The ‘Birds Aren’t Real’ Movement Isn’t A Joke

Teen Vogue: In the conversation at the Global Fact 9 conference, you said that Gen Z gets Birds Aren’t Real right away, whereas the older generation “very much does not.” Why do you think that is?

Peter McIndoe: I think comedy as an art form has progressed so rapidly. When it comes to Birds Aren’t Real, there’s an intuitive understanding of what we are doing with Gen Z or people my age. It has a lot to do with the context of comedy and a sense for the internet. The internet is sort of a whole new world and a whole new language. 

A lot of older people, understandably, don’t immediately see what Birds Aren’t Real means. It makes it fascinating for rallies, when we mobilize in real life and role-play. That dynamic is at its most effective when we are out in front of CNN or Twitter, counterprotesting, everyone playing the same archetype of this character.

If you’re on the internet, everyone sort of knows about the fringe conspiracy theorist, one of the most fascinating tragic characters in America. It’s almost role-playing Darth Vader and laughing at it rather than being scared about it. Comedy is a tool for processing, and it’s a necessary tool right now, when we’re living in unprecedented times with no blueprint for how to go about it.

TV: On the Birds Aren’t Real website, you call it a movement, but in many ways, the way you describe it, it sounds like a community. How do you define it?

PM: If I had to break it down, Birds Aren’t Real is an idea that people can tap into in the form of a movement and mobilize in real life; an immersive role-play experience that’s an effective diffusion tactic for counterprotesting. Calling it a movement is almost a too centralized way of putting it, because people tap into this idea who aren’t directly affiliated with us.

With Birds Aren’t Real, we do have a movement side of it — the Bird Brigade, with local chapters around the United States. But some of the most inspiring things about Birds Aren’t Real are from people who aren’t even directly affiliated. 

Last year, at the University of Cincinnati, there was an antiabortion [rally] after the six-week abortion ban went into effect in Texas, which at the time felt so bleak and weird. Counterprotesters were there trying to get these people off campus, and it was escalating. There were members of the Bird Brigade who walked up with “Birds Aren’t Real” signs and took a different approach to counterprotesting: Instead of confronting those ideas with healthy, legitimate, rational ideas, these people almost met the absurdity with more absurdity and essentially overwhelmed the antiabortion protesters. They didn’t know what to do with this. They were faced with a mirror. It was just designed to scramble them. And it worked as an effective tool that didn’t escalate anything.

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