Kelly Weill, Author - Off the Edge

Kelly Weill, Author
Off the Edge


In February of 2020, Mike Hughes launched himself towards the edge of space, in a rocket he had built more or less on his own. What he was trying to do was to get a good enough personal, visual perspective to say whether Planet Earth is spherical or flat.

How much Hughes saw or what he decided will never be known because he was killed when his rocket crash-landed. But he came to the launch site pretty much as a believer, that the Earth is flat.

And Mike Hughes’ methodology in testing the correctness of his beliefs exemplified the First Commandment of Samuel Birley Rowbotham, the first great communicator of the Flat Earth movement: “See for yourself.”

Which is another way of saying, don’t believe what any non-believer — any so-called expert or government official — is telling you. Which is a great way to keep believers on the hook and following a straight and narrow line of a conspiracy theory ideology.

As conspiracy theories go, Flat Earth-belief is small and relatively benign. But our guest today, Kelly Weill in her new book, Off the Edge: Conspiracy Culture and Why People Will Believe Anything, not only explains why it qualifies for the label; she also shows how one conspiracy theory can lead to another and another.  Not just beliefs, but the process surrendering to believing is contagious.



Kelly Weill is a reporter for The Daily Beast. Her new book Off the Edge: Flat Earthers, Conspiracy Culture, and Why People Will Believe Anything draws a direct line from today’s conspiratorial moment, brimming not just with Flat Earthers but also anti-vaxxers and QAnon followers, back to the early days of Flat Earth theory in the 1830s. We learn the natural impulses behind these beliefs: when faced with a complicated world out of our control, humans have always sought patterns to explain the inexplicable.




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