Off the Edge

Flat Earthers, Conspiracy Culture, and Why People Will Believe Anything


By Kelly Weill

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“A deep dive into the world of Flat Earth conspiracy theorists . . . that brilliantly reveals how people fall into illogical beliefs, reject reason, destroy relationships, and connect with a broad range of conspiracy theories in the social media age. Beautiful, probing, and often empathetic . . . An insightful, human look at what fuels conspiracy theories.” —Science

Since 2015, there has been a spectacular boom in a centuries-old delusion: that the earth is flat. More and more people believe that we all live on a pancake-shaped planet, capped by a solid dome and ringed by an impossible wall of ice. In Off the Edge, journalist Kelly Weill 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. But something else has shifted. Powered by Facebook and YouTube algorithms, the Flat Earth movement is growing.

At once a definitive history of the movement and an essential look at its unbelievable present, Off the Edge introduces us to a cast of larger-than-life characters. We meet historical figures like the historical figures who first popularized the theory and the many modern-day Flat Earthers Weill herself gets to know. We discover what, and who, converts people to Flat Earth belief, and what happens inside the rabbit hole. In this incisive and powerful book, Kelly Weill explores how we arrived at this polarized moment and explains what needs to happen so that we might all return to the same spinning globe.


1 | In the Beginning

They were beggars and scholars and out-of-work lace makers, dreamers and drunkards, decent farmers and hopelessly bad ones. They were bricklayers, some honest and some exploiting an obscure loophole in brickmaking law to commit tax fraud. They were at odds with the local press, accused of sex scandals, and eternally feuding among themselves. And from 1838 to 1841, they were all stuck there together in the worst little utopia in all of Cambridgeshire, England.

"They paid much more attention to the beer shops and the company of the lowest prostitutes" than to their work, one griped about his neighbors.

"To make a successful Community all parties must be economical and industrious, and must not, like Mr. Kirk, frequently get up after breakfast," others complained of a comrade in an anonymous collective letter to the commune newspaper.

This was Manea Fen, a short-lived socialist commune scooped out of the wetlands. Staffed by soft-handed idealists rebelling against England's Industrial Revolution and local laborers seeking more than starvation wages, Manea Fen was a beacon for people chasing a new world. They found it, though not in a way they could have imagined. By its second year, the whole project would become an embarrassing flop that would send its founder into debt and most of its members slinking back into polite society. But as the weeds reclaimed Manea Fen's homesteads, the commune's real export would blossom across the country. Up from Manea Fen's marshy plains rose modern Flat Earth theory, a conspiracy theory so audacious it could eclipse a planet. It was entirely one man's fault.

Samuel Birley Rowbotham was twenty-two, radical, and according to a socialist newspaper's account, occasionally high off his mind on laughing gas when he began imagining a new world in 1838. That year, he was one of the first to answer a local farmer's call to build the planned utopian society of Manea Fen. Rowbotham and the farmer comrade, William Hodson, were followers of Robert Owen, a utopian socialist who envisioned grand, sweeping paradises made up of cooperative worker communes. (Working before socialist heavy hitters like Karl Marx, Owen argued not for society-wide class struggle and revolution, but for model communes that would show the world how to live peacefully.) The year 1838 was a boom time for English utopians. Workers, dirt-poor and fed up near the end of the First Industrial Revolution, banded together in experimental live-work settlements where they hoped they could break the accelerating wheels of capitalism.

Few photographs exist of Rowbotham. If you ask around at a modern Flat Earth conference, someone might be able to sell you an old pamphlet with a picture of him as a stern, round-faced man of middle age. I like to imagine him in his early years, however, not as an aging man from an old book, but as a young idealist who would have gotten by just fine in the twenty-first century. The young Rowbotham liked to get high and litigate obscure political arguments with other socialists in their niche newspapers. Substitute those newspapers for social media, and he'd be indistinguishable from dozens of people I know in modern life. Rowbotham had one more commonality with contemporary Twitter users: he lived in a moment ripe for conspiracy theories.

