This article originally appeared on VICE Canada. A red car blasting David Bowie as it floats around Earth has become a real bee in the bonnet for the Flat Earth community.
To fill you in on why these cosmographically confused folks are scrambling, on Tuesday SpaceX—the private aerospace manufacturer and space transport founded and run by Elon Musk—successfully launched and landed Falcon Heavy, which was dubbed the most powerful operational reusable rocket in the world. The Falcon’s payload was a red Tesla roadster playing an infinite loop of "Space Oddity" with a dummy in it, which then floated around Earth—its final destination is Mars.
The Tesla’s time in the void was livestreamed, and people quickly used the opportunity to dunk on Flat Earthers. Twitter even made a moment called “Did Elon Musk just shut down the Flat Earth conspiracy?” (Quick tip: The answer to the question is no. Eratosthenes did that like 2,000 years ago.)
Both the nonstop dunking and the clear view of a round Earth understandably peeved off those who adhere to the wisdom of Kyrie Irving. Some are saying that the stunt was actually made to distract people from the fact that Tesla filed its biggest ever quarterly loss recently; others are saying it’s all part of an evil Illuminati plan. Some say that the entire production was computer generated, while others are of the belief that it was filmed in a studio similarly to the moon landing.
The only thing the Flat Earth community seems to agree on, though, is that they think the stunt was fake as hell.
It’s already been reported that the Flat Earth Society was upset with Musk for the stunt it described as “a good car ad.” In a tweet—the society actually has a pretty good Twitter game—it stated: “People who believe that the Earth is a globe because ‘they saw a car in space on the Internet’ must be the new incarnation of ‘It's true, I saw it on TV!’ It's a poor argument.”
“Why would we believe any privately-held company to report the truth?”
In all fairness to FES, that last point is pretty good but, you know, broken clock right twice a day and all that. However, it’s not just the intellectual leaders of the movement who are upset with Musk but the whole lot.
Now, to be completely candid, the Flat Earth community is a hard one to pin down and report on because of all the trolls who coexist side by side with the true believers. To exacerbate the matter, many of the trolls tend to write in a similar cadence as the zealots in order to push them further down the rabbit hole for, and I’m assuming here, lulz. That said, this is a community that one can safely assume adheres strongly to Poe’s Law—the idea that it is impossible to create a parody of extreme views without someone believing them.
Like many other, shall we say, "niche communities," Flat Earthers have found a home on YouTube and have created video after video “debunking” the launch. In one incredibly perplexing video that has 20,000 views, the commentator connects the Eagles winning the Super Bowl to the “flight of the Falcon,” relates the term "Saturn" to "Satan," says the rocket is shaped like a satanic “penis,” sees Illuminati pyramids in the Tesla Roadster, and uses the fact that the video was shot using a fisheye lens as proof it’s a fake.
Musician and newly converted Flat Earther Delano Edwards, who has half a million followers on YouTube, made a video called “FLAT EARTH PROOF (ELON MUSK SPACEX FALCON HEAVY WAS FAKE)!!!!” and lays out several points like “where the fuck the stars at?” “why ain’t it spinnin’?” and “where the fuck the satellites at?”
“You make billions of dollars every fucking year and this is the best shit you can come up with? From us being Flat-Earthers at least let us say ‘well you did a good job this time.’ I can do better than this with five dollars and the green screen I got,” says Edwards.
“You gotta be a retarded person to believe that this shit is real. Wake the fuck up.”
It’s not just the YouTube Flat Earthers who are getting cranky over the stunt. On the Flat Earth Society forum, several of the topics of conversation are all related to the SpaceX launch. One of them goes for a ridiculous 150 messages with the posters bitching about Musk and putting their heads together to try and prove how the launch was either fake or actually proves Flat Earth theory.
There are users in the forum pushing back on the Flat Earthers, who are then disparaged by the true believers as “muskbots.” Like all online activity, most of the threads quickly turn into flame wars.
“Cursing Elon, gimme a break. We are laughing at you and the Elon fanboys. I think (it) is funny that you boys believe that his Tesla is flying in space,” reads one such message written by a user named Hoppy. “You are so brainwashed that you believe anything NASA tells you, and now you believe Elon Musk. It is pitiful and funny at the same time.”
Indeed, all the Flat Earth theories, arguments, and ways of spreading them vary greatly but, there was one unifying point—other than that it was fake—made at least once in every video and forum thread, it was the fact that Bowie fucking rules.
At the end of the day, you know what: It’s nice to know we can all agree on something. Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.
Follow Mack Lamoureux on Twitter.