Earth Is Flat as a Pita: The Israelis Who Push the Ultimate Conspiracy Theory

In their eyes, the moon landing never happened. Another sign of the post-truth era?

A map of the Earth as flat, drawn by Orlando Ferguson at the end of the 19th century
A map of the Earth as flat, drawn by Orlando Ferguson at the end of the 19th century Orlando Ferguson

After acquiring surprising support worldwide, the ultimate conspiracy theory – that the Earth is flat and not round – has found a support group in Israel too. The Israeli community operates around their website, which started about a year ago. The website offers unequivocal proof of the huge deception that began with Galileo and Copernicus and ended with NASA and the manufacturers of globes. The managers of the site, who identify themselves by the assumed names Guy Mass and Richard Byrd, post translated videos, maps and various proofs that the Earth is flat and doesn’t revolve around the sun, and that the moon landing is a huge fraud. We’re alone on a huge and stable surface – the fact is that things don’t move in your room – as people believed in ancient times.

As opposed to the large and noisy worldwide group, the Israeli supporters of the flat Earth theory remain quiet and inaccessible. Guy Mass, the guiding spirit behind the website, wrote to me that he refuses to be interviewed by the establishment media. His partner Richard Byrd, on the other hand, is in favor of spreading the word to the ignorant. When he heard that Mass had turned me down, he approached me on his own initiative.

Get the best of Haaretz: Follow us on Facebook

We met in Tel Aviv. He pulled out a calling card (with his real name). It turns out that he’s a CEO in a real estate company, 39 years old, a father, and he lives in the center of the country. A Google search reveals that the company builds luxury towers on the beach and is a thorn in the side of green organizations and area residents.

It’s important to mention that in no way is this a joke. It’s not ironic. Believers in the theory relate to it with the utmost seriousness, and their attitude is far from humorous. On the contrary, they are peeved by the many who don’t recognize their truth, which in their opinion is clear as day. Byrd looks like an ordinary Israeli entrepreneur, and still his eyes take on a messianic gaze when the subject of the flat Earth comes up, and occasionally he starts speaking English and scolds me: “You’re not with me.”

Many supporters of the flat Earth theory were afraid to be interviewed, even under an assumed name. “The world is not ready for this revelation. Certainly not in the ordinary media. They’ll call us crazies,” wrote one of the leaders of the Israeli flat Earth Facebook group. Byrd admitted that he had quarreled with his engineer brothers because of his rejection of physics and astronomy. I personally didn’t try to question the interviewees’ viewpoint, just as I wouldn’t try to argue with anyone claiming that the world was created in a week.

“It began when in 2003 Ilan Ramon supposedly crashed,” says Byrd, referring to the Israeli astronaut who was killed, along with the rest of the crew, when NASA’s Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon reentering Earth’s atmosphere in a mission in 2003. “I asked myself, how is it possible that in 1969 they succeeded in landing a spaceship 400,000 kilometers from here, and now the NASA engineers can’t complete a mission at a height of only 400 kilometers? I realized that they didn’t land on the moon. Almost everyone to whom I said that ridiculed me.

The late Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon
Reuters

“About a year and a half ago my eldest daughter asked me: ‘Who said that the world is a ball and not flat?’ I searched on Google, and I read a ridiculous article on the subject that suffered from misinformation. When I spoke about the article at the Friday night meal, everyone around me was angry. It reminded me of the reactions when I declared that I would stop eating animal products, years earlier. That’s when I realized that there was something to it.”

Ilan Ramon, Israel’s link to NASA, is of course of significance for the Israeli group. Israeli flat Earthers posted a video that claims that Ramon is living among us. They believe that during NASA flights the astronaut, who is dubbed an astro-not, is concealed in a secret cell in the belly of the earth, which he leaves after the supposed landing, to embark on a PR campaign. Of course the film uses actors. According to the flat Earthers, Russia and the United States deceived one another in the race to space and reported on fictitious achievements in order to defeat the other side, and that’s how the legends about Sputnik and the moon landing were invented. At present the deception is based on greed.

In any case, determined to discover the truth, Byrd bought a telescope and immersed himself in the many YouTube films dealing with the subject Flatearth. Although the latest incarnation of the theory erupted in the past two years, the expression Flatearth already has 10 million results on Google and is very successful in pop culture. The rapper B.o.B was photographed on a hill, with a distant city on the horizon, claiming that this was unequivocal proof that the world is flat.

“I’m fighting against one of the biggest lies in the world,” he boasted, and later wrote the music to a song slamming an astrophysicist who had ridiculed him. Basketball player Shaquille O’Neal joined him: “I travel from coast to coast, and this garbage looks flat. I don’t go up and then down.”

