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Memeday: Flat Earthers channel GamerGate in their attacks on Neil deGrasse Tyson

Flat Earthers: Not big fans of Neil deGrasse Tyson
Flat Earthers: Not big fans of Neil deGrasse Tyson

Like a lot of people, I was a bit gobsmacked a couple of months ago when rapper B.O.B. came out as a literal Flat Earther, as in, someone who literally believes that the earth is a disk, not a sphere.

Having something of a professional interest in bad ideas and the people who hold them, I’ve been poking around in the FlatEarthosphere ever since. Turns out they have a lot in common with the bad-idea-believers that I’ve been writing about daily since I started this blog.

Like the internet’s innumerable antifeminists, the Flat Earthers love making interminably long videos in which they ramble incoherently about their beliefs.

Happily for those of us with shorter attention spans, they also like making memes, many of which are strikingly similar to antifeminist memes not only in their often inept design but in the fundamental dishonesty of many of their “arguments.”

Consider, for example, the way that Flat Earth mememakers have given science dude Neil deGrasse Tyson the Anita Sarkeesian treatment.

The Flat Earthers hate Tyson, who took down B.O.B. and his Flat Earth beliefs on Twitter in a literal mic-dropping moment on the Larry Wilmore show and even by making a cameo in a diss track aimed at the rapper.

While not inundating Tyson with death and rape threats, as far as I know, the Flatties have pored over his past writings and public appearances looking for things they can go after him about — much as Gamergaters did with Sarkeesian.

And, as Gamergaters have done many times with Sarkeesian, the Flatties have taken innocuous remarks from Tyson and misrepresented them so thoroughly that, to them at least, they look like a “gotcha!”

You may recall how Gamergaters seized upon Sarkeesian’s statement that “everything is sexisteverything is racist, everything is homophobic.” The comment, taken out of context from a talk she once gave, became the subject of endless jokes and indignant blog posts and even a music video.

And there were of course memes:

sarksexist1

sarksexist2

Sarkeesian was pretty clearly just pointing out that sexism (and racism, and homophobia) permeate almost every nook and cranny of our culture. Which is true. But Gamergaters assumed (or pretended) that she thought plants and birds and rocks and things were all sexist somehow.

The Flatties have done the same thing with some comments from Tyson on the not-quite-perfectly-spherical shape of the earth.

He gave a slightly longer explanation of this at an event in 2007. It’s not something that he made up; it’s true. The centrifugal force from the rotation of the earth has made the earth ever so slightly chubby. (Why it’s chubbiest slightly south of the equator I don’t quite know.)

Obviously, Tyson isn’t saying that the earth is literally the shape of a pear. He’s saying that it deviates an eensy teensy weensy bit from a perfectly spherical shape. Indeed, in the 2007 event he made clear that the earth is only very very slightly pear-shaped; that “cosmically speaking, we’re a practically a perfect sphere.”

None of this is really very hard to grasp. I’m utterly baffled by dark matter and string theory and most other things that astrophysicists spend their lives pondering, but I understand centrifugal force. Everyone who’s ever been on a merry-go-round understands centrifugal force.

But Tyson said “pear-shaped,” and the Flat Earth mememakers aren’t going to ever let him forget that.

dg1

He ha! He's just like that other black guy named Tyson!
He ha! He’s just like that other black guy named Tyson!

dg3

dg4

dg5

dg6

dg7

Other Flat Earth mememakers find the word “oblate” funnier than “pear.”

Tyson actually answered this question in the very same short talk in which he made the 'pear" remark, but never mind.
Tyson actually answered this question in the very same short talk in which he made the “pear” remark, but never mind.

dg10

There are more Neil deGrasse Tyson pear-shaped-earth memes out there — many many many more.

But I’m not sure anyone will ever be able to top this one.

nicepear

Such is the state of Flat Earth memery today.

And after all this, the Flatties have so little self-awareness that they attack him for making jokes about them.

jokememe

Jeez, Flat Earthers, so sensitive about a joke? Grow a pear.

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Victorious Parasol
Victorious Parasol
6 years ago

All those attacks on Tyson, and yet reality continues to be complex and fascinating.

Ohlmann
Ohlmann
6 years ago

Interesting read.

I see flat earther in right wing crank much more often than I would have guessed. It go toes to toes with vaccine denial. I guess it’s crank magnetism, because I fail to see anything conservative in thoses theories.

LindsayIrene
6 years ago

That sheep does actually appear to be a bit oblate.

kale
kale
6 years ago

“FlatEarthosphere”

I C Wut U Did There

Scildfreja
Scildfreja
6 years ago

Craaaaank Maaaagnettiissmmmmmm
comment image

I have to say that there is something I find absolutely gleeful about this effect. It’s great. So useful for spotting bad ideas; juse see how well it connects to the Great Web of Nonsense. Dig at a dyed-in-the-wool MRA and you’ll often uncover libertarianism, young earth creationism, and who knows what else. It’s like a treasure box of weird shiny baubles.

