A quick primer on Gen Z‘s conspiracy theory that “Birds Aren’t Real.” The parody movement’s adherents pretend that the U.S. government replaced birds with secret government drones sent to spy on humans in order to combat misinformation.
Since its inception, Gen Z’s Birds Aren’t Real movement has amassed over 600,000 followers on TikTok and 350,000 followers on Instagram, in addition to protests outside Twitter’s headquarters demanding the removal of its bird logo, viral YouTube videos, and spreading its slogan on country-wide billboards.
The conspiracy theory, which claims that the United States government has replaced all birds with covert government drone copies dispatched to spy on humans, has one flaw: None of its adherents genuinely believe it.
“Dealing in the world of misinformation for the past few years, we’ve been really conscious of the line we walk. The idea is meant to be so preposterous, but we make sure nothing we’re saying is too realistic. That’s a consideration with coming out of character,” shared McIndoe, emphasizing that he didn’t want everyone to believe in the conspiracy theory wholeheartedly.
McIndoe started the group in the spur of the moment in January 2017, just after the 2016 presidential elections. He saw Trump-supporting counter-protestors while walking past a women’s march and decided to write “Birds Aren’t Real” on a sheet of paper. “It was a spontaneous joke, but it reflected the insanity everyone was feeling.” Later, he and a friend concocted a fictitious “history” of the movement. So, in essence, the conspiracy theory all started as a joke.
Today, the group continues to fight disinformation with madness, in the hopes of mocking and exposing the absurdity of today’s true conspiracies, such as QAnon, which claims that an elite circle of child-trafficking Democrats controls the world.
For many of the members, the club is a method to work through the craziness of their own personal experiences, especially for those whose older relatives have been taken in by conspiracy theories.
“Birds Aren’t Real is not a shallow satire of conspiracies from the outside. It is from the deep inside. A lot of people in our generation feel the lunacy in all this, and Birds Aren’t Real has been a way for people to process that,” stated McIndoe. He also shared: “Yes, we have been intentionally spreading misinformation for the past four years, but it’s with a purpose. It’s about holding up a mirror to America in the internet age.”
To find out more, scroll through some of Birds Aren’t Real’s TikToks here.
Photo via The New York Times