A Fake Conspiracy Theorist’s Second Act (ALEXANDRA MARVAR, APRIL 07, 2024, Slate)

Between 2018 and 2021, McIndoe, now 25, went from state to state, playacting the role of radicalized cult leader pushing an absurd conspiracy theory—that, as he put it, “birds aren’t real.” Avian creatures, McIndoe warned, were being systematically massacred and replaced by deep state–operated drones, designed for widespread surveillance of the populace.

The conceit was satire: a metacommentary on the countless eccentric and convoluted conspiracy theories that were ripping through the country in the aftermath of Trump’s election and the dawn of the QAnon age. But for years McIndoe played it straight, declining to publicly acknowledge the humor or performance art behind the “movement.” Soon, his campaign had attracted thousands of Gen Z “followers” who were delighted to be in on the joke. These fellow “bird truthers” founded their own autonomous local Birds Aren’t Real chapters, posting flyers and holding rallies in their own communities.