Have you heard the latest viral conspiracy theory? The birds aren’t real, and the animals are actually drones sent by the government to spy on you.
The theory accepts that the birds were real animals, but US officials “forcibly wiped out the entire species in the 20th century,” according to the movement’s website, and “all those real birds were replaced by drones of surveillance”.
Except the Birds Aren’t Real movement is different from other conspiracy theories. Although more than a million followers have backed the move, according to 60 Minutes, they know it’s a joke aimed at spreading misinformation.
Here’s what you need to know about the Birds Aren’t Real movement:
How are birds not real?
The Gen Z-fueled conspiracy theory was started by a man named Peter McIndoe. He told The New York Times last year that the movement began at a women’s march in Memphis, Tennessee, in January 2017. Counter-protesters supporting former President Donald Trump also attended the event. , and when McIndoe saw the band, he wrote “The birds aren’t real”. on a poster as a joke.
“It was an off-the-cuff joke, but it was a reflection of the absurdity that everyone felt,” he told The Times.
He continued to joke about the conspiracy idea at the rally, and a video of him went viral on Facebook. The complaint spread among teens in the area, and McIndoe told the outlet that he and a friend, Connor Gaydos, wrote a fake story of the conspiracy, offering more jokes and false details.
“It basically became a misinformation experiment,” McIndoe said. “We were able to build an entirely fictional world that was reported as fact by local media and questioned by members of the public.”
USA TODAY has reached out to the Birds Are Not Real organization for comment.
Where did the bird not real theory spread?
The Birds Isn’t Real theory has since spread far beyond Memphis. The movement has an activism network known as the Bird Brigade that runs chapters and organizes in their areas, according to its satirical site.
“I remember seeing videos of people chanting, ‘Birds aren’t real,’ at high school football games; and see graffiti of ‘Birds aren’t real,'” McIndoe told the Guardian. “At first I thought, ‘This is crazy,’ but then I thought, ‘What makes this resonate with people?'”
Although the movement has staged rallies across the country and other in-person stunts, The Birds Aren’t Real is essentially an online joke.
His official TikTok account has over 850,000 followers and his hashtag on the popular video platform has over 350 million views. The movement’s Instagram has nearly 400,000 followers and its official Twitter account nearly 100,000.
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So Birds Aren’t Real is just a joke?
Yes, but its leaders also say it doesn’t care about the rapid spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories, especially online.
For example, Birds Aren’t Real went viral around the same time as the QAnon conspiracy theory. QAnon falsely claims there is a satanic “deep state” supporting a child sex trafficking ring.
“Birds Aren’t Real is not a superficial satire of outside conspiracies. It comes from deep within,” McIndoe told The Times. “A lot of people of our generation feel the madness in all of this, and Birds Aren’t Real was a way for people to process that.”