EDIT:

ooo, someone should map the Great Web of Nonsense. That would make a great wall poster.

Jamesworkshop
Jamesworkshop
6 years ago

Of course, a Spheroid justice warrior would say that.

Karl
Karl
6 years ago

Why it’s chubbiest slightly south of the equator I don’t quite know

Obviously, that’s because gravity pulls everything down!

(sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Freemage
Freemage
6 years ago

I like the idea of telling whiny internet babies of all sorts to “Just grow a pear, already.” It’s a great way of suggesting a more positive and productive use of their time. Pears are delicious!

pitshade
pitshade
6 years ago

One link between flat earthers and other types of rightwing woo is that a strictly literal interpretation of the Bible requires a flat Earth and a geocentric solar system.

Astra
Astra
6 years ago

Ah, that takes me back to my experience many moons ago as a TA for introductory astronomy when a number of the students on the final exam said that the early universe was the size of a grapefruit–the result of a poorly understood analogy provided by the professor.

AsAboveSoBelow
AsAboveSoBelow
6 years ago

Well, it probably was, for about .00000000000001 seconds.

Bina
6 years ago

Those pear boobs look a little overripe in places.

And there’s just one thing I’d like to do to Flat-Earthers, and this sums it up:

comment image

WeirwoodTreeHugger
WeirwoodTreeHugger
6 years ago

The Maury one was kind of funny, even though I disagree with it. That’s probably just because the Maury paternity test shows are a guilty pleasure of mine.

Tanya
Tanya
6 years ago

Why it’s chubbiest slightly south of the equator I don’t quite know

Obviously, that’s because gravity pulls everything down!

(sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Are you suggesting the earth is old????

Astra
Astra
6 years ago

Well, it probably was, for about .00000000000001 seconds.

Yep, that was the point of the analogy but it was also a good lesson in students taking things literally.

Wombatnotkayak
Wombatnotkayak
6 years ago

The earth is slightly fatter south of the equator because the density of the earth isn’t totally uniform. That means the strength of gravity varies a tiny amount from place to place, and net result is that the earth isn’t quite symmetrical.

makroth
makroth
6 years ago

If these people create #flatgate I SWEAR I’LL… be dissapointed with the state of the world just a bit more, probably. But mostly with the US.

littleknown
littleknown
6 years ago

“But for the sake of balance, we must now turn to Barry, who thinks the sky is a carpet painted by God. Barry, what do you think of this space station plan?”

“Well, it’s clearly ridiculous. What are they gonna do, hook it onto the carpet?! Hahahahahaha.”

“You’re absolutely right, Barry, you’re very right…”

-credit to Dara O’Briain

Number Sequence
Number Sequence
6 years ago

I both hate and love you for that pun. Please never stop.

Victorious Parasol
Victorious Parasol
6 years ago

@ Bina

That reminds me of one of my favorite scenes in the Young Wizards series. In the future, anyone who wants to run for public office has to go to the moon and look at Earth for a while, to make sure they understand.

leftwingfox
leftwingfox
6 years ago

littleknown: That routine has on of my favorite lines of all time.

“Of course scientists don’t know everything. Otherwise, they’d stop.”

msexceptiontotherule
msexceptiontotherule
6 years ago

@Makroth

There are nekkid cats in your avatar. My Victorian sensibilities and extremely high moral standards have been offended! (As I listen to “Dis Iz 4 All My Smokers” by Method Man and Redman, in my den of cohabitation iniquity…ok more of a home office than den but that’s beside the point!)

Those cats need sweaters for modesty.

Fine, it’s just to keep them warm. (They are cute cats though. If a bit odd looking in comparison to their furry peers.)

But the world is most definitely not flat, #NotAllAmericans.

Lkeke35
Lkeke35
6 years ago

I blame the internetz, not just for allowing people to believe just because they have an idea, it must be right, but for being able to link up with others who agree with their bad ideas, so as to reinforce said bad idea.
It’s like an infection or a leech. Hard to get those bad ideas out, once they dig in. At this point you’d have to burn the Internet with fire, nuke it from orbit, or something.

Buttercup Q. Skullpants
Buttercup Q. Skullpants
6 years ago

I think they’re upset because they live on a chubby pierced tattooed planet. They’re gonna have to travel to an Asian galaxy to find a more submissive solar system.

Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
6 years ago

So, like, how do these wonderfucks explain it away when their relatives go on vacation? If it includes portal guns, can I have one?

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