There’s a trim young man sitting behind the table with an old-fashioned globe and a mounted camera sitting atop. A sign on a nearby tree reads, “WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT FLAT EARTH?” There’s another man in T-shirt and jeans standing at the table, apparently telling him just that.
In case you haven’t heard, Flat Earth is a movement resurrected from the days before modern science. A growing crowd of mostly men with YouTube pages has been trying to convince anyone who will listen that the Earth, contrary to all that science (and every photo ever taken from space), is flat.
There was speculation if the man was actually serious, trolling for his own amusement, mentally ill, or just lonely. But witnesses insist he’s the real deal – that he seemed very sincere, if a little… off.
A couple of Redditors dug up what they believe to be the flat-Earther’s YouTube channel: Authentic Intent. Among hours-long testimony and speculation about conspiracies hiding the planar shape of the Earth, you can find videos that appear to take place on the banks of Bde Maka Ska, filmed from his perspective. One by one, walkers, joggers, and bikers slow down, crane their necks, and, from time to time, mosey a little closer.
“What are you preaching out here?” a young man passing by asks. Another in a University of Minnesota shirt joins him while idly tossing a football in the air.
“I’m just sharing information,” the voice behind the camera says. “You can take it for what it’s worth, right?”
The man behind the camera tries to shake his visitors' faith in a globular Earth. They, in turn, try to find a gap in his pitch – some crack to wedge a little doubt into and pry apart the whole argument.
Anyone who has ever attempted to debate a flat-Earther – and that includes literal, actual astronaut Buzz Aldrin – knows that’s pretty much impossible, whether he’s a true believer or just an impish troll. It’d be just as easy to convince someone to admit there is (or is not) a God, or ghosts, or aliens.
Take Authentic’s first point. Water, he tells the two young men as he gestures to the lake in the background, has a level, flat surface when it’s sitting still. So why does the ocean look like a globe from outer space? How do you know that globe even exists if you haven’t seen it in person?
“You can see the curve of the Earth,” the man with the football says.
“No you can’t,” Authentic says quickly.
No, the man says, he’s seen it himself. He’s been atop the Burj Khalifa – a space age-looking Dubai skyscraper that reaches over 2,700 feet. Authentic asks him if he took a picture, he should put it up on a computer monitor, and hold a ruler to the so-called curve. He suspected it would in fact be flat if he measured it.
By this point, a small crowd has gathered. Some bystanders pepper Authentic with questions, but others just watch with arms crossed. Authentic tries to shine a light on his entire worldview – no pun intended.
“I graduated high school here in Buffalo in ’99,” he says. He grew up “exactly the same way” everyone else did, but he lives his life differently. “I choose to seek for truth and investigate,” he says. “I would rather be alone and have no friends and no truth than to be popular and--“
“That’s not what the question is about here,” a man interjects. The question isn’t even whether the Earth is flat. The question is why Authentic says he thinks it is – and why he thinks everyone else should agree.
That question wouldn’t receive an answer. Just a handshake between Authentic and his visitors before they continue about their day.
The video continues with the same arguments for shifting crowds, getting darker and darker as the sun sinks below the horizon – which Authentic calls the “supposed” horizon. He tells everyone who will listen that he believes we are being lied to. That no one has really been to space, and all images of the globe are just CGI. We are the center of the universe, he argues, and we were put here by some kind of “creator” for some kind of purpose.
As darkness falls, the video ends. Authentic packs up his stuff and turns the camera back on his booth, showing viewers what all the “normies” have been seeing. But it’s too dark.
“You can’t really see the table,” he says. “But it’s really there, I promise you. It’s not CGI.”
He pauses. “Or is it?”