‘Birds Aren’t Real’ Guy Tells Howard About His Satirical Movement

“It was sort of this idea of like holding up a mirror to the lunacy,” founder Peter McIndoe explains

February 16, 2022

When 23-year-old Peter McIndoe crashed a Trump rally with a satirical sign in 2017, he couldn’t have known it would turn into an entire movement. On Wednesday, the Birds Aren’t Real founder spoke with Howard about its origins and purpose. “It was sort of this idea of like holding up a mirror to the lunacy,” he explained over the phone. “Kind of going and sort of diffusing the tension or diffusing the situation non-aggressively through comedy and kind of like going and I guess holding up an idea next to those ideas—it’s kind of more on their level.”

Peter then broke down the “beliefs” of the group, which has chapters across the country. “The hard cold data suggests that the U.S. government extinguished every living bird in the sky from 1959 through 2001 using a poisonous toxin dropped from crop-dusting airplanes,” he noted before adding the birds were replaced with drones that spy on Americans and recharge on power lines. “if people just go on the internet, search for their own facts, turn off that loony tunes swamp media, there’s a lot that they can learn for themselves.”

Playing a conspiracy theorist requires true dedication – something Peter takes very seriously. “Starting off, the goal was to kind of make this fictional character that lives in the real world, and I wanted kind of people to process the character as a real person,” he revealed. “I spent on and off camera four years in character… In backroom conversations or in any conversation with journalists I would just be in character so through that, I think a lot of people considered the Birds Aren’t Real movement as a real thing … It was an interesting experiment too in seeing how easy it was to get just clearly false information out there.”

That commitment also translated to when Peter, playing a “nervous guy from Arkansas,” wanted to appear to get sick during a television interview. “In his mind that day, he had a big responsibility … a rare opportunity by the mainstream media to spread the truth to the people. But my character flubbed it, got super nervous on TV, and vomited,” he recalled of the stunt. “In order to do that, I had to wake up early, drive to Walmart, buy four cans of clam chowder, and just stuff them down right before that interview … by the time we went on air I overflowed.”

On a more serious note, the group also does their own form of public service – like when the University of Cincinnati chapter of their “Bird Brigade” showed up at an anti-abortion rally. “The Birds Aren’t Real people went out, exercised their First Amendment rights equally as these people were who were harassing people on the University of Cincinnati campus, and basically just posted up next to them and held a Birds Aren’t Real rally,” he said. “Sooner or later the entire situation turned into the whole crowd chanting ‘birds aren’t real’ and it overcame that hateful messaging and those people ultimately had to leave.”

As Peter sees it, satire is a vital form of protest. “I think that in any time of real lunacy or madness as a civilization, like where it seems like America is right now, I think that’s when stuff like comedy is more important than ever,” he told Howard. “I think that Birds Aren’t Real kind of gives people a way to process kind of the madness of like the post-truth era …  in a way that’s really disarming and allows them to kind of laugh at the madness rather than be overcome by it.”