It is the biggest news story of the year so far. That might sound like another crass and baseless assumption but it is coated in fact. In the first week of 2011, it has proven to be the most sought after story on the web. Across the world people are asking the same question: what caused thousands of blackbirds to fall dead from the sky over the small Arkansas town of Beebe?
And the phenomenon wasn’t just limited to Beebe either. Nor to birds. Soon the web was awash with tales of dead fish and crabs cropping up in all four corners of the planet. From Sweden to New Zealand, from Britain to Brazil, people were asking the same question: why is our fauna dying en masse? Cue a barrage of speculation.
The mystery came as something of a late Christmas present for conspiracy theorists, whose suspicions fell quickly on governments who have “routinely engaged in secret testing of biological and electromagnetic weapons,” according to those at Alex Jones’ prisonplanet.
Then there is the apocalypse theory.
Many people around the world are getting ready for Doomsday; some expect it as early as this coming May while others believe we have until just before Christmas 2012 to get ready for the end of the world. The unexplained ‘Aflockalypse‘ is being used to strengthen the case for such theories.
More mundane explanations are being offered by vets and scientists. The birds could have been literally scared to death by fireworks or quite simply victims of roadkill. Or even a combination of both.
Stormy weather, climate change, radio frequencies, even fault lines were bandied around as possible culprits.
As the initial hysteria died down, more calming voices began to emerge. Conservationists have been witnessing mass animal die-offs for donkey’s years.
Could it be that the wider public just never noticed flocks of dead birds falling from the skies and shoals of deceased fish washing up on shorelines? Or never told? Is this all just another media smokescreen to cover up the fact that it’s a quiet news week? That is another of the theories being put forward.
Apocalyptic portent? Consequence of secret military tests? Accident? Or just a trivial distraction concocted to sell newspapers?
It really does depend who you ask.
By Mark Davis