube and social media environment: they share features from contact with other genres such as clickbait and Russian videos, they orient to the mechanisms of celebrity in mass media and on YouTube, and they reference prominent discourses and discursive styles on YouTube, such as conspiracy theory and trolling.

Flat Earth epistemology

Flat Earth videos have an overwhelming preoccupation with epistemic status: lies, truth, proof, debunking, hoaxes, fakes, revelations, evidence, shilling, etc. all figure heavily in Flat Earth videos. Such an emphasis on knowledge requires that they present a basis from which to cast doubt on a round Earth (the “Globe Model”). The challenge is significant. Flat Earth belief only awkwardly reconciles with modern technologies like rockets (33), communication satellites, the Global Positioning System, the ISS (24), and interplanetary probes. It is also challenged to explain phenomena such as the phases of the Moon, seasonal variation in the Sun’s path (31), solar and lunar eclipses, the North and South polar midnight Sun, the rotation of the stars in the Northern and Southern night skies (82), Coriolis effects (35), and the location of Antarctica (60). Preferred explanations to certain of these phenomena lead to problems explaining yet others like gravity (42).

Flat Earthers use a variety of strategies to address these challenges, including citation of religious or secular historical texts, reproduction of video evidence, experimentation and observation, mathematical analysis, speculation, bald contradiction, and ad hominem argument. Predominantly, Flat Earth arguments attempt to undermine confidence in the Globe Model and acceptance of scientific and/or government authorities; the commonsense “Flat Earth Model” is thus an available resort. This resembles the practice called “gaslighting”, wherein an individual’s world view is undermined by deceit directed at questioning their memory or sanity (Abramson, 2014), though it is different in being done collectively and in not having a specific individual at its focus.

The predominant religious orientation of Flat Earthers is Protestant Christian fundamentalist, with notable exceptions: Bales and Dubay are apparently American New Agers. The religious texts most often employed are the books of Isaiah and Enoch, possibly supported by citations of other ancient texts (35). Isaiah offers the clearest Biblical account of cosmology (15), and while Enoch is apocryphal and therefore atypical for protestants, it is popular among other conspiracy theorists on YouTube. From these sources, Flat Earthers obtain the notion of the firmament, an impenetrable dome holding the stars over the Earth. This is elaborated using historical sources, especially Rowbotham (1849), which provides the principal Flat Earth Model: an equidistant azimuthal projection as the “true” map, with the Sun and Moon being flat discs floating over the Earth’s surface. Rowbotham (1849) and Carpenter (1885) provide further empirical and mathematical arguments for the Flat Earth (35).

Video evidence is highly valued and typically sourced from other YouTube channels: NASA, amateur rocket and balloon flights, long-zoom shots of the horizon, etc. Original sources for some can be readily located. NASA and ISS footage is used primarily for ridicule and for “correcting” curved distortions of the horizon (25). The balloon launches demonstrate distortion of the horizon in the pictures, which therefore do not prove the globe (35). Amateur rockets illustrate an apparent physical impact at 60 miles in altitude (33). Long-zoom shots of the horizon illustrate that boats don’t disappear hull first at sea level (35).

As one might expect, each of these arguments has problems not addressed in its presentation. Cameras used in amateur launches are cell phones or consumer-grade equipment uncalibrated for near-space use. Panoramas cannot be captured in a single lens without distortion, and the ISS cameras are designed for purposes more important than measuring the Earth’s curvature from space. Sudden braking in a rocket is caused by releasing weights attached to a cable in opposite directions to stabilize it before ejecting the parachute. And finally, telescopic observations at sea level encounter atmospheric distortion. Somehow, video evidence is regarded as self-evidently meaningful independent of its context, the neglect of which misleads viewers.

A few Flat Earth counter-arguments come from direct experiments, the most common of which is a reproduction of Rowbotham’s Bedford level experiment: measurements are taken using telescopic lenses (32, 53), lasers (53, 67, 78), electronic sensors (79), and cell phone applications (80) to refute predictions of the Earth’s curvature; a formula given in Rowbotham (1849) is used for prediction [7]. The experiments systematically fail, with failure taken to disprove curvature and indicate confirmation of Flat Earth. Only a single premise is questioned; other potentially incorrect premises are not, such as properties of the instruments (32, 79, 80), confounding effects such as atmospheric refraction (32, 53, 67, 78), or mis-application the formula used to predict curvature (cp. 65).

Flat Earth videos tend to conflate observation with proof, and disproof for proof, suggesting a puerile understanding of scientific process and reasoning. In part, this is because of a strict empirical approach to both the video evidence and experiments: viewers are told to not trust anything beyond their direct experience. In other cases there may be deliberate misdirection. Sometimes these are subtle: the far side of the Moon is called the dark side (35). Others can be quite sophisticated. For example, in one clever argument, the routing of air travel routes between Southern hemisphere cities through the Northern hemisphere justifies Flat Earth, since the route would be relatively direct on an azimuthal equidistant projection (46, 59). Of course, this ignores the obvious effect of wealth and population concentrations in the global North on routing air commerce. Under challenge, the claim is buttressed by suggesting that the disappearance of direct Southern-hemisphere flights from airline-tracking systems indicates deception (36). To the extent that empirical observations are used in Flat Earth discourse, they lack the formal rigor of scientific observation, and primarily serve to generate doubt and confusion.

