Despite the shrill outcry from the usual fashionable pundits and professional whingers, the controversial British documentary Down the Gravity Well was broadcast on the ABC last night. Subtitled "Exposing the lies that are keeping you down", the film argues that the theory of gravity is scientifically unsound and has been foisted upon the world by a self-interested cabal of scientists, politicians and airline industry figures. According to the film's director, former pogo stick manufacturer Marvin Bamyasi, "Gravity is the Big Lie of the modern era. It's really insidious the way kids are indoctrinated with this 'what goes up, must come down' ideology all the way through school. No wonder so few adults are willing - or able - to question the lies of the 'Newtonian Nazis'."
The ABC ought to be commended for screening this important documentary. It was thrilling to watch as one by one the sacred cows of the gravity affirmation movement were beheaded, skinned, butchered, and minced into cheap burger meat. I have long argued that gravity is merely ghost story for grown-ups, designed to drum up funding for scientists and force the rest of us to use costly forms of mechanised transport when in fact we might, were we to ignore the nay-sayers and embrace a gravity-free existence, simply float through the air like so many dandelion spores. Down the Gravity Well makes a similar point and backs it up with science so hard you could bash a gravity enthusiast's head against it until he (or she - some of the worst ones are shes) bled grey stuff from his (or her) nostrils.
To give one example, gravity "experts" claim that the gravity exerted by Earth (the name of the "planet" so-called "scientists" allege we inhabit) can be expressed as 9.8 m/s2, where 9.8 is kilometres per hour and m/s is something just as unlikely and "sciency"-sounding. Yet Bamyasi points out that even in the models used by gravity affirmationists this rate of acceleration varies depending on lattitude. It seems even the "orthodox" "scientific" "community" is riddled with doubts about the equation 9.8 m/s2, yet they have the audacity to expect the rest of us to abide by its dictates whenever we wish to fall from a ladder or catch a sack full of anvils that has been tossed from a ninth story balcony.
Down the Gravity Well is equally strong on the political dimension of gravity affirmation. In one pivotal scene, Bamyasi interviews Brian McFadden, founder, executive director, research co-ordinator, OH&S officer, and janitor of the influential think tank The Brian McFadden Institute. According to McFadden, "Gravity affirmationists are consumed by a hatred of positive vertical movement. They cannot bear seeing something go up that does not immediately come back down to their own pitiful level. The fundamental tenet of gravity affirmation is that you and I and that painting on the wall and this microphone and so on are all subject to and complicit in gravity and therefore the same in some fundamental way. You can draw your own conclusions about the implicit politics of the theory, although I'll give you a hint: communism. The fact that gravitational influence is extended to encompass non-human and indeed non-organic objects is further cause for concern. It is almost pantheistic, an irrational religious substrata to the movement's more explicit social and political goals."
A strong argument well made, but sadly the film's message was blunted by the ABC's attempt at "balance". In his interview with Bamyasi, Lateline's Tony Jones came across as belligerent and biased. At one point he challenged Bamyasi to defy the so-called "laws of gravity" without assistance. When Bamyasi proved incapable of doing so, Jones practically crowed. Yet one suspects a set-up. Bamyasi has given demonstrations of his disregard for "gravity" on several occasions, including an unassisted flight over the Grand Canyon that was filmed for a cable tv special. Plainly, his credentials are not in doubt, so the question becomes: was artificial gravity produced in the ABC studios in order to humiliate Bamyasi? Were the filmmaker's trousers stapled to the chair? Next Jones will be telling us that Bamyasi didn't make the Statue of Liberty vanish, or that he isn't married to a German supermodel! Such are the delusions of the chattering classes.
Despite Jones' antics, I reiterate that the ABC deserves every plaudit for broadcasting Down the Gravity Well. Bamyasi's film is doubtless unpalatable to many, but then the truth often is. The director's next project, a documentary refuting the existence of the Atlantic Ocean, promises to be just as contrarian, and just as powerful. One hopes that the ABC will again put its ingrained prejudices aside and allow the truth some airtime. One also hopes that Down the Gravity Well has dealt the cult of gravity affirmation a fatal blow. I write this sitting at my desk, weighed down by centuries of superstition and propaganda. Perhaps you, however, are reading it while floating around your room - around your city, your world. Perhaps you are free. And I'll bet the air really is better up there.