Conspiratorial thinking is not a weird pathology, experienced by some and absent in others. It's part of a mental process hardwired into all of us, from Rowbotham's era and beforehand and afterward. The same powers of abstraction that make humans good at detecting patterns (like anticipating storms when dark clouds gather) can make us imagine patterns where they don't exist, especially when we're feeling stressed or powerless. Rather than languish in the unknown, we tell ourselves stories about the secret causes of our troubles. All of us do this. For instance, after failing my driver's test three times, an explanation emerged in the back of my mind: maybe the Department of Motor Vehicles secretly had to flunk a certain quota of student drivers. The stress of the situation (being demonstrably bad at driving), coupled with a misunderstood pattern (the apparent impossibility of passing a road test) and a comforting explanation (I wasn't a traffic hazard; I was being oppressed by the iron boot of the state) turned my botched parallel parking into a conspiracy theory. I passed on round four.

In short, conspiracy theories help us feel safe by providing an explanation for things that feel incomprehensible and beyond our control. This dynamic can influence us in measurably silly ways. Dutch psychologists, for example, found that if students were asked to describe a situation that made them feel powerless, they were more likely to subsequently believe conspiracy theories about a controversial train line near campus.

Moments of rapid industrialization and income inequality—like Rowbotham's and arguably our own—are prime sources of precarity and uncertainty. In the United States during the Second Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s, for example, newspapers logged a spike in conspiracy-minded letters to the editor, which contemporary researchers attribute to laborers' worries that new technologies would cast them into unemployment. Though newspapers were not yet in widespread circulation during Rowbotham's youth, the First Industrial Revolution produced many of the same anxieties as the Second, including those that inspired Owen to build worker-friendly communities.

Seeking to build an anticapitalist utopia in rapidly industrializing England, Rowbotham and Hodson took a tour of existing Owenite communes in an attempt to drum up support for their own efforts in Manea Fen. But while Hodson, a devout socialist who would eventually bankrupt himself for the cause, was focused on earning membership and finding financial backing, Rowbotham might have been hatching a secret plot. It was one, he would later write, that he had fomented since childhood.

Since he was a boy, Rowbotham would later claim, he had always believed he lived on a flat planet. Even in the early 1800s, this was supposedly enough to get the young Rowbotham into trouble at school. Though twenty-first-century Americans love to portray Brits from past centuries as Flat Earthers (for instance, a 2020 Super Bowl commercial depicted English peasants talking about Flat Earth), people have known the planet was round for thousands of years. By Rowbotham's time, schools had long been teaching a fairly modern model of the solar system.

Rowbotham claimed he never took to his school's teachings, and that he tried sneaking out of a school astronomy lesson, which he believed was bogus. Those doubts compounded when he searched the Bible for confirmation of his beliefs. He concluded that if Sir Isaac Newton's model of the solar system—round planets orbiting a round sun—was true, then God was dead. "Again and again, the feeling came over me that as the Newtonian system appeared so plausible and so grand in its extent and comprehensiveness, it might after all be correct," Rowbotham later wrote of his path to Flat Earth, "and, if so, there could be no heaven for man's future enjoyment; no higher existence than on this earth; no spiritual and immortal creatures, and therefore no God or Creator."

Was Rowbotham really a childhood Flat Earther? We only have his perhaps unreliable word for it. But even before Manea Fen broke ground, Rowbotham had begun shaping it in a way that would doom the commune and put Flat Earth theory on the map.

His early membership in Manea Fen gave the young Rowbotham considerable power over the collective. Hodson named him secretary of the group, and Rowbotham went to work looking for a suitable location for the project. He found it on the shores of Cambridge's Old Bedford Canal. Rowbotham was adamant about starting the commune on the canal banks. They "would form a beautiful promenade in the summer evening," Rowbotham told his comrades. When other Owenites panned his choice (not enough winding river bends and birdsong for a paradise), Rowbotham doubled down, his conviction becoming tinged with fanaticism; he had to have his commune there.

Why not, in the spirit of revolutionary harmony, just move Manea Fen to one of swampy Cambridgeshire's many natural waterways? Rowbotham's fixation on the Bedford Canal might have been more than socialist devotion. He may have been guided by ulterior motives. Pin-straight and pancake-flat to the untrained eye, the Bedford Canal, nicknamed the Bedford Level, looked rather like a flat line stretching across the visible length of a flat planet. It was a gift to anyone who hoped to argue that Earth is not a globe. Early in his work to build the Manea Fen colony, Rowbotham began making repeat trips to the canal to conduct experiments.

Earth curves at approximately eight inches per mile squared. (Real mathematicians use more precise formulas, but for very short experiments like Rowbotham's, approximations are fine.) If you lie on your stomach and gaze at the horizon from one mile away, a barely perceptible eight inches of Earth will be hidden behind the planet's curve. If you can see two miles away, thirty-two inches of Earth will have curved out of view. Six miles away, the ground will have dropped twenty-four feet below your line of sight. This has been more or less the established model of the planet since Pythagoras proposed a spherical Earth, around 500 BCE.