Alongside experimentation and observation, model construction is important in Flat Earth videos. Two contrasting ideas are framed as models: the Globe Model and the Flat Earth Model. These, however, are not models in the scientific sense as having attributes from which concrete predictions can be made. They are vague and incomplete suggestions about the phenomena being addressed. The single predictive component of the Globe Model is Rowbotham’s peculiar formula for curvature. Other aspects necessary for the complete model, such as the mass of the Earth, the drag of its rotation on the atmosphere, the mechanics of celestial bodies, the refraction of light by the Sun’s gravity, etc., go unremarked. Similarly, the Flat Earth Model is not so much a model as it is a motion-graphic illustration of the illumination of the Earth by the Sun as viewed on a North-centered azimuthal equidistant projection.

In addition to religious and empirical arguments, some Flat Earth arguments produce authorities, such as engineers (75), military officers (34), airline pilots (39), etc., from whom testimonials in favor of Flat Earth are obtained. These are carefully selective, and intended to undermine the authority of others in the class who support the Globe Model. At times these are surprising, as in the out-of-context quotation of astronaut Neil Armstrong taken as proof of a conspiracy (17). This resembles the conspiracy discourse around 9/11 truth, where similar authorities are produced to challenge the official narrative around the collapse of the World Trade Center (Barkun, 2013; Wood and Douglas, 2013). Finally, Flat Earthers charge the scientific establishment as engaging in empty scientism (70); to complete this framing, they invoke a Kuhnian paradigm-shift toward Flat Earth (35).

A number of claims are made simply as unsupported categorical assertions, usually contradictions: the space footage is clearly faked or computer-generated (25, 35, 38, 73), reported phenomena do not exist (24, 62, 64), authorities lie (26, 50), and people who believe in these are dupes. Ad hominem epithets against authorities are common (25), suggesting a lack of stronger arguments. A broad range of things are contradicted. One Flat Earther has dismissed volcanoes, fossil fuels, Arctic oil prospecting, oil drilling platforms, petroleum-based plastics, power plants, floors in the World Trade center buildings, wildlife extinctions, ice shelves and icebergs, plate tectonics, aerial bombardments, wildlife extinctions, and global warming (60). While this individual is peculiar, his videos are valued enough that his entire YouTube oeuvre has been reposted under his own name after his original account was deleted.

Some claims are speculation or fantasy, for example, the claim that volcanic mesas like Devil’s Tower are petrified trunks of ancient trees that grew 60 miles tall (54). While the evidential support is no more than a suggestive resemblance, the claim helps flesh out theories lacking empirical support like Young Earth creationism. In addition, they provide strategic retreats for climate change denial: forests are not real, because real climate change deforestation happened a long time ago; climate change therefore isn’t human-caused and authorities lie about global warming. The vagueness of the speculations are critical to their success as argument: elaborating them reveals their fragility and latent inconsistency. How ancient are the trees? How did they become petrified? Where are their trunks and branches? What brought about this climate change? Neither answers to these questions nor a program of inquiry that could produce them are offered. Complete answers are less important than the original evocative claim.

Flat Earthers employ many video genres, such as vlogs, screencasts, interview formats, etc. Yet a preferred genre appears to be the science documentary, using voiceover narration, expert statements, artwork, motion graphics, and intuitive demonstrations. Flat Earth documentaries are often 45 minutes or longer, with some as long as two hours, such as (35). Long videos entail risk, as they are labor-intensive and viewers might not watch them in entirety. Nonetheless, documentaries, especially from the BBC, PBS, Discovery, or the History Channel, are common on YouTube. Hundreds of channels are devoted to them, and they receive many millions of views in aggregate. Documentaries are thus a potentially viable target for expression, and successful emulation of the genre confers an air of authority.

Construction of knowledge in Flat Earth videos is thus accomplished primarily by establishing authority through source texts, experts, various scientistic performances, and reciprocal attempts to undermine the authority of established science, government agencies, and the Globe Model. It is concerned less with the nature of the knowledge itself than its sources, and less with the soundness of the means by which it is developed than it is with science as a representation of authority. Rather than establishing new knowledge, Flat Earth videos emphasize casting doubt upon accepted forms of knowledge.

Flat Earth as conspiracy theory

Some relations of Flat Earth to conspiracy theory have already been described above: the trolling techniques, shill shaming, audience overlaps, emphasizing doubt, undermining authorities, etc. But YouTube Flat Earth belief is itself a conspiracy theory. The Globe Model is cast as an ongoing attempt to deceive the trusting public by conspirators in education, science, government and space organizations. The conspiracy is vast and the perpetrators are nefarious, secretive and mysterious, as in other conspiracy theories. The globe conspiracy spans hundreds of years, and symbolic clues to the conspiracy and its secret masters are hidden in plain sight. Narratives about Antarctica, the United Nations, Admiral Byrd, Nazis, Jews, the financial system, etc., feature prominently.

