Conspiracy theories are always seductive. You undertake research, begin to question things and arrive at a truth that seems earned. Seems yours. Everyone else is wrong but you are right. And you don’t get a much bigger question than seeking to prove that the Earth, despite hundreds of years of evidence to the contrary, is flat. Behind The Curve is a documentary exploring the growing ‘Flat Earth Society’. It follows some of the big names involved and gives them free rein to lay flat their thought processes.
Directed by Daniel J. Clark, Behind The Curve follows some of the prominent members in the science-denying flat earth community. Figures like Washington based Mike Sargent who, along with his large flat earth based t-shirt collection (Love + Truth = Flat Earth being a good one), is more than happy to take you through the journey that has led to him becoming one of the movement’s figureheads. The fact that he seems to revel somewhat in his celebrity (‘I’m Mike Sargent’ is another common t-shirt) is more telling about his mentality than he realises.
Also featured is podcaster, presenter, and reporter: Patricia Steere. Like Sargent, she comes across as a genuinely lovely person. In fact, there are even hints of romance between the two, which is undeniably sweet. But, even more so than Sargent, she is particularly lost down the rabbit hole of conspiracies. From chem trails to vaccines, if there is a common consensus on something, she won’t believe it. In fact, she even admits that she struggles to believe any event (citing the Boston Marathon bombing as an example) unless she’s there and getting her ‘leg blown off’.
The documentary peppers itself with various talking heads from within the scientific community. They express bafflement at the logic behind the flat earth theory. Apparently, Antarctica is actually a huge ringed wall of ice around the edge of the disc! But the most interesting are the psychologists and sociologists. They talk about what causes a person to disbelieve, so vehemently, what has been known as scientific fact for so long. They even suggest that the rise of social media has not only fuelled the power of a conspiracy but has also led to a destructively derisorily attitude towards those on the opposite side. People are being laughed into the fringes of society, where they fester.
Clark for the most part just lets Sargent and his other subjects talk, with minimal questioning. It would be easy (and cheap) to ridicule these people, but it is much warmer to listen instead. By doing so, we get nuggets like Steele completely missing the irony of herself and Sargent also being the focus of conspiracy theories. The movement’s most frothy-mouthed pulpit thumper, Matt Powerland, has deemed them both to be Warner Brother’s stooges designed to fracture flat earth believers – by not following him of course. Oh yes, the movement is split within itself. Does the Flat Earth have a dome (or ‘the firmament’)? Does it have an Infinite Sky? What about solar eclipses? Internal arguments are strife and splinters common.
Behind The Curve is a fascinating and (so far as possible) impartial platform for some apparently lovely people to espouse their viewpoints. And occasionally it nudges them into their own revelations. One group (‘Globe Busters’) get increasingly frustrated when their genuinely valid tests keep coming up with pesky results like how the Earth must be curved and rotating through space. Funny that, huh?
Words by Michael Record