The movement claims that all birds in the United States were exterminated by the federal government between 1959 and 1971 and replaced by lookalike drones used by the government to spy on citizens; the specifics of these theories are not always consistent, not unlike actual conspiracy theories. They claim that birds sit on power lines to recharge themselves, that birds poop on cars as a tracking method, and that U.S. president John F. Kennedy was assassinated by the government due to his reluctance to kill all the birds.
He read books like “Remote Control,” about what it said were hidden anti-Christianity messages from Hollywood. In high school, social media offered a gateway to mainstream culture. Mr. McIndoe began watching Philip DeFranco and other popular YouTubers who talked about current events and pop culture, and went on Reddit to find new viewpoints.
Taylor Lorenz is a technology reporter in Los Angeles covering tech culture and online creators. Before joining The New York Times, she was a technology and culture writer at The Atlantic. @taylorlorenzThe events were all connected by a Gen Z-fueled conspiracy theory, which posits that birds don’t exist and are really drone replicas installed by the U.S. government to spy on Americans. Hundreds of thousands of young people have joined the movement, wearing Birds Aren’t Real T-shirts, swarming rallies and spreading the slogan.
Last month, Birds Aren’t Real adherents even protested outside Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco to demand that the company change its bird logo.Cameron Kasky, 21, an activist from Parkland, Fla., who helped organize the March for Our Lives student protest against gun violence in 2018 and is involved in Birds Aren’t Real, said the parody “makes you stop for a second and laugh. In a uniquely bleak time to come of age, it doesn’t hurt to have something to laugh about together.”“All the money from our merch lineup goes into making sure me and Connor can do this full time,” Mr. McIndoe said. “We also put the money into the billboards, flying out members of the Bird Brigade to rallies. None of the proceeds go to anything harmful.”Mr. McIndoe, too, marinated in conspiracies. For his first 18 years, he grew up in a deeply conservative and religious community with seven siblings outside Cincinnati, then in rural Arkansas. He was home-schooled, taught that “evolution was a massive brainwashing plan by the Democrats and Obama was the Antichrist,” he said.
Spreadshirt verwendet Deine E-Mail-Adresse, um Dir E-Mails zu Produktangeboten, Rabattaktionen und Gewinnspielen zuzusenden. Du kannst Deine Einwilligung in den Newsletter-Versand jederzeit widerrufen. Weitere Informationen findest Du in unserer Datenschutzerklärung.Spreadshirt druckt eine riesige Auswahl personalisierter Kleidung wie T-Shirts, Pullover und vieles mehr. Deine Bestellungen werden täglich mit ❤️ in Leipzig entgegengenommen und von dort aus in die ganze Welt verschickt!It’s spread to billboards, bumper stickers and popped up at halftime during the NCAA men’s basketball national championship game. More than a million people have become followers of Birds Aren’t Real, a movement that claims the birds you think you see flying in the sky are actually government surveillance drones.”I’d spent most of my time in those communities arguing with people,” McIndoe said. “There was homecoming and I got voted most likely to go to jail. Not even kidding. ‘Most likely to go to jail: Peter McIndoe.'” McIndoe’s been rebelling since his days growing up in a small town in Arkansas. He said it was a hyper-conservative, fundamentalist community where conspiracy theories were “embedded in the community.” “So I’m getting pictures sent to me of Birds Aren’t Real graffiti and Birds Aren’t Real chalkboards and seeing you know chants,” McIndoe said. “In cafeterias and, you know, stadiums like ‘Birds Aren’t Real’ at high schools.”
“Yeah, I mean, it was really interesting, I was trying to describe to them it could be a very interesting art project, sort of like a mirror to, you now, just the seemingly exponentially growing absurdity of the world and America,” McIndoe said. “And, like, if we can match that with a character in a living world, blah, blah, blah. And they’re just lookin’ at me, like, ‘Please stick with the psychology degree’ you know.”They made up facts, faked secretly leaked CIA documents and made videos – “we created a world with laws and evidence” – and took out billboard adverts, which people posted on Instagram as selfie backdrops. “If you put something absurd into the world, people are trying to present themselves as irreverent or funny, so that really spread.”They’re unified on the prank, right? There aren’t people there who think birds genuinely aren’t real? (I still need a lot of footnotes.) “Yeah, they’re role-playing together. They’re role-playing the collective understanding of the conspiracy theory.” That mindset, plus the religious yearning for one single theory that explains everything, really softens up the brain – these are my words, not his – for conspiracy theories, which meet the same need. I think there is an actual concrete example of this journey, from fundamentalist Christianity to QAnon (again, this is definitely me not him, he is much less strident than I am). The paedophile element of QAnon, where Hillary Clinton and a huge global web of powerful liberals, are abusing children and keeping them in tunnels, sounds completely unhinged. But if you’ve been vehemently anti-abortion on faith grounds for years, then to your mind, feminists and other liberals are already in favour of murdering children. As his movement grows, though, he’s started to think that maybe that kind of schooling made him more independent-minded, even though it emphatically didn’t intend to. “It creates a different relationship with the world. I wasn’t involved in normal cultural settings, I was barred from a lot of traditional media. I didn’t go to school. It definitely creates a different type of thinking, which can be in some ways more free and exploratory.”It was the weekend of simultaneous Women’s Marches across the US (indeed, the world), and McIndoe looked out of the window and noticed “counterprotesters, who were older, bigger white men. They were clear aggravators. They were encroaching on something that was not their event, they had no business being there.” Added to that, “it felt like chaos, because the world felt like chaos”.