Antarctica is a key issue for Flat Earthers, as its purported extent and location relative to other continents challenge the Flat Earth model. For them, the United Nations hints at the non-existent nature of Antarctica in its official symbol, showing the “true” shape of the Earth as a flat disc and a distorted or absent Antarctica. The UN nonetheless keeps anyone but conspirators from knowing the actual truth by prohibiting travel under the 1959 Antarctic Treaty (40). Operation Highjump, an Antarctic expedition in 1946–47 undertaken by U.S. Admiral Richard E. Byrd, assumes a mythic status. The 1948 U.S. Navy archival documentary film The secret land (66) offers statements by Byrd (rendered ambiguous out of context), in which he refers to a “land beyond the pole larger than the continental United States” (48), suggesting inconsistency in the official narrative on Antarctica. Some go further, suggesting that Byrd and his forces were caught in a battle with Nazi flying saucers, losing a destroyer before retreating (40, 58). According to this narrative, Nazis had fled to Antarctica following WWII, and were possibly assisted by aliens or superbeings whose entrance to the subterranean realm Agartha is supposed to be located there (63). Russian sources are common in these narratives.

Flat Earth involves much anti-semitic conspiracism, postulating that central control of banking is a first step to establishment of totalitarian world government, and that Jews are at the center of both of these aims (Barkun, 2013). Secret societies, such as the Illuminati and the Freemasons are given a central role, e.g., the insignias of NASA and other space organizations employ the delta shape of the dividers in the symbol of Freemasons (25, 35). Such theories have a remarkably long and recurrent life in U.S. and European politics, going back to the eighteenth century despite having been thoroughly and repeatedly debunked (Barkun, 2013); today, they are the stock fare of thousands of channels on YouTube. The most popular YouTube conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, generally avoids these theories, although he verges on them in implicating secret and exclusive societies, his treatment of the global financial system, and in defending anti-semites (e.g., at the Unite the Right rally, Charlottesville, Va., August 2017). Just as Jones is frequently criticized from the right for not going far enough, Flat Earthers have a similar take on his avoidance of Flat Earth. These positions underscore the similarity between Flat Earth and other far-right, anti-semitic conspiracy theories.

The focus of Flat Earthers on space exploration and NASA overlaps substantially with the Moon Landing Hoax (MLH) conspiracy theory. Most of the MLH comes from Kaysing and Reid (1976), in a book by a former technical writer from defense contractor Rocketdyne, not involved in the moon landings. Kaysing and Reid make these claims: the moon landings were far too dangerous to succeed; no one could survive the radiation of the Van Allen belt; the technology was under-developed; the missions were faked as Cold War theater with models and movie sets; astronauts were actors directed by Stanley Kubrick; etc. These arguments are elaborated with photographs, poster materials, clippings, and Kaysing and Reid’s own narratives from Rocketdyne in the 1950s. Flat Earth videos reference the MLH or assume it as fact (25, 35). In addition, they adapt its arguments for other space stories, attempting to debunk photos and videos as computer-generated imagery based on artifacts, anomalies, or other signs of fakery (25). Space in general provides considerable work for Flat Earthers, and both artificial and natural phenomena involving space require developing arguments to debunk them, similar to those of the MLH.

Like many other conspiracy theories, Flat Earth appears to be influenced by Russian propaganda, although links to Russian sources are seldom direct. For example, sowing doubt about NASA and SpaceX serves to undercut U.S. prestige and protects Russia’s role in space. NASA’s instrumentality in promoting a message of climate change makes it a target for those protecting Russia’s dependence on oil and gas exports. Hence, alignment with Russian interests may partly explain the prevalence of climate change denial (55, 62) and oil and gas interests (37), especially in the Arctic and Antarctic. More peculiar is (64), in which aerial bombardments are claimed not to exist, mooting concern about Russian bombardment in Syria. Similarly, a video posted during a set of North Korean missile tests that Russia attempted to downplay internationally (73) minimizes the military threat as “fear porn” because pictures from North Korean military parades are computer generated fakes [8]. Such statements resemble disinformation produced by organizations like the Agency (Chen, 2016), which attempt to confuse the discourses they are placed in while promoting Russian interests. While these videos might seem unlikely to influence public opinion, youth are a significant audience for YouTube and they are less able to recognize the political subtleties involved (Bowyer, et al., 2017).

Flat Earth belief on YouTube is thus deeply influenced by conspiracy theory. Its principal narrative is framed as a one, and it borrows narrative elements from and presupposes other conspiracy theories. It is deeply enmeshed in the same political discourses as other conspiracy theories.

 

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A timeline of Flat Earth on YouTube

Flat Earth on YouTube is a relatively recent phenomenon. How then does it arise and where does it come from? To help answer these questions, we rely on a database of YouTube metadata collected for a larger project. This section begins with an explanation of the database and its construction, so that the basis for the timeline of Flat Earth on YouTube can be appreciated.

Sampling YouTube metadata

To identify Flat Earth videos, channel and video metadata was collected in a manner similar to prior studies (Cheng, et al., 2008; Paolillo, 2008). Firefox together with the GreaseMonkey add-in was used to run a user script collecting video and channel IDs from the YouTube public developer API. The script communicated with a PHP/PostgreSQL backend to store the IDs. For each channel three standard “playlists” were retrieved: uploads (videos belonging to the channel), likes and favorites (videos marked as such by the channel owner) [9]. Standard recursive crawling was applied: liked and favorited videos were used to identify new channels, whose playlists were retrieved, etc. [10] Crawling was done in multiple passes from July 2015 to January 2017, each time feeding in additional channels discovered via searching and browsing YouTube.

