“Okay, who’s dizzy right now? Who’s dizzy?” The speaker glanced around the crowd to find only one individual with their hand up. “You’re dizzy right now?” he asked, clearly showing that he didn’t intend for anyone to respond to his question. “You’re not dizzy,” he declared, and proceeded with his argument. “You know why? People are saying the Earth is spinning or something! You know how crazy that is?!”
This comical argument that captivated the audience was presented by Lake Forest junior Tommy Henry, a member of the Debate Team that went to a debate convention hosted by the Junior State of America in Madison, Wisconsin. Although the majority of the debates at this convention were serious, at the end of the day students were given a chance to unwind with “joke debates.” In his speech, Tommy proposed that the that the Earth is actually flat, which has been the latest nonsensical conspiracy theory proposed by internet trolls and professional athletes alike. After the video was put up by Tim Hauserman’s YouTube account, Tommy’s speech was posted by Mark Sargent, a supporter of the flat Earth theory. Sargent’s caption read, “Flat Earth college kid – whatever it takes to plant the seed.” Henry explained, “I think a lot of people will be turning away from Mark as a reliable source in the flat Earth community because he put up my video, which is clearly a joke.” Sargent’s account, which enjoys over 40,000 subscribers, gathers anywhere from a couple hundred to tens of thousands of viewers. Tommy’s video currently has around 10,000 views, which is especially surprising considering it was posted three days ago.
Tommy’s argument, which he was given a week or so beforehand to formulate, is based on the idea that Earth is flat, which was disproven by Greek philosopher Pythagoras during the 6th century BC. Pythagoras’s idea spread, and as more and more philosophers adopted the theory, for the most part it became a universally accepted truth. Fast forward to the 1800s, when English writer Samuel Rowbotham produced the book Earth Not a Globe. This new theory of the Earth being a flat “disc-like” shape has sparked conspiracy theories worldwide. Celebrities such as B.o.B and Kyrie Irving have endorsed the idea, and both have received a fair amount of public backlash.
Today, there are 2,479 members of the Flat Earth Society, and their website has received 20,453,881 views. Most recently, the organization spoke out against one of Elon Musk’s tweet, in which he wondered why there was no “Flat Mars Society.” Although this was clearly meant as a joke, the Flat Earth Society responded, “Unlike the Earth, Mars has been observed to be round.”
As was the case with Musk’s tweet, Tommy Henry’s persuasive speech was simply meant as a joke. That being said, not all of the 400+ commenters on Youtube have realized this. One in particular mentioned, “There [sic] laughing at you, not with you, dumb***.” Another, whose grammar could also use some revision, added, “They’re just probably laughing of how idiot this guy is.” One final YouTuber said, “What an idiot. Love watching ignorant people parade their ignorance.”
Others, who figured out that the speech was meant to be humorous and poke fun at how outlandish the ideas of the Earth being flat are, spoke out against Tommy. One said, “Laughing and mocking the truth, how has humanity gotten to this point?” An additional supporter of the flat Earth theory said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Henry told me, “Flat Earthers being angry at me putting a comical twist on the issue honestly is very humorous to me. I think it’s entertaining.”
Tommy’s argumentative speech only lasted a couple of minutes, but the crowd asked questions for a while, making the final video twelve minutes long. Tommy explained that he was “going off the cuff for the vast majority of the questions.” He continued, “I don’t think you can really prepare too much with a topic like this.” Because of this, Tommy’s extremely unconventional explanations proved to be quite entertaining. As he continued explaining his theories, the crowd got more and more involved. Towards the end, the audience was asking very amusing questions. Some of the notable questions included junior George Schoettle’s inquiry as to what kind of outlet the sun, which Tommy explained is actually a giant light bulb, is plugged into. In addition to this, another individual’s query regarding how different time zones work, prompted Tommy to chuckle and respond, “Next question.”