MEMPHIS, Tenn. — “I wake up every morning, just like you do. I brush my teeth, I wash my car, and I have an avid disbelief in avian beings.”
That’s how “bird truther” Peter McIndoe kicked off one of two interviews he did with WREG in 2019, as his Birds Aren’t Real propaganda was beginning to take flight. The group had just installed a billboard parroting its warning of avian surveillance drones on Highland Street in Memphis.
“We wanted to put it up in a big city, the Paris of the West,” McIndoe said. “We came to the one city we knew would be the big deal: Memphis, Tennessee — the 901.”
Sunday, Sharon Alfonsi of the CBS News show “60 Minutes” picked up the story, profiling McIndoe and his meta-parody experiment from its humble beginnings as a one-man, inside joke to genuine nationwide phenomenon.
The show reaches millions of viewers every week. That’ somewhat larger than the audience who saw him on WREG’s “Live At 9” in 2019, before a clip of the interview generated 1.1 million views and counting on YouTube.
“I remember being fascinated by it,” McIndoe told Alfonsi of the moment it started to take off online. “I remember thinking, OK, why do people identify with this so much? And just thinking there was this energy in Memphis for this idea.”
McIndoe is from a small town in Arkansas and told us he moved to Memphis to become a “full-time activist” with the movement, which purports to spread the “truth” that the CIA killed all birds beginning in the 1950s and replaced them with mechanical surveillance drones that monitor humans. The mainstream media is complicit in the coverup, he says.
Either you get it or you don’t. McIndoe told Alfonsi it’s an absurd parody of the conspiracy culture that has spread through society in the internet age.
McIndoe’s rallies have reached all the way to Hollywood, and his co-conspirators now include Cameron Kassky, an activist and survivor of the 2018 Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shooting who said he became the victim of real internet conspiracies afterward.
“What did your parents think when you told them, ‘I’m dropping out of college and moving to Memphis to start a fake conspiracy theory?'” Alfonsi asked McIndoe in the “60 Minutes” interview.
“They were just looking at me like, ‘Please stick with the psychology degree,'” he said.