The purpose of the database was broader than documenting Flat Earth videos, which were yet undiscovered: July 2015 browsing covered conspiracy theory topics more generally (9/11, chemtrails, HAARP, Jade Helm, UFOs, Planet X, JFK assassination, Illuminati, etc.). Subsequent examination identified gaps in certain topics (e.g., U.S. elections, Black Lives Matter, the Turkish coup attempt, etc.) which were filled in by further browsing, expanding topics and genres (e.g., mainstream media, music videos, science education, religion, lifestyle/exercise/diet videos, cosmetics, do-it-yourself guides, explosives demonstrations, sporting accidents, fails, top-ten lists, etc.) and international sources (e.g., videos in Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, Farsi, German, Hindi, Korean, Malay, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, etc.). The number of videos and channels identified at each stage of this process is given in Table 1.

 

Table 1: Number of videos and channels identified by sample date.
 VideosChannels
July 201572646469784
February 201601208
March 2016936187397525
August 201644377208378973
December 2016133821329
February 20177917335314
March 2017136851100
Total76081372549383

 

The resulting database, while not comprehensive, characterizes a large set of popular YouTube videos with a range of topics and genres not identified beforehand. Searching the database allows summaries otherwise unavailable and access to videos and channels of any publication time without influence from advertising biases. Inspection of the database indicates a possible young U.S. male audience bias, although it is not clear if this comes from browsing, recommendations, network connectivity, or an overall bias in YouTube. The time-depth required for crawling is also awkward: videos and channels sometimes go missing during crawling [11], these must be polled individually to be identified.

Three summaries help characterize the database: number of videos by publication date, number of channels by publication date, and number of channels by the latest date of video publication. These appear as the three series of Figure 1. While the database covers the entire range of YouTube’s history, channels that are both well established and recently active are favored in our sample. This probably reflects the bias induced by crawling: YouTube is less likely to recommend recently created channels for browsing, and so they are less likely to be in the crawl.

 

Numbers of videos by date published (black), number of channels by date published (blue), and number of channels by date of last published video, in the YouTube database
 
Figure 1: Numbers of videos by date published (black), number of channels by date published (blue), and number of channels by date of last published video, in the YouTube database. The Y-axis (count) is on a logarithmic scale; spikes in activity are less prominent than they would be on the original scale.
Note: Larger version of figure available here.

 

Flat Earth in the YouTube database

The database permits full-text searching of title and description text of both videos and channels. Although neither fully reliably indexes the content of a YouTube video (both may be misleading or empty), one can still get a sense of the popularity of different terms on YouTube over time. Figure 2 illustrates this with four sample conspiracy theory related queries. “Illuminati” (red) is a resilient topic, with around 1,000 or more videos per month since 2011, and “Freemason” (green), holds lower, but relatively steady levels of mention across all dates. “JFK assassination” (blue) videos peak around the November 2013 anniversary. “Flat Earth” (black) is clearly distinct from all of these as a relatively recent phenomenon, only gaining ground in 2015, eventually eclipsing “Illuminati” in early 2016, and falling off afterward, but remaining at a relatively high level to the end of our sample. The peak production of Flat Earth videos coincides with the time in which B.o.B. and Tila Tequila’s Twitter comments took place, as well as with the U.S. presidential campaign season.

 

Number of videos for each of four queries by date: Flat Earth (Black), Illuminati (red), Freemason (green), JFK assassination (blue)
 
Figure 2: Number of videos for each of four queries by date: Flat Earth (Black), Illuminati (red), Freemason (green), JFK assassination (blue).
Note: Larger version of figure available here.

 

For comparison of overall volume, Figure 3 presents results for the queries “Barack Obama” (violet), “Donald Trump” (red). and “Hillary Clinton” (blue); because the scale required for these latter two queries is greater than that of Figure 2, the data for the query “Flat Earth” (black) is repeated on the same scale. The arcs of Flat Earth and the presidential campaigns have a potentially coincidental similarity: the presidential candidates’ video mentions have larger (and more irregular) peaks than those of Flat Earth, and the numbers for Flat Earth begin rising after the increases for Hillary Clinton, and before those of Donald Trump.

 

Number of videos for Donald Trump (red) and Hillary Clinton (blue), and Barack Obama (violet) compared to Flat Earth (black)
 
Figure 3: Number of videos for “Donald Trump” (red) and “Hillary Clinton” (blue), and “Barack Obama” (violet) compared to “Flat Earth” (black).
Note: Larger version of figure available here.

 

Flat Earth videos over time

To explore Flat Earth videos on YouTube, a Web-based front-end was used to summarize and list the videos obtained from the keyword search. The timeline summary is presented as a set of navigation buttons that permit accessing individual videos in month-long sets covering the entire timespan in the database. Using this interface, one could identify what kinds of mentions of Flat Earth occurred at any given time, and when first mention of the Flat Earth conspiracy arose. The findings are summarized in chronological order.

2006–2011: The first mention of Flat Earth in the database is Truth Happens, a popular Red Hat Linux commercial from 2006 (1). Its opening line, “the Earth is flat”, is the first in a series of statements presented as self-evidently false, mostly from the information technology industry (e.g., “640K ought to be enough for anybody”, Bill Gates). In (2), artist and animator Sally Stevens uses actors inhabiting a world made of chalk drawings on asphalt in a humorous animation. Hence, the first mentions of Flat Earth on YouTube reflect the wrongness or ridiculousness associated with it. It is clearly not taken seriously, a theme resumed in other videos (6).

