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Little did I know when I started surfing the web Friday morning for information about a deadly new disease affecting birds in West Virginia and neighboring states that I would end the day learning that area birds had nothing to worry about.

You see, it turns out birds don’t exist.

Well, not in this country, at least, and not since 1971.

That’s the premise of Birds Aren’t Real, an organization that first announced itself with — what else? — a tweet back in 2017. It now has a social media presence with hundreds of thousands of followers and a website that, pun intended, hawks merch. Last week, it launched a series of rallies across the Midwest, starting in Springfield, Missouri.

I encountered Birds Aren’t Real when a Google search to learn more about the new avian disease snagged the headline “’Birds Aren’t Real’ rallies gaining movement across U.S. after birds die from unidentified virus.” The story beneath the headline, posted on a Wheeling TV station’s website, made no mention of how the organization was gaining traction from the new disease, but it made me curious to learn whether Birds Aren’t Real is for real.

According to Peter McIndoe, who founded Birds Aren’t Real while a student at the University of Memphis, the organization’s mission is to get Americans “woke” to a massive government conspiracy. It began when former CIA Director Allen Dulles decided to liquidate all 12 billion birds spending at least part of the year in America and replace them with bird-sized, realistic-looking, camera-equipped robotic drones.

The CIA chief’s motivation for activating the plan, which took from 1959 to 1971 to implement, was twofold: First, it was the most effective way to monitor the spread of domestic communism, and, second, Dulles hated all birds for targeting his car’s windshield for waste disposal.

Dulles is gone now, but the armada of tiny drones continues to surveil Americans, with social media platforms now helping the government keep tabs on people, according to the Birds Aren’t Real website. While McIndoe describes himself as “just an average American — I get up in the morning and I wash my car,” he feels driven to deliver a national wake-up call.

When asked for evidence that birds are actually electronic drones, McIndoe asked in turn why so many birds can be seen perched on power lines, then answered: “Because they’re re-charging!”

When asked to admit that his conspiracy theory was satirical, McIndoe huffily complained about not “being treated with the same respect as the side that believes birds are real.”

Americans “live in a surveillance state, and people need to know that birds are a key part of that,” McIndoe said in a television interview at the Springfield rally. There, followers chanted, “Birds aren’t real,” and waved “If it swoops, it snoops” signs.

There was a lot of smiling and laughing, and any displays of anger were as suspicious as the Birds Aren’t Real creation story.

It’s my kind of conspiracy. But, just in case birds are real, I hope the new songbird disease cycles through quickly.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazettemail

.com, 304-348-5169 or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.

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