Counting Dead Blackbirds: Conspiracy Theories Abound in Arkansas
The mystery: Dead blackbirds, dead fish.
The setting: Rural Arkansas on New Year’s Eve.
The story: In a town named Beebe, thousands of red-winged blackbirds begin to drop dead out of the sky onto New Year’s revelers. Coincidentally, the surname of the Arkansas governor is Beebe. Meanwhile, 125 miles away, 100,000 drum fish are found belly-up in the Arkansas River. Two days later, in Louisiana, 500 more red-winged blackbirds are discovered dead on a highway, and Kentucky reports bird deaths. Religious leaders begin preaching about the end times. Officials say loud fireworks or weather are tied to the bird deaths. The fish likely died from disease. Social media erupts with conspiracy theories. It makes the news in Russia. People don’t believe the government.
Questions, fear and plenty of speculation erupt.
As one Democrat quipped, “Could the birds be harbingers of bad things to come as they fell right as the GOP was taking over?”
Many people joke that maybe too many people were playing the computer game “Angry Birds.”
Or as Jon Stewart said Monday night on “The Daily Show,” maybe Arkansas is just in the running this year for “leading exporter of bat-bleep crazy.” Last year, it was South Carolina.
The official line is that the birds died of blunt trauma to their organs and suffered blood clots resulting from a massive midair collision. The theory is that they were startled by something — fireworks or weather.
But the storms that rocked the state earlier in the day had moved way east of Arkansas by the time the birds fell, according to the National Weather Service in North Little Rock. On the fireworks front, the city of Beebe does not host a large pyrotechnic display on New Year’s Eve. Would a few bottle rockets do that kind of damage? Arkansas officials are still investigating the fish kill.
Dead fish have also been found in Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. More than 100 tons of sardines were found dead in Brazil on Sunday. New Zealand media reported on Tuesday that dead, mostly eyeless, snapper had washed up on several Coromandel Peninsula beaches.
Naturally, people have jumped from disease explanations to government cover-ups worthy of an old “X-Files” episode, to signs of the apocalypse.
The town of Beebe sits less than 20 miles from the Little Rock Air Force Base. Could the base be conducting secret tests? Last year, it was reported that some Air Force researchers were testing high-powered microwave blasts to knock small robo-planes out of the sky. Officials with the Little Rock Air Force Base did not return calls for comment.
Other theories involve poison from the BP Gulf disaster. Another one centers on drilling and fracking throughout Arkansas. Environmental causes are often the reason behind many wildlife deaths such as honeybees and birds. Is the world at an ecological tipping point?
One theory that could have some real basis also looms.
Arkansas sits on the New Madrid earthquake fault line. It extends from northeast Arkansas through southeast Missouri and into western Tennessee, western Kentucky and southern Illinois. A series of strong earthquakes occurred in 1812 in this area. Reports from the time say that wildlife died before the big ones.
Geologists have predicted that in the next 50 years, if not sooner, a devastating earthquake of 6.5 or higher might happen. In late 2008, the Obama administration’s Long Term Disaster Recovery Working Group held five meetings around the country, including in Memphis, which sits in the heart of the fault line. Maybe they need to meet again.
Then, there’s the conspiracy theory that links two major news stories this week — the birds and the death of John P. Wheeler, III.
According to WhatDoesItMean.com, (one headline from the site: US Descends Into Total Police State As 2012 ‘Solar Chaos’ Fears Grow) a document has been prepared for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin by the Foreign Military Intelligence Directorate. It supposedly shows a linkage between the birds and Wheeler, the special assistant to the secretary of the Air Force from 2005-2008 who was found dead in a Delaware landfill.
Basically, as the story goes, a malfunction in an Air Force tanker carrying Phosgene poisonous gas caused the deadly brew to be sprayed over central Arkansas. Wheeler then confronted the Pentagon and ended up dead.
But the strange but true tales of wildlife deaths also prompted some folks to exercise their capitalist muscles. A T-shirt with a dead bird is already on sale in Little Rock. With bird deaths occurring globally, the creator may soon have a thriving business.