The Brief: A conspiracy theory claims that birds aren't real: that they're really government controlled spy drone robots.
Wait, Are Birds Real?
“They used to be. Until 2001. When the last real bird died, allowing the U.S. government to replace the species with drone replicas.” -@birdsarentreal on Instagram
Birds Aren’t Real is a growing conspiracy theory. The movement has over 70,000 Instagram followers, 33,000 Twitter followers, 12,000 subreddit subscribers, and dozens of social media pages for local chapters as well. In addition to its online presence, Birds Aren’t Real supporters have launched guerrilla-style flyer campaigns around the nation to inform the public that birds are, in fact, not real.
From the official website:
“Recent surveys have revealed that 99.5% of the general public still believe in ‘Birds.’ I know, I was shocked too. That said, it is our DUTY as Bird Truthers to remove the blinders from their eyes and welcome them into the light of the truth. Together, we can shift society’s perception of what flies above us.”
Yes, It’s A Hoax
If something as ridiculous as “birds aren’t real” sounds made-up, it’s probably because it is. As with many conspiracy theories, especially ones that circulate online, it can be difficult to discern how many people actually believe in it vs how many are merely perpetuating this theory as a joke or prank. It seems that most proponents of this theory are actually trolling other conspiracy theorists and people gull-ible enough to believe them.
The “movement” appears to have been started by a college student named Peter McIndoe, who seems determined to spread his theory and to profit from it. When interviewed for a piece by the Audobon Society, McIndoe stayed in character throughout, enthusiastically proselytizing his “beliefs.”
Birds Aren’t Real frequently pushes its merch line of “activism gear,” seeming to sell to both people who see the movement as a funny joke, and those who believe in the theory. It seems to be poking fun at the absurdity of conspiracy theories more broadly. Much of their rhetoric parallels that of conspiracy theorists like QAnon and Alex Jones with used like “Wake up America!” and “Killary.” The parody becomes more clear with statements like “Obama is a bird” or that JFK was assassinated after refusing to implement a government-controlled robot bird system.
Birds Aren’t Real Memes
Although there may be some followers of the movement who take the conspiracy seriously, it is largely a comedic meme around an absurd premise.
birds aren’t real. they sit on electricity cables because they are charging
— Plano East Fake Duck (@PESHFakeDuck) January 28, 2019
A Tweet from YouTuber MrBeast:
I guess the government is back on? The pigeons are spying again. pic.twitter.com/318KV4JkdI
— MrBeast (@MrBeastYT) February 1, 2019
just watched three penguins discuss how they think birds aren't real and the government is using them to watch us. club penguin rewritten is wild and i support you guys' conspiracy theories. pic.twitter.com/stQlzE42ck
— cadoc29 (@cadoc29) February 3, 2019
View this post on Instagram
The longest government shutdown in U.S. history is now over. What does this mean for the birds? They are coming back. Millions of tax dollars are now being flooded directly into bird drone funding. I have already seen 3 birds today. Our break is over, brace yourselves America. Stay woke. • • • • • #birds #birdsarentreal #drones #fakenews #truth #truthseeker #staywoke #birdsofinstagram #wakeupamerica #freedom #liberty #justice #socialactivism #activist