When handled seriously, Flat Earth is invoked in explaining the cosmology of religious texts (3, 4), generally showing them to be incorrect cosmologies. Example (7) is unusual: not only does it originally come from Iraqi television, but the main speaker in the video appears to literally believe in a Koranic Flat Earth; only context clarifies that the poster regards this as false. Similarly, in (5), a clip from U.S. television show The View, Whoopi Goldberg challenges co-host Sherri Shepard regarding evolution, using Flat Earth as metaphor for dogmatic religious belief. Shepard was unwilling to disavow a potentially Biblical Flat Earth. This segment was widely posted on YouTube in the manner of videos mocking celebrities; many were taken down, possibly in an effort to protect the celebrity’s reputation.

2011: Before 2011, no videos were found actually defending a flat-Earth cosmology. This changes with postings by performance artist Matthew “Powerland” Boylan (9), whose channel is trollishly called TheNASAChannel. The video shows a public performance based heavily on the MLH, but with the additional assertion that the Earth is flat. This is the first occurrence found of Flat Earth with all its main elements in place. While performance art hardly needs to be serious, it is unclear whether that should discount either Boylan’s belief in Flat Earth or his conspiracy theory. His later postings characterize his struggles as a working artist as beleaguered by the same conspiracy, demonstrate his awareness of other Flat Earthers, and ask them to recognize his priority in revealing the globe conspiracy.

2012–2013: There is considerable lag between Boylan’s video and uptake of Flat Earth conspiracy. Debunkers continue to demonstrate that Bible cosmology is Flat Earth (11). One debunking video (16) refers to an earlier Flat Earth conspiracy video series by ConspiracyDude dated sometime in 2013; the channel and the videos are no longer recoverable. In the mean time, Flat Earth is explicitly associated with denial of anthropogenic climate change in (12), a television segment in which comedian Bill Maher directly compares them. This relationship is cemented in (14), President Obama’s July, 2013 address on global climate change, in which he said, “I don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society.” Biblical literalists felt the sting of this insult, their views already being linked to Flat Earth in exchanges like (5). Creationist Ken Ham wrote an open letter to Obama in which he tried to defend Isaiah as being consistent with a spherical Earth; (15) directly debunks this view by responding point-by-point to Ham’s letter.

2014–2015: Flat Earth conspiracy theory takes hold in 2014: Bales’ A Hundred Proofs (18–22) arrives, and examples like (17) elaborate the NASA part of the conspiracy. Suddenly, many more parts of the narrative get fleshed out, and science education channels take notice (24). Other pre-existing conspiracy theories, become associated with Flat Earth, such as Illuminati/Freemasons (18–22, 35), Nazis in Antarctica (35), the MLH (17, 25, 35), abiotic petroleum theory (26, 37, cp. 10), global climate change denial (26, 37), Young Earth creationism, etc. Evidential videos involving rockets (38), balloons (35), airline routes (36), and laser sighting tests (32) are produced. Flat Earth arguments are countered by videos from science educators (23, 29, 30).

2016: In January, B.o.B. and Tila Tequila’s Twitter remarks cause a media stir; they are clearly cognizant of work by at least Bales and Dubay, though the mainstream media is not. Tyson is drawn into debunking the now clearly emergent meme on Twitter and with his Comedy Central (43) and related performances. YouTube programming aimed at teens and current trends responds with contributions on both sides (44, 47). The U.S. presidential primary elections get underway, bringing many politically-themed videos to YouTube. Flat Earth video production on YouTube increases during this time, reaching a peak in February–March; these are not linked to any campaign, although some attempt is made to associate Donald Trump with Flat Earth views based on comments in a CNN interview, as discussed in (57).

2017–present: In early 2017 advertisers are alienated from YouTube by hate speech controversies, and YouTube changes its advertising policies and algorithms to sanction accounts linked to hate speech and other disliked practices. Flat Earther Eric Dubay’s YouTube account is deleted in this campaign in December (84), although he immediately restores most of his content to a second channel. In February, NBA star Kyrie Irving declares Flat Earth belief (68), prompting Bill Maher to raise the subject on his show, where a guest equates it to climate denial (69), reversing Maher’s comment in 2013 (12). Flat Earth videos featuring North Korea are produced in April, following a missile test. In November, the Flat Earth International Conference held in Raleigh, North Carolina, having been extensively advertised on YouTube. Mike Hughes plans his rocket launch for December with support from YouTube channel Flat Earth Research (85) and others. Production of Flat Earth videos continues at a high level through to the present.

 

++++++++++

Discourse dynamics of Flat Earth

The use of Flat Earth on YouTube starts out as a way of labeling ideas as obviously wrong, an old practice, extending back at least to the mid–1880s, when proponents of Darwin’s theory of evolution used it to counter opposition from religious authorities (Gould, 1995; Russel, 1991); curiously, this was at a time when Rowbotham and Carpenter were active in promoting their version of Flat Earth. As in the late 1800s, Flat Earth is initially directed at creationists, causing problems for prominent creationists like Ken Ham. Flat Earth on YouTube also shares two characteristics with Flat Earth theories of Columbus’ time, namely a strict empirical epistemology, and employment of a new communications technology to reinforce the orthodoxy (Allegro, 2017). The former might be expected: evolution, climate change and the shape of the Earth are large and subtle phenomena, difficult to apprehend with the senses. Strict empiricism favors the religious orthodoxy at the expense of knowledge gained by new methods. The reliance on new communication technologies is perhaps unexpected, but the printing press was as important in reinforcing the Biblical orthodoxy in 1495 [12] as YouTube seems to be in the present moment.

