Since the FAA approved the first police drone program in Chula Vista, CA, there have been no reported incidents of police misuse of drones. Still, there are always those who believe that the government will use drones to spy on them. Perhaps that is why the “Birds Aren’t Real” conspiracy theory has become so popular. As the story goes, the US government began a mission in 1959 to exterminate birds and replace them with drones disguised as birds. This mission continued into the 2000’s until all biological bird species in the US had become extinct. According to the theory, any bird you see now is actually a drone created by the federal government to spy on citizens. These bird drones charge themselves by sitting on electrical wires and when they poop on your car, they are actually tagging you with a tracking device.
Admittedly, this all seems very far fetched. At the same time, it is easy to see how some can find this believable. Drone developers often base their technology on birds, or other biological creature characteristics. Some drones are built to look like biological creatures. National Geographic had drones disguised as animals to infiltrate natural settings. These drones were able to provide up close footage of life in jungles, forests, and even underwater. One company designed a drone to look and mimic a dolphin that is so realistic that fish, sharks, and turtles in an aquarium thought it was a biological dolphin. Scientists have gone as far as taking living insects implanted with hardware that allows them to be controlled like a drone.
So is it possible that the multitude of birds flying across the US are in fact drones? No, the “Birds Aren’t Real” movement was created by 24 year old Peter McIndoe on a whim while at a 2017 women’s march in Memphis, TN. Peter explained that while at the march, a group of Trump supporters tried to start a counter-protest. Frustrated by the disrespect being shown to the women’s movement combined with an overabundance of misinformation being touted as truth, Peter made a sign that said “Birds Aren’t Real”. He called it a spontaneous joke that reflected the absurdity of what he and his fellow protestors were feeling.
Peter had no idea his joke would grow into a movement of its own. More than 1 million members now support the “Birds Aren’t Real” movement. When they go to the movement’s website they can read a compelling story supporting the idea that all birds in the US are now drones. The percentage of the movement’s followers who actually believe this conspiracy theory is not clear. Though Peter is accepting of all “bird truthers” out there, he now wants them to understand exactly what the “Birds Aren’t Real” movement means. “It’s taking this concept of misinformation and almost building a little safe space to come together within it and laugh at it, rather than be scared by it,” he said. “And accept the lunacy of it all and be a bird truther for a moment in time when everything’s so crazy. I have a lot of excitement for what the future of this could be as an actual force for good. 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.”