Rowbotham, however, saw the world differently. When wading neck-deep in the canal with a telescope, he could see the full height of boats sailing at the far end, he claimed. When the canal froze in winter, his telescope could spot ice-skaters six miles away. Those damp sojourns would go on to haunt the future. One hundred eighty years after Rowbotham's experiments on the canal, I've met dozens of Flat Earthers who have cited the nineteenth-century experiments in their own writings or, despite their internet connections, traveled to the canal themselves to re-create the "Bedford Level test." These modern Flat Earthers may as well have been citing a fantasy novel. Rowbotham was incorrect (archaeologists who studied Manea Fen are doubtful he even had an adequate telescope) or outright lying (those same archaeologists tried replicating his experiment and found it to show a round earth). For years, he wouldn't even discuss his findings with the masses, and none of his commune peers appear to have adopted his burgeoning theory.

At the time, however, Rowbotham had other problems on his plate. Manea Fen was, functionally, a mess, and people blamed him. When the colony opened on the canal banks around Christmas 1838, Rowbotham recruited a sordid crew, many of them more interested in drinking than working. Visiting socialists were appalled and accused him of gathering the laziest leftists he could find. (The accusations were a little unfair. The laziest man on the commune was probably not a Rowbotham recruit, but a man named Kirk, who moved in of his own accord and immediately demanded the right to build a cave and live in it as a hermit. And even the commune's most ambitious workers were likely cutting corners: archaeologists who studied the commune suspect the Owenites routinely dodged their taxes by selling bricks mislabeled as "drainage" materials, in what looked pretty clearly like a scheme to cash in on a tax loophole for toilet products.)

Regardless of fault in recruitment strategy, the utopia had other issues. Despite the commune's socialist mission, some early workers claimed they received no pay for their labor. "I am without home and without bread," one man complained when he abandoned the commune after three unpaid months. As for Manea Fen's intellectual aims, its early occupants spent their time "finding fault with one another and with everything about them," engaging in "useless discussions," and micromanaging their comrades, member E. Wastney later wrote. Other Owenite communes and newspapers, already suspicious of Rowbotham's project, latched on to these stories.

The sex scandal made matters worse. Hodson, Manea Fen's official founder, believed in equality for women. Like so many male feminists of his moment and the future, however, his ideological commitment wavered in practice, and Manea Fen never had any significant female leadership. For some time during Rowbotham's tenure, though, commune leadership condemned the institution of marriage as oppressive to women, and encouraged more independent sexual relationships. At this, all the leading Owenite newspapers pounced. The commune, already unpopular, was now practicing free love and polygamy, they alleged. The scandal spread. Owenite committees across the country held inquiries. Hodson's and Rowbotham's names began to float to the top of these investigations, and disillusioned Manea Fen members began quitting the commune en masse. Hodson was ultimately able to shake free of the allegations. But Rowbotham, who had made a name for himself by picking an undesirable plot of land by the canal and staffing it with hard-drinking layabouts, was not so fortunate. In a desperate plea to keep his spot in the commune, he wrote an April 1839 letter to Owen, asking the socialist leader to help resolve "a little confusion in our Society" with regard to whether or not marriage was bad. He did not receive a response.

By summer, the Manea Fen commune had cast him out. Rowbotham "is neither secretary to, nor a member of this society," a curt article in the commune's newspaper announced. The whole utopia was bankrupt and abandoned less than two years later.

So there Rowbotham was, drifting around the wetlands with little to his name besides a handful of counterscientific beliefs. For a short time, he tried his hand at social missionary work, but complaints against the argumentative young man piled up. He dropped out in a matter of months, abandoning his efforts and denouncing Owenism. Further fringes were already calling him. Casting off the name that had become associated with a socialist sex scandal, Rowbotham rebranded as "Dr. Birley." His lack of any doctoral degree was irrelevant. Rowbotham was about to plunge into a career that, to this day, rubs shoulders with the Flat Earth movement and other conspiracy scenes. He was about to become a huckster of miracle cures.

Medical hoaxes prey on many of the same thought processes as conspiracy theories. Faced with frightening diagnoses or unaffordable treatments, we go looking for the One Weird Trick that will put us back in control of our health. It's easier than accepting the harsh reality that a cure might not be within our reach.

