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Inside the living breathing meme that is Durham Flat Earth Society

They are the society Durham deserves, not the one it needs

Durham’s Flat Earth Society are a living embodiment of a Postmodern philosophy; much like the Ancient Greek Pyrrhonian school of philosophy they ask “how do you know?” to all claims, including the belief that the Earth is flat.

But they are not just a group of meme enthusiasts, they stand for something far greater than that as I would discover.

Pictures from their first Flat Earth fashion show emerged on Facebook and they are quite something.

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Who were these mysterious spherical Earth denying individuals? Why did they put on a fashion show? I had to learn more.

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I discovered very little after investigating their Facebook page: All I found were photos from the fashion show, memes about the flat earth conspiracy, and more importantly, that the society is run by a “Grand Patriarch” by the name of Pablo Moon.

After a brief exchange of messages, I was invited to their headquarters (Pablo’s student house) for a face to face interview.

I left in search of answers, and what I got was the truth.

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Late on a Monday night I travelled to their address I was given. I suddenly found myself in their kitchen along with the committee, a mix of second and third years, who study Psychology Physics and Theology.

There is no way of explaining the fear I felt: Judging by the state of their kitchen, they could have been the last remaining members of the Manson family. Would they kill me when they found out that I believed in a spherical Earth?

Suddenly there he was: Pablo Moon himself, adorned in a dressing gown, Karakul hat (the kind of hat traditionally worn by the king of Afghanistan) and a beard that wouldn’t look amiss on a Rabbi, he swanned into the kitchen with a Hunter S. Thompson like intensity that was both bewildering and intoxicating.

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But what is the Flat Earth Society? Alex, one of the members told The Durham Tab: “We are a collection of people who don’t believe that the Earth is round.”

Pablo interrupted: “We are more than that. We start there, and then we move further, and we say: The Earth isn’t round, but why? Is it flat? How do you know? It’s the church of Scientism – the science man tells me.”

It was like talking to the modern day Plato. He has a point: In the age of fake new everything can be doubted, even basic "facts" that we once held to be true.

Asked why the created the Flat Earth Soc, Pablo said: “I got into Flat Earth through memes. I started talking to people about it, let’s see if I can have some conversations about Flat Earth, and I could out argue people on what shape they thought the Earth was based on information I got from memes – how uneducated do people have to be to lose to an argument that is informed entirely by memes? So I thought fuck it, let’s create a college society.”

And that is what they did. They are officially recognised by Hild Bede College as the Hild Bede Flat Earth Society. How this came to be I will never know.

What do they want to achieve? Pablo was only too happy to explain, saying: "To get people to wake the fuck up. What they believe needs to be backed up by them knowing why it is that they believe it. They need to know where got the information from.”

Lewis, another member, said: “Memes are quite important as well.”

Pablo replied: “Memes are the core unit of culture. It’s a base unit.”

After more questioning they revealed their favourite meme is “Poop Sock.” But how did they go from memes to a fashion show? Pablo said: “So we had the idea, and we were like, let’s make it a real fuck. Entertaining but confusing.”

Evonne, the creative director of the fashion show, told The Durham Tab: “We wanted to wear meat dresses but we don’t have the budget for meat dresses, so we got some frozen pizzas.

“One of the raffle prizes at the fashion show was the entire Twilight saga – all the books.”

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We were offered one of the pizzas. We declined

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The fashion show itself took place on the 23rd of February. Apparently, it was the Woodstock of Durham, the counter-culture moment that the 21st century has been craving. It was an anti-fashion show, celebrating all things society condemns; complete with "BBQ dads," "unnecessary street wear" and "shitty suits" themed walks. The final moments of the show consisted of a man dressed as an alien popping an Earth shaped balloon held by someone in a Barack Obama mask.

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Asked what they would change about Durham if they had the chance, a member said: “Globalists…wider pavements…fewer puffer jackets.”

After some animated discussion, they came to a democratic agreement: “Skate lanes – you got two options. Skate or die.”

At this point. They declared that it was time for the “spice lolly” – a scary and intriguing prospect. Lewis opened the freezer to produce some frozen ramen juice in a shot glass with a cocktail pick sticking out the top: The “spice lolly.”

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The Ramen Lolly itself

They then proffered a Blue Spark. Ideal if you could do with a caffeine boost. It felt like some sort of tribal initiation. Were we one of them now? Could we believe that the Earth was flat? Fuck you Copernicus.

Whilst they passed around the lolly, each taking a lick and then recoiling in pain, discussion turned the nature of the Earth itself: “Dirt is only dirt when it’s not on the soil…the floor, the soil is completely clean.

“Like a water's not wet kind of situation.”

Lewis explained how there is a “causal network” where the roots of trees “attach and communicate in a symbiotic relationship,” like in Avatar.

This was followed by a lively discussion about how the blue aliens in Avatar seem to have “hair dicks” and “fuck animals.” They were not wrong: Avatar is a weird film when you think about it.

At this point Haopeng entered the room. This is Haopeng in action at the fashion show:

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He was confused as to why everyone was gathered in the kitchen. He shouted: “Don’t ever come into my room when I’m playing D and D.”

He then swiftly left. Lewis told The Durham Tab: “He get’s really pissed off when he is playing D and D.”

After this surreal episode in a frankly bizarre night, it was time to leave. On the way out, Pablo came out with one last nugget of wisdom: “They walked into that event (the fashion show), and we took them, and then this big old fuck, holding a large spanner, thinking I am going to fight communists.”

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He concluded: “The point of the society is that, if you don’t believe the same things as other people you should still treat those with different views with empathy… unless they are communists, or fascists.”

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This more or less sums up their world view: We are all too quick to judge and antagonise others who do not share our beliefs. In a tense political climate torn apart by hatred and violence, the Hild Bede Flat promotes love for equality for everyone irrespective of beliefs about the world. They are not the society Durham needs, they are the society Durham deserves.