Joe Rogan likes to troll flat-Earthers. For years, he’s confronted them on Twitter and on his podcast. Last week, he brought on regular podcast guest Eddie Bravo, a martial artist and flat Earth conspiracy theorist, so they could yell at each other about the evidence for and against this bafflingly popular idea. A throwaway comment from Bravo, however, hints at a darker truth about this conspiracy theory and many others: the anti-Semitic idea that there’s a worldwide Jewish “globalist” conspiracy functioning just below the surface of world politics, finance, and mainstream media.

“It’s a global thing. European Space Agency’s lying, they’re all in on it,” says Bravo in the podcast. “It’s a global thing. I think all governments — most of ‘em, the globalists — they’re all working together to control their people.”

The casual observer may think the word “globalists” is simply shorthand for people who believe the Earth is a globe rather than a disc, but it actually has a long, racially charged history. In modern use, it’s used as a dog-whistle term for Jewish people — that is, a term that sounds innocuous but actually has a very specific meaning for those in the know, much like a high-pitched dog whistle can only be heard by its intended listeners.

The term “globalist” specifically refers to the alleged global Jewish conspiracy that’s blamed for a huge range of societal ills, including currency manipulation, mainstream media bias, and even, in some believers’ eyes, the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The “globalist conspiracy” posits that world governments, manipulated by a shadowy group of powerful individuals in banking, media, and politics, are conspiring to bring citizens of the world under a single, authoritarian government.

This particular conspiracy finds historical basis in broader conspiracy theorist thinking, much of which proposes the existence of a secret organization that controls what the public knows. For example, the 2007 film Zeitgeist, a contemporary conspiracy theorist favorite, debunked Christianity, explained that a secret cabal of bankers control global events, and claimed that 9/11 was an inside job. Underlying the latter two theories, which have in recent years found a voice in the American right, is a stream of anti-Semitism.

Of course, anti-Semitism isn’t new, and neither is the notion of a globalist conspiracy. A 1903 book titled The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was a seminal piece of anti-Semitic propaganda. The Russian book, which was eventually exposed as a hoax, recounted an alleged meeting of powerful Jewish leaders as they planned world domination. The retraction, of course, never got as much coverage as the original story, so while this book has long been known to be false, its messages persist. And for many, the fact that the book was exposed as a fraud could even be further proof that its contents are true.

What the flat-Earth theory, the globalist theory, and all other conspiracies have in common is their basis in ideology, not in facts. If conspiracy theories were driven by fact-based evidence, most of them would be relegated to the same historical dustbin as phrenology, the plum-pudding model of the atom, and the geocentric universe. But the persistence of, say, the flat-Earth conspiracy is proof that ideology — like an attachment to anti-Semitic ideas — is often more powerful than facts.

'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion' detailed the global Jewish conspiracy to rule the world. It was exposed as a hoax, but that didn't hurt its popularity. Its themes are echoed by modern-day flat-Earthers.

Ideologies are, of course, harder to change. For many conspiracy theorists, any evidence that contradicts their belief system just proves the depth of the cover-up. Bravo illustrates this in the podcast when Rogan confronts him with images of the Earth snapped by the Japanese Himawari-8 satellite, which takes a picture of Earth every ten minutes.

“I’ve seen em. They’re terrible. Show me a real picture,” says Bravo. “That’s fake as fuck! It looks like something you’d see in a movie.”

Does this mean Bravo and all the other flat-Earthers out there are anti-Semites? Not necessarily. They could just be parroting what they hear from moon landing hoax proponent Alex Jones and other conspiracy theorists. But even though they’re not explicitly saying the Jews are behind the round Earth conspiracy, their coded language uses well-known anti-Semitic dog whistle rhetoric. So if Eddie Bravo isn’t an anti-Semite, he’d better be more careful with the language he uses when espousing pseudoscientific bullshit.

Photos via Victor E. Marsden and Sergei Nilus, Flickr / Matteo Palladino