Saturday, March 19, 2016

Flat Earth Updates: Fortean Times, Nexus Magazine and More On Murrow

In November I wrote an article mentioning that the alternative magazine Fortean Times had briefly referenced Flat Earth within its pages.

http://birkhallsmiscellany.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/flat-earth-fortean-times.html

In that article I also speculated about when and if they would be doing any larger articles about it in the future. Anyway, in the most recent edition of the magazine (March 2016) they did a double page spread on the topic. The focus of the article was the American rapper B.o.B.'s recent conversion to flat-earthism and his much publicised 'beef' with the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. The article then goes on to give an overview of the history of flat earth belief, mentioning Parallax, Shenton et al. It was a decent article, but unsurprisingly was somewhat dismissive of its topic. It'll be interesting to see if this is just a one off appearance for flat earth or whether it gets further page time.

(Fortean Times double page spread)

In the last month or so the flat earth issue has also came up in the pages of another magazine I regularly read. This time the magazine NEXUS (issue: Feb/Mar 2016). For anyone unfamiliar NEXUS is an alternative magazine that covers topics such as UFOs, ancient mysteries, alternative health, that sort of thing. The mention of flat earth came in the Letters to the Editor section. One reader wrote in asking why the topic wasn't being covered by the magazine.
"..because of a conspicuous and curious lack of coverage on one particular (and one huge) conspiracy, I am beginning to see your magazine as having a set agenda, as disappointing as it may be. Where is your open-mindedness? Why is there no coverage at all about the flat Earth awakening that has been happening this past year? YouTube is awash with overwhelming evidence that any logical, open-minded truth-seeker cannot ignore. Is your magazine simply too invested in promoting the idea of aliens from other planets and the spinning globe to dare touch this topic? My decision to reluctantly cancel my subscription awaits your response."
The editor gave a lengthy reply which included the following;
"I am well aware of the recent resurgence in the flat Earth theory. The YouTube clips I've see of it seem to stem from interpretations of horizon distance and curvature anomalies which, in my opinion, are not evidence of a flat Earth. In my view there are many false beliefs about light and gravity which hinder a proper understanding of the whole subject. For example, the "speed" of light varies with latitude, and gravity is not a property of mass. I believe in the existence of a charged aether and thus that gravity is not a pull from "within" but a push from "without". ...The Earth is not flat, which is why there has been no coverage in NEXUS."
Again, it'll be interesting to see if the magazine continues with this attitude, or if it softens its opinion and starts to give the topic more leeway.

(NEXUS magazine)

On a side note, I've just been flicking through the pages of NEXUS whilst writing this and have noticed that there's an article in it about animal testing, which I'll probably read in the coming week or so. It reminded me of another aspect of the flat earth movement that's been making me think of late. Namely, the flat earther Eric Dubay. If you go by YouTube views and subscriptions Dubay is probably the leading flat earther out there. I generally like his videos, and he speaks very well whenever I've heard him in interviews, however he has a fondness for Hitler and an attitude to the Jewish people that makes it hard for me to follow his work without feeling a little bit uncomfortable.

Anyway, here's what's been on my mind lately. Dubay is also an active vegan - animal rights feature quite heavily in his videos along with the flat earth stuff. Now, as I've mentioned on this site before, I'm a vegetarian, and the whole not-killing-animals thing is quite a big deal for me. It's something I'm quite passionate about. Anyway, watching Dubay's videos has not only reinforced my passion for the vegetarian issue, but it's also even helped to push me towards veganism a little more. I've stopped eating eggs, and have even started to question the eating of diary products (although it's probably fairly unlikely I'll give them up any time soon).

So I find myself in a position where I have a lot of admiration for someone in regards their attitude to animals - even to the point where that person has actually influenced my life personally. But, at the same time, their views on other issues, in this case the Nazis issue, are quite unpalatable to me. It's an odd mix.

So, I don't subscribe to him on YouTube because he expresses some opinions I disagree with. Yet at the same time I subscribe to plenty of people on YouTube that eat meat, and who by extension are inflicting suffering on animals on a daily basis - something I'm strongly against. I don't really know where I'm going here, but I feel I should at least state on record my feelings of hypocrisy.