Sometimes bogus medicine is actually an extension of conspiracy theory. The anti-vaccination movement that gained popularity in the late 1990s falsely claims that vaccines cause autism and can lead to a host of illnesses, and that governments and medical authorities are covering it up, for nefarious reasons ranging from pharmaceutical profits to population control. Never mind that research has repeatedly discredited these claims; the anti-vaccine movement continues to this day. Theories like these help people grapple with feelings of powerlessness by positioning other human beings, with agendas and motivations, as responsible for medical conditions. In doing so, believers can avoid the uncomfortable truth: that life and death can lie with something like a virus, which cannot be voted out of office or sued for medical malpractice.

Miracle cures, meanwhile, treat the other side of conspiratorial health beliefs, falsely claiming to be the real solution to an ailment—the one that governments or pharmaceutical companies allegedly try to hide. One modern conspiracy kingpin, for example, sells a book claiming you can beat diabetes with a secret cure that doctors hide because "drug companies would much prefer to keep you dependent on insulin and diabetes drugs. The moment you beat this disease, they lose a customer." While killing time at a Flat Earth conference in 2019, I wound up talking to a woman who was convinced that natural foods could eradicate several serious medical conditions. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in 2020, justifiably frightened people suggested combating the mysterious virus with useless treatments like turmeric powder or, in the case of one of my acquaintances, "essential oils" that she was conveniently selling via a pyramid scheme on Facebook. Likewise, in Rowbotham's moment of industrial upheaval, as new factories belched soot into the skylines and people crowded into dirty cities, an emerging industry of quack doctors stepped up to sell hope and snake oil.

Rowbotham offered nothing less than immortality. Aging was actually the result of the body solidifying, he claimed in his 1845 work Biology: An Inquiry into the Cause of Natural Death, Showing It Not to Arise from Old Age, but from a Gradual Process of Consolidation . . . To effectively live forever, all one needed to do was follow his special diet of phosphoric acid and lime. He said medical experts secretly agreed that phosphates were a miracle cure, though they never prescribed them because they were too fussy to work with. But Rowbotham said he had a unique way of diluting the chemical in water, making it easy to drink. "It is, to all intents and purposes, a true and literal 'life water,' surpassing, beyond all comparisons, the so-called Aqua vitae of the alchemists," he wrote in another publication, claiming his creation boosted brain power. "It may truly be called an aqua sancta—a new and chemically generated 'holy water.' "

In actuality, all he'd invented (not even invented—similar products were already on the market!) was soda. Still, he threw himself into the sale of carbonated drinks, billing them as the cure for everything from asthma to old age. If followed to the letter, Rowbotham's miracle diet would probably have caused bone loss and mineral depletion. Indeed, in one tragic case in 1844, Rowbotham prescribed his miracle cure to a ten-year-old boy suffering from the aftereffects of a stroke. The boy later died, and his parents accused Rowbotham in court of having effectively poisoned their child. A jury cleared Rowbotham after he successfully argued that the parents couldn't prove that his phosphorus played any role in their son's death. Future medical research did not vindicate Rowbotham. Modern medicine finds that today's consumers likely ingest too much phosphoric acid, often from soft drinks; if Rowbotham's miracle cure worked, much of the United States would be experiencing pleasant indestructibility. Unfortunately, you can't Mountain Dew yourself to eternal life—you can only increase your soda-based risk of osteoporosis, like many modern consumers. Today, a group called the Flat Earth Society sidesteps these medical facts in its literature on Rowbotham by referencing only outdated nineteenth-century texts that suggest that phosphoric acid is actually good.

Rowbotham made steady money as a phosphorus grifter before returning to his more ambitious conspiratorial project: Flat Earth. In 1849, a decade after his first experiments on the Bedford Canal, he published his supposed findings in a pamphlet titled Zetetic Astronomy: Earth Not a Globe. The sincerity of this Flat Earth founder's belief is up for debate. Rowbotham's theory was steeped in extreme biblical literalism, which historian Christine Garwood describes as unusual for someone who once mingled with Britain's socialist upstarts, and as a Flat Earth preacher, Rowbotham tried to hide his legal name. Instead, he wrote under the pen name Parallax, which refers to a phenomenon of shifting perspectives, especially when measuring the position of stars. As for "zetetic," the Greek word refers to a pursuit led by skeptical inquiry. When Rowbotham took up the term, it was already associated with a radical British atheist crew: the exact sort of people who would want nothing to do with Rowbotham. Under their definition, "zetetic" suggested a brand of nothing-is-sacred skepticism, calling into question every revered figure from the Queen to Christ. Rowbotham borrowed the definition but inverted the intentions, using the term to promote biblical literalism in the form of Flat Earth. "Zetetic," by his philosophy, meant trusting only what one can personally observe with one's own senses. "To proceed only by inquiry," he wrote in an 1881 version of Zetetic Astronomy, "to take nothing for granted, but to trace phenomena to their immediate and demonstrable causes." He described the term as the opposite of "theoretic," "the meaning of which," he wrote, "is, speculative—imaginary—not tangible,—scheming, but not proving."

