The claim: A black-and-white film from 1956 predicted the coronavirus pandemic
A two-minute black-and-white video collage that purportedly warned of the coronavirus pandemic as early as 1956 has been shared widely on social media by Facebook users.
The “Avoiding The Future Plague” video was shared to Facebook on Feb. 24 and includes a series of various clips such as trains, an old robot and a typewriter.
“This 2-minute recording was made on Feb. 29, 1956, 65 years ago! Listen closely to the last 30 seconds of this recording…Sound familiar?” the user captioned the video.
In the last 30 seconds of the video, a male narrator speaks about the future and makes several predictions about rampant obesity, political corruption and “worst of all … the emergence of a deadly and potentially devastating disease.”
The narrator continues, “Experts predict that by the year 2020, a new virus will emerge and spread from somewhere in Asia to the rest of the world.”
USA TODAY reached out to the user for comment.
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Video was created in 2020 as satire
In response to misinformation surrounding COVID-19, the video’s original creator made it in 2020 as satire; it was not created in 1956, as claimed by social media users.
Max Patrick Schlienger, who made the video, shared it to his RamsesThePigeon YouTube account on Feb. 29 of last year with the caption, “It’s hilarious to look back on what people from the 1950s thought the future would be like!”
He adds that all the public domain footage used in the video was taken from archive.org, and he “only threw this together because I wanted to have a video upload on February 29th.”
The original version of the video is 4 minutes long and includes a “footage missing” screen and a commercial about Doeskin Napkins, which has been removed from the social media versions.
In October 2020, when the video first went viral, Schlienger told AFP New Zealand that “the intent behind the video was to make fun of the more popular parts of the misinformation that was spreading at the time … namely that Covid-19 was a largely harmless virus and the response to it was exaggerated.”
Schlienger said the series of clips included in the video is a collection of public domain educational videos, commercials and old horror films and he recorded the voiceover.
USA TODAY reached out to Schlienger for additional comment.
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Where does the footage come from?
Snopes debunked the claim in October 2020 and discovered that many of the clips included in the video were taken from old films from the mid-1900s.
The scene where a woman is sipping a cup comes from the film “Tornado,” which was created in 1956 as a public service by the United Gas Corporation and the Eastern Texas Transmission Corporation.
The house cleaning robot clip originates from the 1940s black-and-white film “Leave It to Roll-Oh” which is a “tongue-in-cheek film showing a domestic robot freeing housewives of their chores,” according to archive.org.
The Doeskin Dinner Napkins commercial is also archival footage taken from archive.org.
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Our rating: False
The claim that a video warning of a pandemic in 2020 was created in 1956 is FALSE, based on our research. The original creator of the video has confirmed that he made it in 2020 as satire in response to misinformation surrounding the coronavirus. The clips included in the video were taken from archival public domain footage.
Our fact-check sources:
- YouTube, Feb. 29, 2020, 1950s PSA: ‘Avoiding the Future Plague’
- AFP New Zealand, Oct. 21, 2020, This satirical video was made in 2020 using old black and white movie clips
- Snopes, Oct. 5, 2020, Is This ‘Avoiding the Future Plague’ Video a Real PSA From the 1950s?
- Atomictheater.com, accessed March 18, Tornado
- Archive.org, 1940, Leave It to Roll-Oh
- Archive.org, 1954, 1954 commercial Doeskin Dinner Napkins
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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.