HOW happy is he, as all may see
Who has the good fortune a fool to be,
And what you tell him will always believe!
No ambition can grieve,
No fear can affright him
Which are wont to be seeds
Of pain and annoy.
This doctor of ours,
‘Tis not hard to delight him–
If you tell him ’twill gain him
His heart’s wish and joy,
He’ll believe in good faith that an ass can fly,–
Or that black is white, and the truth a lie,–
All things in the world he may well forget–
Save the one whereon his whole heart is set.
–Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527).
There are people who believe that the Earth is a flat disc, the sky above a sphere of acrylic with stars painted on its inner surface; the sun and moon are, according to these folk, mounted upon some sort of trackway that allows them to move, with the seasons and the days, above a stationary, flat Earth. This would not be surprising if the people who so believe were savages, with no knowledge of astronomy, geography, physics or any other science. But they are not; they are reasonably well-educated, not all unintelligent, citizens of modern, 21st century industrial nations. They believe that the powers-that-be know the truth–that the Earth is truly flat–but for some sinister reason are keeping it from the ‘sheeple,’ who must be kept in the dark (presumably on the underside of the disc), and not allowed to know the truth.