Once the target of Flat Earth stigma is expanded to include climate change deniers, they find themselves together with creationists, equally tarred by the stigma of wrongness. This brings about a reversal: people tarnished by Flat Earth discover a need to embrace it. By proving that no one can frame a successful argument for the globe, Flat Earth stigma can be directed at any opponent, and other stigmatized ideas such as anti-semitic conspiracism can also be shielded from criticism. Flat Earth then gains popularity in the YouTube environment until it spills over and influences other discourses.

Issues of stigma and its political impact are not unique to Flat Earth. Struggle over stigma and its effects are central to the discourse of #blacklivesmatter and the counter-movement #alllivesmatter (Gallagher, et al., 2018). At the same time, It is hard to see how Flat Earth discourse could have evolved in the way it has anywhere other than on YouTube. Few might have predicted the re-invention of Flat Earth religious orthodoxy as a strictly empirical mode of knowledge creation in opposition to both climate change and evolution. YouTube provides other essential inputs as well: audiences eager for stimulation, genre examples from other discourses, and the convoluted logic of trolling. It is from this confluence that Flat Earth discourse on YouTube arises and from which it comes to influence other media. Hence, the emergence of Flat Earth in public discourse represents not the spurious expression of an antiquated worldview, but a concerted attempt by a political minority to cast off a stigma of wrong belief and to define authority in their own terms. End of article

 

About the author

John C. Paolillo is an associate professor in Informatics at Indiana University. His research focuses on social interaction in public forms of social media.
E-mail: paolillo at Indiana dot edu

 

Notes

1. More than 220 thousand channels and two million videos in the database have empty descriptions.

2. The ID can be placed into a link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ID to retrieve the video.

3. Hadfield’s YouTube celebrity for his 2013 performance of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” from the ISS (13) occurred before most interest in Flat Earth.

4. This refers to the original 1984 movie, not the feminist remake, which the channel name predates.

5. Peculiarly, the original channel name appears to have been DavidSexMachina.

6. The Society for Indecency to Naked Animals, 1959 to 1962, comes to mind (Abel, 1966).

7. “An easily measurable 8 inches per mile multiplied by the square of the distance” (35).

8. This was posted on a channel whose banner declares “the big finger to global science”.

9. Other playlists can be created (e.g., “Watch Later” playlists) but are not accessible via the public data API.

10. A third relation, comments (on videos or channels), has not yet been used.

11. Complicating matters yet further, YouTube reports the reasons for takedowns inconsistently across the browser and public data API platforms.

12. Allegro, 2017, p. 71, footnote 42.

 

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Appendix

 

