I think every bloody communicator, strategist, marketeer and media guru has scratched his head over the past months in despair, and has looked at his social media in awe. How the flying spaghetti monster do all those conspiracy theory posts get so much attention? How, in the name of all that is holy, can liquid crap find such a prominent place in and on thousands of timelines. Admit, if we could crack that code and be even half so successful for our paying clients we would be rich half-gods by now, sipping gold induced coconut milk on a superyacht leisurely anchored in the shade of the Blue Lagoon.
Fake news and conspiracy theories are polluting our news feeds, are challenging the very common sense of a big part of the population, has put a reality star in a president’s seat, has eroded the reputation of countless scientists, and has single handedly slowed down the fight against COVID19 by questioning vaccines.
Governments and decisionmakers, captains of industry, influencers, journalists, companies and their C-suite have had to endure gossip and fake news sweeping away credibility and common sense.
Frances Haugen tells us to blame Facebook, and by analogy most probably the other logarithm driven social connection and search platforms. Frances prides herself in a strong sense of pride in democracy and responsibility for civic participation. You might know her as the “Facebook whistle-blower”: the woman that is giving Mark Zuckerberg the flying hillibillies because she is spilling the beans on how Facebook and its evil machines manipulate the very pulse of thought and sentiment of the human race.
Frances is not a dreamy Generation Z-er. She holds a degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Olin College and a MBA from Harvard. She specialized in algorithmic product management, and has worked on ranking algorithms at Google, Pinterest, and Yelp. At Facebook she lead he Civic Misinformation team, which deals with democracy, misinformation and counter-espionage.
Profit over purpose
Frances became increasingly alarmed by the choices Facebook makes in prioritizing stone coldly their own profits over public safety, and putting people’s lives at risk. The logarithms are -on purpose- flooding our timelines and news feeds with controversial content, contrarian news snacks and alarming conspiracies. The reason is simple: we engage more with those bizarreries than we do with regular “vetted” content, or even the content of our friends. That engagement generates more money. At great personal risk, Frances made the courageous decision to blow the whistle on Facebook.
The birds are, wait, what?
Early 2017. Peter McIndoe is in Memphis and is couch-crashing at a friends place. Donald J. Trump just got the keys to the White House, and started hanging his gold-embroided curtains in the Oval Office. Pro-Trump fanatics where in town to “neutralize” a women’s march. Peter McIndoe wanted to participate in the moment, ripped a poster off a wall, flipped it over and wrote the first three random words on the white cardboard: “Birds Aren’t Real.”
Waking up as a celebrity.
A spontaneous reflex, a hilarious joke, feeding of the absurdity of peoples stupidity. An afternoon well spent. McIndoe went to bed. He would wake up an overnight celebrity. HOs hilarious billboard was picked up by social media “reporters” an plastered all over the internet. Journalists hunted him down, curious to know the story. Conspiracy complotters and Q’ers drank the new slogan like lizards on a hot sand dune. McIndoe decided to see how far the joke would carry… and talked to press and the Internet. Yes: Birds are NOT real. They are surveillance drones. Proof? Well… have you ever seen a baby pigeon? Journalists thought he was serious. The movement “Birds aren’t Real” was born.
The Bird Drone Agenda
McIndoe dropped out of college in 2018 and has spent a whopping 4 years in-character to lure journalists and the world. He used his psychological background and conspiracy theorist cosplay to rally and cement a solid and growing community around the absurdity.
A real parody and satiric movement -complete with swag, slogans, rallies, and mass demonstrations- grew around this character. Real people in, real life were/are pushing a “bird drone agenda”. Birds are Not Real amassed millions of followers on social media, and hundreds of official chapters have popped up at colleges all across the nation. Bird-truthers got almost up to par with Qanon.
From absurdity to learning curve
Peter finally came out of character in December of 2021. While some Birdtruthers still are genuinely believing the parody, it is McIndoe’s intention to use the momentum of the movement to create a siolid understanding on how easy it is to fool media and general public. He wants to help and illustrate how it is done, and what we can learn from it.
McIndoe wants to keep it safe, and cool. “Birds Aren’t Real is made to make sure it doesn’t turn into a negative end result on the world. BAR is a safe space for people to come together and process, discuss and digest the conspiracy takeover of America. We are holding a mirror in the face of media, journalist and analysts. Let’s laugh at the madness rather than be overcome by it.”
Peter outsmarted trained journalists, hawk-eyed analysts, police forces and millions of people. His weapons: energy, satire, a good understanding of group dynamics and bias, wit and perseverance.
We should applaud Peter: he shows us the vulnerability of our democratic and corporate systems. We should hire people like Peter.
Peter is a Red Monkey…