Everything You’ve Been Told About Birds Is a Lie

BIRDS AREN’T REAL: The True Story of Mass Avian Murder and the Largest Surveillance Campaign in US History, by Peter McIndoe and Connor Gaydos

Birds are, in fact, real.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s pretend they are not.

Let’s pretend that a secret plot was hatched under President Eisenhower to kill every bird in the United States and replace them with surveillance robots dressed in avian disguises.

According to this theory, in the 1970s, the real birds were disposed of using a chemical agent — nontoxic to humans — that rained down from B-52 bombers. (The engineers behind that mission were sent off to their deaths in Vietnam so as to never be able to blow the whistle.) The birds’ mechanical replacements were built by a small army of hippies who were tricked into believing they were participating in a peacekeeping mission and lulled into complacency by large doses of government-provided LSD.

Since then, mechanical pigeons have been used to observe cities, while gull drones patrol the seas and shorelines, spying on international waters and collecting DNA samples by stealing fries out of the mouths of unsuspecting beachgoers. Bluebirds, with their eye-catching colors, are engineered to scan our retinas and catalog the data. Vultures are an arm of highway patrol that help manage roadkill.

Welcome to the satirical world of “Birds Aren’t Real,” a new book by Peter McIndoe and Connor Gaydos. The title comes from the social movement by the same name started by McIndoe in 2017.

It began as a joke. McIndoe scrawled the phrase on a cardboard sign at a protest following the election of President Trump. From there, it blossomed into what McIndoe described to The New York Times in 2021 as “an experiment in misinformation.” For years, he and Gaydos have traveled the country spreading the theory that birds are not quite what they seem. There were rallies and merchandise; McIndoe once publicly burned a Cardinals flag to protest the baseball team’s “pro-bird” agenda.

McIndoe and Gaydos are not to be taken literally. Instead, “Birds Aren’t Real” provides a wry commentary on an era where conspiracy theories are no longer relegated to shadowy internet forums and the fringes of media. By detailing an utterly ridiculous alternate history wherein your pet parakeet is in fact an insidious agent of espionage, the duo offer a sharp lesson in media literacy. (At the outset, McIndoe and Gaydos write that their book is not for anyone with an I.Q. below 250 and that readers who fall into that category would be better off reading “Goodnight Moon.”)

Like any good conspiracy theory, “Birds Aren’t Real” provides detail after detail to sell you on its legitimacy. This history comes complete with documents peppered throughout the book as so-called evidence, such as a memo from Allen Dulles, director of the C.I.A., to President Eisenhower, requesting funding.


“Yes,” Dulles responds, illogically. The president signs off enthusiastically.

The eggs and poultry sold in stores these days are synthetically engineered, McIndoe and Gaydos write. The borders of the United States are armed with technology to down robot birds that fly astray, lest Canada or Mexico catch on. Bird poop? Those are not real feces, but instead an oily simulation complete with GPS tracking capabilities.

A hummingbird drone was actually behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy — after the president learned too much about the birds. That grainy, dark spot on the Zapruder film? Look a little closer. Might it happen to have wings?

For all its creativity, “Birds Aren’t Real” quickly wears thin and drags in several parts — particularly those pages devoted to semi-fictitious biographies of every single U.S. president. (Perhaps the funniest among them is Jimmy Carter’s, which reads, simply, as an accurate timeline of his service in government.)

As a movement, “Birds Aren’t Real” worked as a savvy device for social commentary. As a book, there’s just not enough meat — synthetically engineered or otherwise — to sustain it.

BIRDS AREN’T REAL: The True Story of Mass Avian Murder and the Largest Surveillance Campaign in US History | By Peter McIndoe | and Connor Gaydos | St. Martin’s | 272 pp. | $29

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Newseum Global