Appendix: YouTube Videos referenced in this paper, ordered by date.
(1)2006–05–06.(Ooopsh, GvO6MkUs0ws)Truth Happens
(2)2007–01–02.(Sally Stevens, U0xCdfIzZwU)A Day in Flat Earth
(3)2007–06–12.(KingHeathen, z0AuFKNmaaI)The Flat Earth According to the Bible
(4)2007–06–09.(TheAtheistPaladin, hUnu9NZEXq4)Flat Earth Bible Redux
(5)2007–09–20.(blogar2, UkrkaH_V7fE)Co–Host of the “The View” doesn’t know if world is round
(6)2008–01–13.(muslimsince2003, 0oLO_GVKPC4)You are wrong guys! The Bible is right the earth is FLAT!!!
(7)2008–02–18.(Mavaddat Javid, wppjYDj9JUc)Iraqi TV Debate: Is the Earth Flat?
(8)2008–02–19.(Andrew Skegg, AkkcsOglYjI; unavailable 2018–01–01)The Earth is flat!
(9)2011–04–11.(TheNASAchannel, 7bwLDXrAYIc)1st Flat Earth Video
(10)2012–05–05.(Dave Flang, mmdehw7SaS0)The Myth of Fossil Fuels (NAZI secrets hidden) by Jerome R. Corsi
(11)2013–03–04.(The Bible Skeptic, 8WDsG5fjSSg)Difference Between a Circle and a Sphere (Can’t Believe I Really Had to Make This ...)
(12)2013–04–08.(TheBMView, MNYQbiqmpgs)Bill Maher — Debating “Earth is Flat”
(13)2013–05–12.(Rare Earth, KaOC9danxNo)Space Oddity
(14)2013–06–25.(ClimateTruth.org Action, XB9--MF0tx0)Obama: There’s No Time For A Meeting Of The Flat–Earth Society
(15)2013–06–30.(Baud Bits, G7E1Glt3AI8)Ken Ham’s Flat Earth Society vs President Barack Obama
(16)2013–06–30.(CHistrue, hnruwYpow1w)Response to ConspiracyDude’s Flat Earth Video
(17)2014–08–09.(Immortalsouls, lwS8CuACUV4)Neil Armstrong Talks About the Edge of Flat Earth
(18)2014–09–28.(Paul Michael Bales, tXpHlqloTSI)100 Proofs that the Earth is not a Globe 1 — 13 ( Flat Earth ) Paul Michael Bales
(19)2014–10–01.(Paul Michael Bales, wj9crOGexd0)100 Proofs that the Earth is not a Globe 14 — 22 ( Flat Earth ) Paul Michael Bales
(20)2014–10–05.(Paul Michael Bales, i8kGbbLfUh4)100 Proofs That The Earth Is Not A Globe 23 — 33 ( Flat Earth ) Paul Michael Bales
(21)2014–10–06.(Paul Michael Bales, Qzeie3rWdo8)100 Proofs That The Earth Is Not A Globe 34 — 37 ( Flat Earth ) Paul Michael Bales
(22)2014–10–08.(Paul Michael Bales, 0kWmGWt6C9o)100 Proofs That The Earth Is Not A Globe 38 — 44 ( Flat Earth ) Paul Michael Bales
(23)2014–12–04.(Vsauce, VNqNnUJVcVs)Is Earth Actually Flat?
(24)2015–02–01.(Eric Dubay, 5e-RnKAN9qY: 2017–12–12, unavailable from YouTube)ISS Hoax — the International Space Station Does Not Exist!
(25)2015–04–15.(Jeranism, 7bwLDXrAYIc)NASA Surrenders! — Throws in the Trowel! — Freemason Pathetic Clowns
(26)2015–04–23.(Arduino Tronic, evemT9dPOzI)The big lie they told you about Oil, Methane and Water. Part 1
(27)2015–05–01.(TheMorgile, 3AKA6h7QZtw)Flat Earth: The Nazis of NASA and the Infinite Plane
(28)2015–05–01.(TheNASAchannel, QciLVJZNq4c)WIKILEAKS FLAT EARTH CONSPIRACY Part 1
(29)2015–06–03.(SmarterEveryDay, aDorTBEhEtk)The Truth About Toilet Swirl — Northern Hemisphere
(30)2015–06–03.(Veritasium, ihv4f7VMeJw)The Truth About Toilet Swirl — Southern Hemisphere
(31)2015–06–11.(Steven Christ, wOQR48JC9XE)AMAZING ANALEMMA in the Concave Earth!
(32)2015–06–26.(Jeranism, qZEYbzKctSg)LASER TEST #1: Results and Re–Test: Flat Earth Experiment Phase 2
(33)2015–09–09.(GeoShifter, IAcp3BFBYw4)Rocket hitting the flat earth dome
(34)2015–09–20.(marksargent, xJOB0vcZ4NI)US Navy Missile Instructor confirms FLAT EARTH — SW21 — Mark Sargent ✅
(35)2015–10–21.(Eric Dubay, h5i_iDyUTCg; 2017–06–22: EiBJBVBez_w)200 Proofs that the Earth is not a Spinning Ball
(36)2015–11–15.(Eric Caplin, cK9lOjM23Lw)Flat earth Flight paths
(37)2015–12–09.(Globe Skeptic, LF-9dH-1HxM)The Fossil Fuel “Hoax” — Flat Earth
(38)2015–12–22.(TheLostBegotten, _BYs0iEUkNs)SpaceX Falcon9 HOAX Flat Earth DEBUNKs Elon Musk “rocket landing hellicopter footage” (Fair Use)
(39)2015–12–12.(Flat Earth Addict, OIOhiK9aEPc)FLAT EARTH ADDICT 25 : Sydney To Santiago Non–Stop Flight Cockpit Video
(40)2016–01–10.(TV Spirit, 1Czctm2jby8)Немецкие НЛО: Операция “Высокий прыжок”
(41)2016–01–20.(Gob Esi, ubQYNyoTC28)Flat Earth NON SENSE & FREEMASONS On You Tube Eric Dubay & Crowd Are A MASONIC AGENDA
(42)2016–01–25.(Eric Dubay, 4J18e30zTyE; 2017–12–27: lorpWMCqu7c)Gravity Does Not Exist!
(43)2016–01–28.(Comedy Central, XHBZkek8OSU)The Nightly Show — Neil deGrasse Tyson Slams Flat–Earth Theorist B.o.B
(44)2016–02–02.(TopTenz, 9wCFIJ-XnRY)Top 10 Reasons to Believe That the EARTH IS FLAT
(45)2016–02–23.(Paul Michael Bales, 3zD9ffVPT3A)Response to Eric Dubay’s Flat Earth Rap–06–