This mode of reasoning, with its accusatory labeling of theory as "scheming," has obvious shortcomings when it comes to scientific inquiry. For example, I have never personally visited New Mexico. Under Rowbotham's model of zeteticism, I should regard New Mexico, as a concept, with deep suspicion. After all, my belief in New Mexico is based entirely on accounts from other people. Who's to say New Mexico isn't a large-scale hoax, perpetrated on me for reasons unknown? Of course, I could construct a theory of New Mexico, researching it from afar. I could interview friends who were born there, send inquiries to New Mexico politicians, and consult sworn testimonies from New Mexico court cases that imply the state's legal existence. While this time-consuming project might move New Mexico closer to accepted reality under Rowbotham's model, it would always leave room for doubt, unless I booked a flight to Albuquerque to confirm New Mexico's reality with my own eyes.

I've been on the receiving end of this mode of inquiry in conversations with my Flat Earth acquaintances. "If I asked you how fast the earth is going around the sun on the globe you believe in, what would you say?" one asked me on a phone call one summer afternoon. I happened to be in Midtown Manhattan, looking up at skyscrapers that I trusted not to plummet down on me, despite my limited knowledge of construction codes.

"No idea," I replied.

"You have no idea. You have no freaking clue what you believe in," he shot back. I wanted to ask him whether he knew his exact GPS coordinates, and whether his not knowing them meant that he wasn't actually standing anywhere, but I remembered that GPS—Global Positioning System—was no good in his model of the universe.

Anyway, it was a rhetorical argument. Knowledge does not work this way. For the sake of sanity and advancing beyond a toddler's grasp of object permanence, we are constantly evaluating information out of our limited fields of view. When a friend relates a funny story, we likely trust that it happened even if we weren't there to witness it, just as we don't go around grabbing power lines to ascertain whether they are still delivering electricity. Healthy skepticism allows for doubt without making doubt one's default position.

In practice, not even Rowbotham's zetetic model lived up to its ideals. From his earliest pamphlets, he relied on cherry-picking passages from the Bible and applying a literal reading so that they appeared to reference a flat planet. The opposite of skeptical inquiry, this practice demanded that readers discard everything they believed in and put their blind trust in Rowbotham's limited interpretation of one faith's much-debated holy text.

Rowbotham would need all the blind faith he could get. His Zetetic Astronomy, which he constantly revised over the course of his life, expanding it from sixteen pages to hundreds, proposed a wildly inaccurate version of the world. On the basis of his experiments in the Bedford Canal, he claimed that the earth was completely flat, and located at the center of a small, dark universe. His map of the planet looked as though he'd sliced through a globe's southern tip with a saw and tried to flatten it on a table. The North Pole lay at the center of the pancake Earth, he said. All other land masses radiated outward from the pole, like jagged spokes on a wheel. Antarctica, the greatest casualty of his rearranged map, spanned the outer rim of the world like a great ice ring containing the world's oceans. The whole planet floated on the waters of some bigger, darker ocean: the "great deep," as he termed it.

As for the sun, stars, and moon, all were minor lights in the near sky, within four thousand miles of the ground. These low pinpricks of light traced circles above the disc Earth, bringing daylight when the sun passed over a continent and nighttime when the moon and stars passed above. (The moon emitted its own light, Rowbotham said, contrary to accepted science, which tells us that moonlight is just a reflection of the sun's glow.) Many of these claims were, of course, grounded in questionable readings of the Bible. "The sun, moon, and stars, are described as lights only to give light upon the earth," he wrote in Zetetic Astronomy, pointing to his own arguable reading of Genesis 1:16–17.

