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Video predicting COVID in 1950s is satire from 2020

September 7, 2022 GMT

CLAIM: A video from 1956 predicted the COVID-19 pandemic and other modern events.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The video is satire and was uploaded to YouTube in February 2020, after the coronavirus had begun to spread widely, the creator of the video confirmed to The Associated Press.

THE FACTS: The parody video, titled “1950s PSA: ‘Avoiding the Future Plague,’” has spread multiple times on social media since it was uploaded to YouTube in February 2020, with users falsely claiming that it was a real clip from the 1950s. A portion of the video has reemerged on Twitter in recent days, where it was once again shared as real.

“This is a video from 1956. They predicted everything we are going through right now,” one Twitter user wrote on Saturday. “It even knew the exact year it would happen... 2020. It’s like they planned it. (wink wink).”

The clip on Twitter, which has been viewed more than 118,000 times, features black and white footage with overlaid text, reading: “THIS VIDEO WAS MADE IN 1956 CRONA VIRUS INFO IN VIDEO MUST WATCH.” A voiceover says that, according to “some predictions″ about the future, “obesity will likely run rampant and political corruption will become so commonplace as to be accepted.” It goes on to say that a new virus will emerge by the year 2020, spreading from Asia to the rest of the world.

The clip is taken from a longer satirical video titled, “1950s PSA: ‘Avoiding the Future Plague,’” although the misspelled “CRONA VIRUS” text is not featured in the original. The video is from 2020, and its creator has repeatedly confirmed that it was intended as satire. The caption on the original video, which was uploaded to YouTube on Feb. 29, 2020, reads: “It’s hilarious to look back on what people from the 1950s thought the future would be like! Archival and public domain footage was acquired from Archive.org. Also, yes, I only threw this together because I wanted to have a video upload on February 29th.”

The creator, who uses the username RamsesThePigeon on YouTube and Reddit, tweeted last month: “I made the video in 2020. It was intended to satirize the very perspectives it’s now being used to support. Misinformation-peddlers cut out all the punchlines.” In the same thread, the user linked to several prior stories about online misrepresentations of the video as well as an October 2020 Reddit thread in which he stated that it was satire.

The creator of the video, who identified himself to the AP as Max Patrick Schlienger, confirmed that social media users are misrepresenting his satirical video. He said his voice is the voiceover heard in the video.

“Yes, the video in question was made in February of 2020,” he wrote. “The piece was intended to make satirical commentary on the anti-science, misinformation-favoring perspectives that were already starting to be spread at the time.”

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This story has been updated to include comment from Schlienger.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.