Another supporter is starlet Tila Tequila, who had the largest number of friends on the MySpace social network (and was ousted from Twitter because of a Hitler salute). Basketball player Kyrie Irving is also among them, but apparently he later changed his mind.

Tila Tequila
Glenn Francis / www.PacificProDi

“Everyone is programmed for a story that is baseless,” says Byrd. “Why is there blue above? In Genesis chapter 1 it says that God created the heavens and separated the waters beneath the heavens from the waters above it.”

And the sunsets? Or a ship where you can see only the masts on the horizon? That’s a classic proof of the Earth’s curvature.

“I watch sunsets with a telescope, and even after the sun begins to disappear into the water with a telescope you can see it high once again on the surface of the water. It’s a matter of perspective and the vanishing point. I know with more than absolute certainty that there’s no curvature. It’s simple mathematics. A laser beam that passes over the surface of a large lake will hit a point beyond the lake. There are endless experiments of that kind. The water doesn’t curve into a hill in the middle of the lake. The world is flat and immobile.”

People have traveled around the world.

“They sailed in a circle. I also run around my neighborhood, that doesn’t prove that the neighborhood is a sphere. Listen to me, there wasn’t a single flight that crossed the South Pole. If a person flies on a plane in a southerly direction, he will pass the Antarctic, emerge from the other direction, complete a full revolution of the sphere and land in the same place where he started. I admit that we live on a sphere. But we don’t fly above the Antarctic, ostensibly because the temperature is too low, and at the same time they say that they landed a man on the moon, which is much colder. It’s all a trick.”

All the NASA launches are fake?

The moon landing: a lie?
AFP

“Everything is a lie, everything is fake. Search ‘pictures of satellites in space’ on Google – it’s all embarrassing cartoons. Santa Claus for adults.”

Are you opposed to satellites?

There’s no such thing as satellites. The idea was invented by science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke. Long before the satellites there was trans-Atlantic communication. I would expect to receive from the satellites 200 television stations broadcasting the revolving sphere, including the option of zooming in on upside-down buildings in Australia. Everyone is addicted to ‘Star Wars.’ Addiction to space and to galaxies has been implanted in us since infancy.”

The moon landing?

“It never happened. Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Donald Rumsfeld and Henry Kissinger admit it. Nixon chose Kubrick to direct the landing. After the assignment was completed the entire crew was eliminated, except for Kubrick.”

Oy.

“It’s enough to look at the landing vehicle and to see that it’s a piece of junk made of cellophane paper and duct tape.”

Are the television satellite dishes for decoration?

“Directed towards relay stations. There’s no space, no satellites, no endless vacuum – 95 percent of communications take place by means of undersea cables. We don’t need tin cans that fly in space in temperatures of 2,000 degrees Celsius in order to communicate.”

Why should anyone be interested in creating such a fraudulent system?

“Up until 500 years ago everyone knew that the Earth was flat. All the religions. All the cultures. In the Bible it says that God created the heavens and the earth. By spreading the belief that the world is a sphere they’re concealing God from us, turning us into atheists, leaving us in a matrix. Science knows everything and can’t be questioned. In order for us to be obedient slaves, it’s essential for us to be small and insignificant. When I’m stardust on one planet out of billions I’m small and insignificant. That’s what the vast majority of the world thinks, while we are in effect the center of creation. Explain to me why I can’t reach the Antarctic?”

There are research stations there.

“They say that there are supposedly scientists there, but there aren’t any. The Antarctic was closed by an international treaty in the 1950s. They want to keep us in a prison. There are maps and evidence that tell of 33 continents beyond Antarctica. Apparently there’s still a lot of real estate that they don’t want us to reach, so we’ll remain slaves.”

Byrd admits that the reactions he receives are unpleasant. “Most of them are harsh,” he says. “Few people can deal with the subject with equanimity. Family and social ties have weakened in the wake of the discovery. People want to remain in the matrix.”

Guy Mass is active on the website, he posts and translates dozens of films, and Byrd finances the website. “My objective is to help the world to find the truth,” he explains. “I have a mission to save the human race. They’re trying to exterminate us, we’re slaves who worship those who enslave us. When I understood that the earth is flat, I proved God’s existence to myself.”

It should be noted that Byrd is not religious, and most of the flat Earthers in Israel write on Facebook on Shabbat. “I posed questions to a senior astrophysicist from a leading Israeli university. I asked politely about a variety of subjects, for example, about the resistance of the spacesuits to the tremendous changes in temperature. He didn’t know how to answer most of the questions. He only recites what was planted in his head. I watched hours of interviews with the Apollo astronauts. The lies, the inconsistency and the confusion cry out to the heavens. I feel sorry for them. Explain to me how it’s possible that NASA claims that we have lost the ability to reach the moon. Am I the only one who thinks it sounds like a sad joke?”