He also draws a tentative line between faith and conspiracy theory: “The Christian worldview is really just about how you’re determining truth. Where are you getting truth from? What is your relationship with truth? For the Christian, your foundational relationship with the truth is determined by faith, its definition is that you can’t argue with it or interrogate it.”Meanwhile, “real conspiracy theorists,” he says, “will approach me like I’m their brother, like I’m part of their team. They will start spouting hateful rhetoric and racist ideas, because they feel as if I’m safe.”He ends with an image that is poetic, freighted and incredibly neat. “We talk about it like an igloo. Making a shelter out of the same thing that’s posing the threat. Take the materials of what is around us, build something with them, be safe in there together, and laugh.”
Someone was filming him and put it on Facebook; it went viral, and Memphis is still the centre of the Birds Aren’t Real movement. Or is it a movement? You could call it a situationist spectacle, a piece of rolling performance art or a collective satire. MSNBC called it a “mass coping mechanism” for generation Z, and as it has hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, “mass”, at least, is on the money.Although “birds aren’t real” was very quickly picked up as a chant, getting the movement to snowball “did take some work”, McIndoe says. “We set up the Bird Brigade, our boots-on-the-ground activism network, led by Claire Chronis. That was the first step to building a structured movement, getting it from Memphis to the rest of the US, getting people to put up flyers that I designed very poorly on Photoshop, which works for the conspiracy theory aesthetic.”
Birds Aren’t Real didn’t stay in Memphis – in a sequence reminiscent of the Winklevoss scene in The Social Network, when they realise just how big Facebook has become, McIndoe recalls being back at college, five hours away from Memphis. “I remember seeing videos of people chanting: ‘Birds aren’t real,’ at high-school football games; and seeing graffiti of birds aren’t real. At first, I thought: ‘This is crazy,’ but then I wondered: ‘What is making this resonate with people?’”“It was a character based on the people I grew up around,” he says. “I grew up in rural, deeply conservative Arkansas, in a home-school environment. I had these intensely negative experiences of it. I’m not a conservative person. At a very young age, I became more of an observer than a participant, which created a real loneliness, from an ideological standpoint.”The response of real-life conspiracists to Birds Aren’t Real has shifted now: “They think Birds Aren’t Real is a CIA psy-op. They think that we are the CIA, we’re put out there as a weapon against conspiracy theorists.”It’s a vivid dramatisation of how divisive conspiracy theories are; people who believe them live in another world, where any wild theory flies and even the most fleeting attempt to fact check it or test it against logic (if birds have been destroyed, who’s eating all the worms?) marks you out as a brainwashed liberal. People who don’t believe them cannot think themselves into the headspace of those who do. Then along comes a guy with a sign, and maybe he’s not bridging this implacable divide, but he’s certainly disrupting it.One more thing happened on the first day of Birds Aren’t Real. “I met someone, her name is Madeleine. She has been my girlfriend for four years, she’s the love of my life.” So before long, he decided to drop out of college, and move to Memphis. “I lived with people I didn’t know, and worked at the richest country club in the south, as a waiter. It gave me a real window into how the 1% of Memphis talks about other races, since the entire staff are minorities. It was a very interesting time to start an idea about American polarisation.”Until he could drive, McIndoe’s entire life was home, home-school co-operatives run by the church, and church. He knew no one who didn’t believe exactly the same thing, and “Even though everything is [an] echo chamber,” he says, “the ideas in these home-schooled communities are bad echoes. I’m sure that there are beautiful Christian communities that are doing good things somewhere. I’m not trying to bash spirituality. But from my experience, the deep fundamentalist communities that I was in have caused way more harm. And I’ve seen pure evil coming from them.”McIndoe made a placard, and went out to join the march. “It’s not like I sat down and thought I’m going to make a satire. I just thought: ‘I should write a sign that has nothing to do with what is going on.’ An absurdist statement to bring to the equation.” It’s the most perfect, playful distillation of where we are in relation to the media landscape we’ve built but can’t control, and which only half of us can find our way around. It’s a made-up conspiracy theory that is just realistic enough, as conspiracies go, to convince QAnon supporters that birds aren’t real, but has just enough satirical flags that generation Z recognises immediately what is going on. It’s a conspiracy-within-a-conspiracy, a little aneurysm of reality and mockery in the bloodstream of the mad pizzagate-style theories that animate the “alt-right”. This is the fourth interview McIndoe has given as himself, not his conspiracist character. If you go looking for interviews with him on Spotify, you will find him explaining to sub-Rush Limbaugh local radio shock-jocks, in total seriousness, how the CIA was explicitly founded to spy on the American public – these robot birds were their crowning achievement, listening to and watching everyone all the time.That day of the Women’s March, as McIndoe ad-libbed his conspiracy to whoever would listen, he had no plan. He was talking about robot birds one minute and “Killary Clinton” (a trope used by conspiracists about Hillary Clinton) the next: “I was just saying things that were the funniest thing to me at the time.”On a march, Peter McIndoe held up a sign and talked about how the ‘deep state’ had replaced all birds with drones. It was meant as a small act of satire but has become a mass movementHe describes sombrely but matter-of-factly the genocide of the real birds, which Birds Aren’t Real was tragically unable to prevent. The shock-jock will typically say something noncommittal, such as: “Huh. That’s bad.” (In fairness, if it were true, it would be quite bad.)So the leap isn’t as great as it looks. McIndoe is more interested in “tribal language” and how “conspiracy theory language echoes, in many ways, what I saw in a religious community. From QAnon, one of the main tag lines was ‘the storm is coming’. I hear many Christians talking about that right now, about coronavirus and the end times.”This unique sticker is an elaborate and unique gift for fans! You can use it to decorate luggage, water bottle, cars, guitars, skateboards, laptops. Durable printed cover makes the owner proud to carry it everywhere! Some of the technologies we use are necessary for critical functions like security and site integrity, account authentication, security and privacy preferences, internal site usage and maintenance data, and to make the site work correctly for browsing and transactions. 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