Thursday, January 27, 2022
25.0°F

Birds aren’t real

by SHOLEH PATRICK
| January 6, 2022 1:00 AM

Gen Z-ers are way ahead of me, so young adults will want to skip this one. But if you’re an average Press reader (older), and like me (not so hip), you’ve no idea what this headline meant.

Birds Aren’t Real.

Yes, it’s a thing. OK, so they’re real (unless you subscribe to certain Buddhist notions of emptiness).

The “Birds Aren’t Real” movement is a parody. The young man who started it in 2017 was making fun of conspiracy theories with the idea that people who lean in that direction will believe anything that feeds their more extreme beliefs, no matter how wild or unsubstantiated.

Why write about it? Because what began as a mere joke has turned into a much broader movement to combat misinformation, a phenomenon which has run rampant since the pandemic.

“It’s about holding up a mirror to America in the internet age,” the movement’s 23-year-old founder, Peter McIndoe, said in a New York Times interview.

If you check out Birdsarentreal.com you’ll see the tongue-in-cheek claims: That birds are really government robots spying on the blind masses, that the power lines they perch on recharge these frightening machines (they’re everywhere!), and so on.

Your rights are being violated. Birds Aren’t Real is brave enough to speak out.

Don’t believe it? YouTube videos prove it. Former CIA agents confess online. What more proof of the cover-up do you need?

If that sounds familiar (just switch the topic), you’ve encountered some of the misinformation running rampant out there.

Some were intentional jokes misinterpreted as real; the lady who started the vaccines-magnetized-my-body panic later admitted she meant it in jest. She said in multiple interviews she couldn’t believe she was taken seriously.

Other claims are sincere, but groundless or vastly outweighed by refuting evidence.

People believe what they want to, especially when they’re afraid of the alternative.

It’s Poe’s Law, an internet maxim. The main idea of Poe's Law is that a parody of something extreme can be mistaken for truth, and if truth sounds extreme (at least from an individual’s viewpoint), it can be mistaken for parody.

Why bring it up? With hopes that awareness and vigilance and a healthy amount of skeptical, open-minded investigation into reliable sources will keep us all thinking critically

If you don’t know where to start to check something out or to determine potential bias, a few broadly respected sources with a mission to combat misinformation are News Literacy (newslit.org), Factcheck.org, and mediabiasfactcheck.com.

Just remember: Birds are watching.


Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network who bets cats are the real spies. They’re much more devious than birds. Email sholeh@cdapress.com.

Recent Headlines