They ticked it off, and the investment require to land there again isn’t worthwhile.

“You can’t land on the moon. It’s a hologram. When the moon is half illuminated you can see stars through the empty half. Why don’t we place 10 cameras on the moon, photograph the Earth live all the time?” If films in English posted on YouTube reach over 3 million views, films in Hebrew don’t get more than 700 views and attest to the fact that the Israeli group includes only a few dozen to a few hundred supporters at present. But like chemtrails (chemical trails), the theory, which is very successful here, that the trails of clouds emitted by planes are part of a conspiracy to change the climate and to poison souls, we can reasonably assume that within a short time this theory will also filter down.

At present even on Conspil, the main Israel Facebook conspiracies page, in which very extreme theories can be found — for example, the claim that the illuminati control the world via messages from rap bands — flat Earthers are scorned. People were angry when a surfer named Aharon attacked the group’s preoccupation with aliens. “The entire issue of space is one big deception that leads to belief in UFOs,” he wrote.

The jokes were not long in coming. “Who still thinks that the Earth is a flying pita?” wondered one commenter. Mass abandoned the group in anger and wrote on his personal page: “I finally left Conspil, which has become a group controlled by fools who spread disinformation.”

It’s easy to disdain the flat Earth movement, but it’s interesting to see it as part of a post-truth wave that is related to the era of U.S. President Donald Trump. On Facebook you can choose your friends, so that they’ll support the autonomous truth that belongs only to you and to them. Video blogger Marcus Franco, an Israeli proponent of the flat Earth theory, says in one film that he felt as though they had scored a goal when Trump was elected, a serious compliment from a native of Uruguay. But like Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid, the conspiracy people are neither right nor left.

They will embrace the battle to get Benjamin Netanyahu indicted but they’ll also upload posts about the connection between the New Israel Fund and Nazi Germany.

Although the astronomers in ancient Greece already insisted that the Earth is round, the claim that the Earth is flat was revived in the 19th century by Samuel Rowbotham. The theory returned to the headlines in 1956 when the Flat Earth Society was established. The society had a few thousand members and it declined slowly. It resumed operations again in the previous decade and was opened for registration, but within a short time it split into several competing societies, each of which suspects that the others were sent by the establishment. Paranoia about an all-embracing conspiracy by the media or science (or intellectuals) is often a sign of anti-Semitism, and in fact some of the foreign groups accuse the Jewish people of a conspiracy.

One of the two managers of the Israeli flat earth Facebook group is a 37-year-old musician named Idan (not his real name). The small and closed Facebook group was not designed to convince believers. In effect it’s the headquarters of those who spread the word. Before entering the page you have to answer three questions that test your adherence to the theory. I apparently failed with the question: “The world is ___ ,” when I answered “nice,” and I was not permitted to enter the group.

I arrived at the subject via YouTube, from films that jumped out at me,” says Idan. “I’ve been researching the subject for two years. It was hard at the time to seek and find the main things. Since then there are large quantities of information and studies from all the fields.”

Why is the Israeli Facebook page so closed?

“It’s a group for people who describe themselves as ‘flatters.’ It’s not a group for arguments, there’s no entry for trolls or people who come to make you angry, but it’s for people who have internalized the subject and share information to advance it. At first we admitted everyone, but then people asked stupid questions and made more of a mess than they brought any benefit.

“Some people are fixed on the concept of the globe and it’s hard for them to think that there’s another option that they weren’t taught, an option that has been systematically banned in the mainstream media, headed by National Geographic, networks controlled by corporations that in the final analysis are controlled by the governments.”

In your view, where do all the missiles that are launched into space, including the Israeli ones, end up?

“All the missiles straighten out horizontally in space. A rocket engine can’t create propulsion in a vacuum, which eliminates all the nonsense called space. The satellites are in effect helium balloons that are placed high up.”

Do you believe that the Antarctic is the end of the world. What happens if you fly over it?

“There are differences of opinion. Nobody can get there. It’s a closed military area. I spoke to someone who visited there on a tour. It wasn’t exactly the Antarctic, it was an island. They weren’t really in the Antarctic. If you try to get there they’ll probably chase you out, or find the way to make you disappear.”

How do your friends react when you tell them about your belief?

“I choose very carefully with whom to talk about it. Not everyone has a sufficiently open mind to understand that it’s not a joke.”