..And Finally Murrow

Finally, the last topic I was going to touch upon, before I got sidetracked - the topic of Edward R. Murrow. A couple of posts back I wrote about Murrow and his possible propaganda work on such issues as the Earth Hoax and atomic weapons in the 1950s. I also mentioned how he was the broadcaster who helped instigate the censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy.

http://birkhallsmiscellany.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/earth-hoax-nuke-hoax-with-edward-r.html

Anyway, I recently came across an article on-line that noted the relationship between McCarthy and the Kennedys. We'd normally expect the Kennedys and McCarthy to be at polar opposites on the political spectrum, with the Kennedys as darlings of the liberal left and McCarthy viewed as a right wing anti-communist anachronism. However, there seems to be clear evidence that the two had a lot in common - and that they maybe even shared a common cause. A cause that no doubt led to the downfall of both.

The relationship started with a friendship that developed between McCarthy and Joseph Kennedy, father of JFK and Bobby. However, both JFK and Bobby would also grow to become good friends him.

The article in question is quite short and I highly recommend reading it. I'll quote some of the important bits below.
http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/progjfk2.htm

The following excerp concerns Robert Kennedy, McCarthy and the aforementioned Murrow.
...the younger Kennedy brother would maintain a deep loyalty to a man he loved enough to make the godfather of his first child. In 1955, Bobby displayed his residual feelings of loyalty for McCarthy even after the Senator's fall into disgrace at a dinner meeting described by the court historian of Camelot himself, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
"Still his Irish conception of loyalty turned him against some he felt had treated McCarthy unfairly. In January 1955, Edward R. Murrow [who had issued a famous anti-McCarthy telecast the previous year] spoke at the banquet honoring those, Kennedy among them, who had been selected by the Junior Chamber of Commerce as the Ten Outstanding Young Men of 1954. Kennedy grimly walked out."
Another incident, this time concerning JFK, shows the same respect for the man. This incident happened at a Harvard dinner;
[..]when a speaker had likened McCarthy to the convicted Soviet spy Alger Hiss, JFK rose to his feet and declared "How dare you couple the name of a great American patriot with that of a traitor!" and walked out.
How odd this is when viewed against the normal mainstream backdrop of American history.

Another article on the same site lists the links of friendship between JFK and that other arch political villain Richard Nixon.
http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/progjfk1.htm

Have we got Nixon all wrong as well? To be honest my ignorance of American politics means I wouldn't know either way really. My views of Nixon are mainly informed by episodes of the Simpsons and John Lennon records xD ..maybe I need to educate myself, then re-educate myself on the issue :)

A good rule of thumb to start with would maybe be; if he really was a bad guy, the powers that be wouldn't have let him fall from grace

After all, they seem to look after the real bad guys don't they - maybe Nixon had some redeeming moral features that stopped him from being truly useful to them :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Flat Earth/Ball Earth in the Alexander Romance

I've just finished reading The Greek Alexander Romance, translated by Richard Stoneman. For those unfamiliar the Alexander Romance is a collection of stories and legends about the famous conqueror Alexander the Great. The collection has had many variants and has appeared in many different languages throughout the ages (this version tries to draw on all of them).


The "real" Alexander was said to have lived in the 4th century BC, and was supposedly tutored by the famous Greek philosopher Aristotle. I've put real in quotes because personally I'm sceptical that there ever was a real Alexander. According to official historians Alexander was a real king, that really did conquer large parts of the ancient world, and that really was tutored by the philosopher Aristotle. The official historians also state that the Alexander Romance is largely mythical nonsense and made-up fairytale stories. In fact, this is why it's called a romance - history books that don't fit official history because they're too outlandish get relabelled as romances. Even though the people who originally wrote and read these stories in bygone times never made such a distinction.

So we have a situation where academics basically pick and choose which pieces of the written record to believe and which not to believe. In this case they're quite happy to believe that Alexander was tutored by the great Aristotle, but not that interested in believing that he had conversations with talking trees (one of the many strange events that occur in the Alexander Romance).

Anyhow, The Greek Alexander Romance was an excellent read and I highly recommend it :) I could spend a full blog post going through all the various interesting tales and ideas within it [in fact, my book is covered in pencil scribbles where I've made little notes about it]. I should also mention how easy it was to read - it was actually an enjoyable experience, unlike say, Homer's Iliad which I found a real test of endurance. I can totally see why these tales about Alexander were so popular in medieval times, and why they appeared in so many variations and languages.

