Raheem Kassam: What Connects “Birds Aren’t Real,” the Roe v Wade Leak, and A New Era of American Censorship?

Let me enlighten you.

Combatting disinformation is the new going concern. Ukraine can stuff it as far as yestermonth’s internet evangelists are concerned. Just wait for the hot new emoji to drop. A thumbs down in a black circle, perhaps, as a means by which to express solidarity with decent and innocent and serious and fact-oriented and neutral reporters like Taylor Lorenz. Long live the fact-ionistas!

Yes, yes. Next month we’ll be treated to a cacophony of pro-censorship activism masquerading as both a public good and an academic endeavor. Fuck the nurses. It’s time to TikTok to the tune of Big Brother. If the trend sounds anything like Nina Jankowicz (and it will), then we’re all in for a summer of suffering far worse than any impotent fear struck into us by Joe Biden.

It’ll be death for our ears, for sure. The further mortification, that is to say necrosis, of Western civil society too. But the victim is much more specific than that. This is not just about what you hear. This is about what you say. Yes, you. Not just me. Not just the pugilistic desk jockeys, or disc jockeys. We are about to see a fresh new wound carved into the Western body-politick. It’ll make 2016’s “fake news” panic – and subsequent role reversal by Donald Trump on his assailants – look like quite an enjoyable game. I remind you it was not.

Poynter – the same corporate cartel of pseudo-newsmen who accredited a shanty-town cadre of “fact checkers” in India to censor Westerners – is hosting its “Ninth Global Fact Checking Summit” in Norway at the end of June. It’s headliners include pedophile apologist Anne Applebaum, the Chinese Communist-affiliated Joan Donovan, and perhaps most curiously of all, the founder of the satirical ‘Birds Aren’t Real’ movement.

So, cue the propaganda. Uh, I mean “PR and marketing.”

On May 1st, CBS’s 60 Minutes “interviewed” Peter McIndoe, the head honcho of Bird’s Aren’t Real, which coincidentally – ahem – began at a Women’s March event protesting the election of President Donald Trump. McIndoe tells the story of how he spontaneously made a sign that said “Bird’s Aren’t Real” and that his friends simply filmed him making fun of pro-Trump counter-protesters.

Birds Aren’t Real founder Peter McIndoe during his first ever stunt.

The exceptional quality of footage from a spontaneous video made half a decade ago reveals a URL – TheCollegeCompany.com – scrawled on the bottom of McIndoe’s homemade placard.

The College Company LLC in fact owns the trademark to Bird’s Aren’t Real, its co-founder being Connor Gaydos, who McIndoe has credited with helping him reach the status of “an experiment in misinformation,” for his work.

The College Company URL was written on the very first sign.

Another of McIndoe’s partners is Cameron Kasky, who he describes as “one of his best friends.” Kasky appears to be a political activist from Parkland, Florida who helped organize the 2018 ‘March for Our Lives’ protest against gun rights.

Kasky is explicit about his political views, calling Donald Trump a “proto fascistic bigot”:

He also had this totally normal and neutral reaction to the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court draft opinion leak on Monday night:

They want these guys policing misinformation?

Kasky is also a little more open about what he’s up to, politically. When asked what he as a critic of centrist Democrat strategy has done to help Florida Democrats, he replied: “For now I work with an organization where I consult on how we can try and find creative ways to get young people fighting for voting rights.”

‘Voting rights’ is often a euphemism for voter fraud.

Of course, “voting rights” is a catch-all euphemism as calling abortion “healthcare,” and has been used as a concept to defend “ballot curing,” as well as corrupt practices like harvesting, and mass mail-in voting.

But wait. There’s more. And it involves our old buddy Taylor Lorenz. Because of course.

In an interview from December 2021, McIndoe tells Lorenz that “[f]or his first 18 years, he grew up in a deeply conservative and religious community with seven siblings outside Cincinnati, then in rural Arkansas. He was home-schooled, taught that ‘evolution was a massive brainwashing plan by the Democrats and Obama was the Antichrist.’”

The hoaxster further reveals he’s ready to take his satirical movement and make something far more “real” from it:

Birds Aren’t Real members have also become a political force. Many often join up with counterprotesters and actual conspiracy theorists to de-escalate tensions and delegitimize the people they are marching alongside with irreverent chants.

In September, shortly after a restrictive new abortion law went into effect in Texas, Birds Aren’t Real members showed up at a protest held by anti-abortion activists at the University of Cincinnati. Supporters of the new law “had signs with very graphic imagery and were very aggressive in condemning people,” Mr. McIndoe said. “It led to arguments.”

But the Bird Brigade began chanting, “Birds aren’t real.” Their shouts soon overpowered the anti-abortion activists, who left.

This part of the equation is especially interesting when you consider Birds Aren’t Real is enjoying newfound publicity at the same time the White House announces its disinformation czar, and as an alleged leak of a Supreme Court draft showed Roe v Wade is close to being overturned. What a lucky and totally unrelated coincidence. Ahem.

In fact, McIndoe is pretty open about using his operation as a means to influence the nation’s politics, which Poynter is probably hoping none of us notice.

“I have a lot of excitement for what the future of this could be as an actual force for good,” he told the New York Times. “Yes, we have been intentionally spreading misinformation for the past four years, but it’s with a purpose. It’s about holding up a mirror to America in the internet age.”

Lorenz’s interview broadly coincided with renewed interest –mostly from the left media – in McIndoe and his movement. VICE followed up shortly after, with a documentary released on Jan 9th 2022, wherein McIndoe reflects on being ready to move on from the joke, calling his next steps – presumably including the relationship with Poynter and the fact check networks “a new chapter.”

In the VICE piece, he tells of growing up homeschooled, in a “hyper closed off, conservative environment,” and pontificates publicly – and at length – about his character being an extension of the people he grew up around, who he says, “have an idea like that, about these elites, or these villains.”

Because nothing says “no one’s out to get you” like maligning a large group of people, parodying what you think of them for five years, then committing your life to censoring them.

“To start something new, there has to be a death of what was,” comes the sophomoric McIndoe philosophy, before he accepts that much like a “real” conspiracy theorist, he has used Birds Aren’t Real as a crutch for his own lack of belonging.

The more I read of McIndoe, the more he seems like a rebel without a clue. Raging against the people whose voices are being taken away. Cheering as the corporate media class indulges his own atomization.

The notion of “misinformation with a purpose” – as he told Lorenz – suggests McIndoe and his friends should take a look in that same mirror he claims to hold up to America.

The fact that he is now a headliner at a so-called fact-checking conference is cause to believe that McIndoe’s “new chapter” is about begin with censorship and propaganda in support of his political preferences, in support of the architects of anti-First Amendment activity, and mostly notably, in rebellion against his own upbringing.

As much as Birds Aren’t Real has been humorous to witness, and was probably even fun to be a part of, I suspect much of the audience McIndoe and company have amassed is going to move on when he turns into the less masculine Nina Jankowicz.

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