by Colin Campbell
GREIG Street in Inverness has a fairly standard mix of frontages: a Chinese restaurant, a fast-food takeaway, a hairdresser, a corner shop. And then there’s a branch of what appears to be the Flat Earth Society. When that distinctive outlet appeared, more than a few eyebrows were raised. And it brought up a rather obvious question. Why has the Flat Earth Society set up shop in flattest Greig Street?
It’s on a site which used to be the local post office, until PO bosses in their infinite wisdom decided to axe most of these small and well-used branches (particularly by pensioners) as part of yet another “rationalisation” process.
It’s replacement is somewhat less conventional.
Adorned with a mix of posters “Trust Your Senses The Earth Is Flat And Is Not Spinning” it has a rather forbidding exterior. Its design does not exactly roll out a welcome mat to those who may be wavering on whether the earth is round after all.
Inverness news and views – after a prolonged period of curiosity – decided to enter, with some trepidation, in a bid to see what it was all about.
The interior is fairly spartan, stacked with leaflets and books. But the welcome was friendly enough. Until, that is, we said we were from the media seeking an interview.
At which time the atmosphere took a very flat turn indeed.
Outright rejection was prevented by INV acceptance that all contents of our conversation would be “off the record”, that is not for public disclosure.
And that agreement must prevail.
In truth, I didn’t initially understand the reason for such a stipulation. What’s the point of trying to get an extremely contentious – to say the very least – argument across if you’re not prepared for it to be publicised?
Because, I gathered, Flat Earthers are extremely distrustful of the media and given the previous treatment they’ve been given by it when they’ve broken surface (branded eccentrics at best, or downright nutters) that’s understandable.
So I settled down for a chat with an extremely intelligent young man for what turned out to be a rather absorbing 90-minute conversation. And after his initial – suspicion wouldn’t be too strong a word – had dissipated, he turned out to friendly, engaging and likeable.
And it’s breaking no confidentialities to say these people – if he’s typical of them – aren’t there to pass the time. They really, really do believe in the cause they are promoting – albeit in a rather obscure way, it seems to me at least. They are passionate. And they back it up with mathematical and geographical examples which I couldn’t report on anyway because I didn’t fully understand them, or at least not all of them. But there were several I did grasp – and I have to say they seemed logical enough to me.
But the earth isn’t flat, it’s round. I mean it just is – isn’t it? Don’t ask me why I believe that. It just is. Or so we’ve been led to believe. Well the Flat Earthers do not believe it. They believe it’s a lie seemingly based on a conspiracy. And that’s where our conversation took a more interesting turn. Because if a mega-conspiracy on the shape of the planet can be indoctrinated into people, how many other conspiracies are being perpetrated on us also?
Dedicated conspiracy theorists as in (not mentioned in our conversation) those who believe that spaceship aliens from another world were captured on a visitation to America in the 1950s and are currently incarcerated at a location under the Nevada desert just seem really, really weird.
The Flat Earther I spoke to didn’t seem weird at all. Just a man who takes a radically different view on accepted wisdom – on a variety of fronts – and, unlike most of us, is not prepared to swallow it whole.
Several people entered the premises while I was there, including a young woman who, by the sound of her, was a partial convert to the view that the earth is flat and wanted to absorb more facts and literature about it. I found that interesting. There are people – who knows how many – who do think seriously about this issue.
At the end of what had been a very interesting conversation – much more so than I’d expected – I took a leaflet home with me but didn’t read it. At the end of the day, is the earth flat? Is it round? Does it really matter? Not to me it doesn’t. The only time I concern myself with the absence of flatness in the earth is when I try to cycle over a mountain, like Bealach Na Ba.
But it matters hugely to the Flat Earthers in Greig Street (and I should point out that they do not seem to be affiliated, for some reason, to the Flat Earth Society). And as for answers as to where their funding or money to maintain these premises comes from – that was a complete no-no.
I left offering space on INV for the Flat Earthers to explain their views and that offer remains open. If you’re interested, go in and see them – behind the blaring posters I’m sure you’ll get a warm enough welcome. If pushed, I’d say the earth is probably round, but there’s a possibility that it’s flat. But it’s not something I’ve dwelt on once since that interesting afternoon in Greig Street. Then again, thinking about it would at least be one hulluva welcome break from Brexit.