Finally though I'll get to the Flat Earth/Ball Earth bits.

The book contains one bit where it implicitly states that the Earth is round, then many other bits where it's implied that it's flat and has edges. I guess this is to be expected given that it's a composite of various tales and traditions.

The mention of the Earth being round comes in a passage where the Persian king Darius mocks Alexander by sending him a ball (thus implying that Alexander is a child and should still be playing with toys). Alexander replies with the following statement;
I accepted the ball, as a sign that I shall be ruler of the world - for the world is spherical like a ball.
This implies that whoever wrote this section of the story (assuming the story being relayed isn't actually true of course) believed that the Earth was round. This would suggest that there were people that believed the Earth was round at least as early as the medieval period. It's just then a case of how old or authentic you believe these texts to actually be [I've mentioned my general scepticism about the dating of texts in other posts on here before].

The parts of the text that imply that the Earth is flat are much less clear, but they nevertheless conflict with the above passage. There are constant references to Alexander trying to reach the edge of the world - of course, this could be taken in a more symbolic sense though. There's also a passage where Alexander is carried high into the sky by a large bird and sees the entire world;
"Look down on earth, Alexander!" I looked down, somewhat afraid, and behold, I saw a great snake curled up, and in the middle of the snake a tiny circle like a threshing-floor [a threshing floor is a floor, normally circular, that was used to separate out grain by the trampling of feet in days of yore]. Then my companion said to me, "Point your spear at the threshing-floor, for that is the world. The snake is the sea that surrounds the world."
This visual image would imply that the world is a disc of land on a vast ocean, but again I guess it could be open to interpretation. (On a side note doesn't it often feel like we're the grain. Maybe a threshing floor is quite an apt description.)

Another thing that caught my eye that maybe could relate to flat earth thinking came when Alexander met the Brahmins or naked philosophers of India. He asked them several questions, one of which was "Which is stronger, death or life?" They replied "Life, because the sun as it rises has strong, bright rays, but when it sets, appears to be weaker."

I thought this was quite an odd statement, but it did bring to mind how instantly the morning light seems to come upon us, and how gradually the daylight seems to fade in the evening. Evening is in between morning and night, but what's in between night and morning? I'm sure this is just a question of perception, after all we're normally tucked up in bed in the early hours of the morning, so we rarely experience the true break of dawn, but I thought it was an interesting thing to make note of.

A final thing I thought was worth mentioning concerned the continents of the world, and came in a bit about Alexander taking on the Amazons - the famed female warriors of Greek myth. Mention of the name Amazon of course makes most people think of the Amazon river in South America, however we're told by historians that these ancient Amazons dwelt somewhere completely different. This would obviously make complete sense given that the New World was only discovered by Europeans about 500 years ago - long after the ancient Amazons were said to exist. In fact, if I recall correctly I think one story goes that the Amazon river was so named by European explorers because they encountered vicious female warriors along the river - which reminded them of the Greek tales.

However, setting conventional history aside for a moment, it's interesting to note how the country of the Amazons is described in the Alexander Romance.
We live in the hinterland across the river Amazon. Our country is completely encircled by a river, and it takes a year to travel around it. There is only one entrance.
If you take encircled by a river to mean encircled by an ocean then this would be a pretty decent description of the South American continent. A year to travel around it would certainly suggest a landmass of continent size. The one entrance possibly being the Isthmus of Panama in middle America. In fact, somewhat coincidentally, the Isthmus of Panama is also known as the Isthmus of Darien - and the name Darien is said to derive from the Persian name Darius. As mentioned above Darius is the Persian king that Alexander spends much of his time at war with in the book.

The possible Amazon/South America link is strengthened in a later passage in the book where Alexander tells the Amazons;
We have made ourself lord of the three continents and we have not failed to set up trophies of all our victories. It would be seen as shameful in us if we did not campaign against you too.
With the three already conquered continents being Africa, Europe and Asia this would suggest that the land of the Amazons lies somewhere else. Again though this is pretty heady speculation and I guess the text can be read numerous ways. Especially given that we're reading a translation of a work that has had so many variations down the years.

It's still highly interesting though. Maybe all these works we attribute to the ancient and medieval world are much more recent than we think. I'm slowly becoming convinced that the official history we have of the world is very confused indeed.