A series of images from “The Simpsons” is circulating online as “proof” that the show predicted the current monkeypox outbreak back in 2002. But this viral collage is misleading. Let’s look at the facts.
When images are placed side-by-side or in a collage, it can be difficult not to draw connections between them. Purveyors of misinformation often exploit this natural tendency by using this type of “false evidence” to fabricate support for a falsehood or conspiratorial claim. In this case, an image of Homer Simpson sitting next to a monkey was posted alongside other images of Homer with a skin rash to push the false assumption that they came from the same episode. But as fact-checkers from Reuters and USA Today noted, these images come from two different episodes, neither of which dealt with monkeypox.
Online claims about “The Simpsons” predicting current events have a long history. However, nearly every one of these “predictions” has a much simpler explanation than the vague conspiracy theories or supernatural phenomena they invoke. In some cases, these viral Simpson predictions are based on fan art or doctored images passed off as authentic stills. In others, such as the case above, images from multiple episodes are presented together and accompanied by false claims. While there have been a few striking coincidences in the show, this can be chalked up to the fact that “The Simpsons” has been on for more than 30 years and has more than 700 episodes. Combined with the fact that the show often includes commentary on social trends and historical patterns, it isn’t surprising that a few have found modern-day relevance.
While rumors about animated shows predicting future events may seem harmless at first, these claims, if believed, can serve as entry points to more elaborate and harmful conspiratorial beliefs, such as those that feature nefarious groups of global leaders planning world events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, food shortages or the monkeypox outbreak. (Such conspiracy theories also frequently include antisemitic undertones.) “The Simpsons” did not foretell smartwatches or autocorrect or monkeypox. These claims simply repackage coincidences (some real, some invented) and present them as predictions.
- “Fact check: Viral images of 'The Simpsons' unrelated to 2022 monkeypox outbreak” (Dezimey Kum, USA Today).
- “Fact Check-“The Simpsons” did not predict monkeypox outbreak” (Reuters Fact Check).
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