(46)2016–02–29.(Mike Helmick, AoS3pe94qMk)Flat Earth Australia Globe Earth Flight Routes dest–ro–yed
(47)2016–03–26.(Our Third Life, mtZpyj4vpnM)THE EARTH IS FLAT
(48)2016–04–01.(Da Lone Voice, iPaMGxFUqXo)ADM. RICHARD E BYRD tells what he saw in Antartica. (Flat Earth Evidence)
(49)2016–04–02.(Feed Your Mind, -Ip4JynTQeM)Astronaut Scott Kelly Quits NASA after Year In Space!! | NASA FAKES SPACE TO HIDE FLAT EARTH pt 5
(50)2016–04–28.(Flatline — Globe is dead, p2QmEcDydzQ)Tesla knew Gravity was just a bogus theory and that Einstein was a shill
(51)2016–06–11.(VoysovReason, W9ksbh88OJs)Proving the Earth is not Flat. Part 1 the Horizon
(52)2016–06–13.(Vsauce, IJhgZBn-LHg)How Earth Moves
(53)2016–07–15.(dmurphy25, XUjMytEgLyw)Flat Earth — Bedford Level Experiment 2016
(54)2016–08–01.(Людин Рɣси, UHkiZNT3cyE)There are no forests on Flat Earth Wake Up
(55)2016–08–12.(jeranism, rbJPlTdH7vc)Stephen Hawking NWO Global Warming Science Puppet
(56)2016–09–05.(Dr. Zack, GBhDFO4NMrw)Flat Earth | Laser Test Proves The Flat Earth — Part 2
(57)2016–09–22.(Jesse Spots, f72Vn5D6Byg)Did CNN Interview Donald Trump about FLAT EARTH?
(58)2016–10–02.(Nathan Wyckoff, 92mtGk9GYpA)У берегов Антарктиды произошло нечто загадочное. Неожиданная атака кораблей США. Секретные
(59)2016–10–27.(Zetetic Flat Earth, WtYWkTEDgjM)FLIGHT PATHS REVEAL FLAT EARTH, — AE — FLAT EARTH MAP, GLEASON’S MAP UN LOGO
(60)2016–11–28.(idongesit sam, Pi6psthAscQ; 2017–01–02: unavailable from YouTube)Antarctica is not a Continent : A MIND BLOWING FLAT EARTH PROOF
(61)2016–12–21.(SpaceX, ANv5UfZsvZQ)“The Falcon has landed” | Recap of Falcon 9 launch and landing
(62)2016–12–31.(Aaron Dover, -nRcnmXGyGQ)Flat Earth: There is No Climate Change
(63)2017–01–03.(Flat Earth Paradise, fDBRhxryfZM)Flat Earth Dome Explained 100% & the Entrance to Agartha
(64)2017–01–11.(Aaron Dover, 6CoAWCD3vUw)“Aerial Bombardment” is Another Impossible Military Hoax
(65)2017–01–22.(VoysovReason, VbVmM9ymjxA)Flat Earth Falsities — “Flat Earth in 5 Minutes” Debunked
(66)2017–02–08.(Alfred Gwynn, w-RLncjmln8)The Best Documentary Ever — Operation Highjump 1947 US NAVY
(67)2017–02–11.(groutaone, bwCRej0BoA4)7.5 Mile Flat Earth Laser Test On Frozen Lake
(68)2017–02–18.(USAToday Sports, GtahJP42gjY)Kyrie Irving argues with reporter over ‘flat earth’ comments
(69)2017–02–24.(Leo Deki, o6SQjeTn9so)Bill Maher and Panelists Debate Kyrie Irving’s Claims That The Earth is Flat — Feb 25, 2017
(70)2017–02–25.(Celebrate Truth, bzIWd1BU6_M)Rob Skiba Interviews 🎙 Robbie Davidson & Brian Mullin: Flat Earth and Scientism Exposed
(71)2017–04–07.(Paul Michael Bales, 7z4ro9kM2SI)Flat Earth Death : Aaron Dover Dies?
(72)2017–04–21.(Paul Michael Bales, j44Ts4o91fQ)Flat Earth : The Awakened Man by Paul Michael Bales
(73)2017–04–22.(QNFee, TZGIeqDij8U) There Is No N–Korean Arm On A Flat Earth (Only CGI Army) Kim Nuke-un
(74)2017–04–23.(Cody’sLab, AcdBFfoi3uU)Measuring Earth’s Radius With A Telescope?
(75)2017–05–29.(Reggie Rewind, cll_NQIynqw)Part 2 — first flat earth engineer :unseen discovery by idongesit sam
(76)2017–04–28.(Cody’sLab, dxbGfWSnIOk)Reply to Flat Earther
(77)2017–09–14.(SpaceX, bvim4rsNHkQ)How Not to Land an Orbital Rocket Booster
(78)2017–09–30.(Taboo Conspiracy, sKSLVGB_9Z0)Globe Debunked — Great Flat Lake Test
(79)2017–09–29.(7th Day Truth Seeker, 368pvF4boOQ)213.47 mi. Lake Erie Globe Curvature Test [Flat Earth]
(80)2017–09–30.(Paul on the Plane, 5ydX5srR1DM)Flat Earth — 500 Mile Curvature Test
(81)2017–11–15.(BBC News, x3vcSab13Sk)Why do people still think the Earth is flat? — BBC News
(82)2017–11–26.(Zetetic Flat Earth, kWsvHOyHMc8)FLAT EARTH — SOUTHERN STARS ROTATION EXPLAINED, Why Sun sets at South West?
(83)2017–12–04.(NASA, UVGgrLqsAzw)Pizza Night on the Space Station!
(84)2017–12–12.(Truth Center, Zz24x0TVZQA)Eric Dubay Terminated From YouTube for Exposing Censorship!!!
(85)2017–12–15.(MGTV Second, yZ1IQkOjy0E)Mad Mike Hughes Rocket Falls AGAIN! Flat Earth Report 12/16/17
(86)2018–01–04.(jeranism, Jf0gGBVw6qM)Russian Cosmonaut Slams Flat Earth Theory

 

 


Editorial history

Received 12 January 2018; accepted 27 November 2018.


Copyright © 2018, John C. Paolillo. All Rights Reserved.

The Flat Earth phenomenon on YouTube
by John C. Paolillo.
First Monday, Volume 23, Number 12 - 3 December 2018
https://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/8251/7693
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v23i12.8251





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