I've learned my lesson. A reporter for AOL called me Friday for my take on the Beebe blackbird death story, now, thanks to the Internet, a worldwide phenomenon and grist for the unified conspiracy mill. I told the reporter I was willing to accept the emerging consenus: Night-roosting birds were spooked by loud noises and took flight. Because they are blind as, well, blackbirds, they flew to their death in collisions with trees, houses, utility wires and more. I noted, too, that a number of reputable scientists had said mass deaths of wildlife were not uncommon.
This quote, acknowledging human nature and the prevalence of a conspiratorial bent in these parts, did:
"There are a lot of people here not convinced by the official reasons for the dead birds," Max Brantley, the editor in chief of the Arkansas Times weekly, told AOL News today.
"I'm 60 years old and I've never experienced a mass bird death here."
That has now taken root on Internet forums as support for more exciting theories about the bird deaths. For example, my quote was prefaced on this site by the statement: "Not everyone believes the official explanations or that mass animal die-offs are commonplace."
To be clear: Just because I haven't witnessed mass bird deaths doesn't mean they aren't relatively commonplace. But the mail has begun, including a letter captioned: "Max Brantley is correct." That was uncommon enough to catch my attention. A writer from Nebraska said:
There is a connection between the mass disease and die-offs of: birds, bees, bats, fish, crabs, trees, etc
This is not new, but rather has been building for decades. The toxic gas by-product of illegal drug activity world-wide has increased and remains unregulated or monitored.
It has bonded with known aerosoles and forms a global cloud.
The concentrations are increasing so rapidly it may be a cascade effect.
You have been warned. About the toxic cloud. And about the dangers of talking to reporters.