Though future Flat Earthers would tinker with his model, proposing that Earth is encased by a dome or nixing his theory about the "great deep," Rowbotham's general map of the world has endured within the movement. (I've met a Flat Earth artisan who sells vast rotating Flat Earth sculptures based on Rowbotham's map. One of those sculptures—three feet across with a maple frame and an LED panel—is listed online as having sold for $3,900.)

Rowbotham's theory also had a strong strain of apocalypticism. He asserted in Zetetic Astronomy that the earth was "approaching destruction by fire." For once, the biblical literalist wasn't talking about hell's flames. He claimed that Earth was made up of combustible chemicals and that natural occurrences like volcanoes suggested that a burning underbelly of the flat planet was clawing its way to the surface, where it would imminently ignite. He warned of future "mental and moral confusion, followed by decomposition and chemical and electric action, sufficient to ignite a great portion of the earth, and to reduce it to a molten, incandescent state." (Born well before contemporary science warned of human-produced climate change, Rowbotham had no way of knowing that he was at least a little correct about the planet's fiery future.)

Rowbotham might have taken inspiration from texts besides the Bible. Although he would introduce the flat model to the world at large, an anonymous author had self-published a short booklet called the Anti-Newtonian in 1819, which proposed a near-identical map. That anonymous author wrote that he "condemned the Newtonian System of the universe as being the father of all philosophical errors and evils that have already befallen mankind." The Anti-Newtonian never hit wide circulation, and Rowbotham never cited it in his work, but its specific arguments are so similar to Rowbotham's that he really appears to have taken large parts of it for his own purposes.

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  • “A deep dive into the world of flat Earth conspiracy theorists . . . that brilliantly reveals how people fall into illogical beliefs, reject reason, destroy relationships, and connect with a broad range of conspiracy theories in the social media age. Beautiful, probing, and often empathetic . . . An insightful, human look at what fuels conspiracy theories.”

    "This provocative book is sure to inspire debate about conspiracy theories as well as how citizens of a fractured world can learn to overcome their fear of radical planetary change. A timely and disturbing study of flawed, dangerous thinking."
    Kirkus Reviews

    "Insightful and surprisingly empathetic . . . an illuminating take on a much scrutinized subject."
    Publishers Weekly

    “An illuminating study that locates the common human psychological impulses behind conspiracy culture.”
    Library Journal

    “In lively prose, Weill untangles the most complicated webs, revealing the real people who believe the unbelievable.”

    “Even-handed… perfectly encapsulates disturbing implications of conspiracy theorists and their beliefs.”
    —Minneapolis Star-Tribune

    "The book is well-researched and makes for quick and entertaining, if disturbing, reading.”
    —Ars Technica

    "An inquisitive, empathetic, deeply reported, and disturbingly funny tour through the furthest reaches of the most fringe possible conspiracy community. While Weill's subjects frequently risk falling off the edge of their own self-created map of the known universe, she follows them deftly to the brink, showing what their delusional explorations can teach us about belief, community, and the long history of pseudoscience around (sorry!) the world."
    Anna Merlan, author of Republic of Lies

    "In this delightful deep dive into flat earth culture past and present, taking in YouTube recommendation algorithms, amateur rocketry, and a rat’s nest of conspiracy theories, Kelly Weill explains why, after several millennia of setbacks, the idea that the earth is flat is burgeoning once again."
    —Michael Strevens, author of The Knowledge Machine

    "Weill's elegant writing, informed by both historical research and deep-delving reporting, offers a complex and vivid portrait of a conspiracy community that serves as a metonym for this moment—when so many of us are in dispute about the very nature of reality. An essential and enjoyable read." 
    Talia Lavin, author of Culture Warlords
    “Kelly Weill is one of the best observers of the fringes of modern American life, making her the perfect chronicler of the Flat Earth movement. Her deep reporting and gift for storytelling make Off The Edge a gripping read— but what sets Weill apart is her ability to cover her subjects with great empathy, all without losing sight of the enormous damage and personal consequences of their actions.”
    Charlie Warzel, co-author of Out of Office

On Sale
Feb 21, 2023
Page Count
256 pages
Algonquin Books

Kelly Weill

About the Author

Kelly Weill is a journalist at the Daily Beast, where she covers extremism, disinformation, and the internet. As a leading media voice on the role of online conspiracy theories in current affairs, she has discussed Flat Earth and other digital fringes on ABC’s Nightline, CNN, Al Jazeera, and other national and international news outlets. She lives in New York. 

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