In 2017, a guy named Peter McIndoe decided that the world needed a new, blatantly stupid conspiracy theory designed to counter some of the other blatantly stupid conspiracy theories proliferating throughout the United States. He started Birds Aren’t Real, which has now spread far enough that McIndoe’s anti-avian rallies attract huge crowds in cities across the nation.
A recent New York Times article traces the origins of Birds Aren’t Real from one man’s multi-year joke to a massive, tongue-in-cheek movement that he’s now eager to make clear was always meant to be making fun of actual conspiracy theories.
Birds Aren’t Real’s ideology is simple: McIndoe and his Bird Brigade followers “believe” that “birds don’t exist and are really drone replicas installed by the U.S. government to spy on Americans.” They explain that this insidious conspiracy dates back to the ‘70s and head to various cities to raise awareness.
It all started when McIndoe witnessed protests and counter-protests during Donald Trump’s inauguration. As “a reflection of the absurdity everyone was feeling,” he wrote “Birds Aren’t Real” on a poster then started to make up his theory on the spot as he walked around the streets.
He was filmed by someone else, had his ravings uploaded to the internet, and the movement was born. McIndoe has since helped things along by expanding on the theory online and selling merchandise whose profits are put back into keeping the movement going.
Though it’s primarily an elaborate joke, the Bird Brigade’s presence alongside “counterprotesters and actual conspiracy theorists [is used] to de-escalate tensions and delegitimize the people they are marching alongside with irreverent chants.” In September, for example, Birds Aren’t Real drowned out anti-abortion activists at the University Of Cincinnati by shouting out their slogan so loudly that the activists eventually just gave up and left.
The Times quotes a Bird Brigade organizer who describes the movement as “fighting lunacy with lunacy” and “a way to combat troubles in the world that you don’t really have other ways of combating.” For his part, McIndoe says he has “a lot of excitement for what the future of [Birds Aren’t Real] could be as an actual force for good.”
Read more about the wild world of birdspiracies over at The New York Times.
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