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Fact Check: 'The Simpsons' Predicted 9/11 Attack on World Trade Center?

X user @jameseperloff
X user @jameseperloff

Claim:

An episode of "The Simpsons" TV show predicted the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Rating:

Rating: False
Rating: False

Among the various rumors and conspiracy theories that sprung up regarding the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, a claim circulated on social media that the popular animated TV show "The Simpsons" predicted the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Reverse image search results showed that the rumor has been circulating online at least since 2008. The supposed evidence for this claim was a screenshot from an episode showing a magazine cover with the numbers "9" and "11" next to an illustration of the Twin Towers.

The alleged evidence was a scene from "The Simpsons" TV show Episode 3 of Season 9: "The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson," aired in 1997. The footage was was widely shared on social media platforms, with many users expressing shock and disbelief at the alleged prediction.

However, the episode's alleged reference to 9/11, however "eerie," was a coincidental alignment, not a prophecy or prediction. Aside from the optical illusion created by the "$9" and the illustration of the Twin Towers on the brochure that resembles the number "11," within the in-question episode there was no explicit reference to the events of Sept. 11.

(X user @jameseperloff)

The scene lacked any narrative elements that could be seen as a prediction of the tragic events that would unfold years later. The widely shared optical coincidence, while striking in retrospect, is an example of the logical fallacy of confirmation bias, wherein viewers might retroactively assign significance to random details.

Al Jean, one of the original writers of "The Simpsons," speaking to NME in 2021, commented:

One of our writers, the guy whose episode predicted Donald Trump as president, said it best: 'If you write 700 episodes, and you don't predict anything, then you're pretty bad. If you throw enough darts, you're going to get some bullseyes…

In the same interview, he referenced the World Trade Center episode, underscoring that while the show's writers often make educated guesses based on current events, trends, and their own insights, the supposed "9/11 reference" was a coincidence:

"The 9/11 one is so bizarre," says Jean. "In the World Trade Center episode, ['The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson'], there was a brochure reading $9 a day with an 11 styled up like the towers. That was in '96, which was crazy, like this insane coincidence. But mostly it's just educated guesses. Stanley Kubrick made the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968 and there's Zoom and iPads in it – but that's because he had futurologists helping him construct what the world might look like in 30 years time."

According to The New York Times, in 2010, Bill Oakley, an executive producer on the show at the time, said that "$9 was picked as a comically cheap fare," and that he "will grant that it's eerie, given that it's on the only episode of any series ever that had an entire act of World Trade Center jokes."

Over the years, "The Simpsons" show has been the subject of numerous false claims and conspiracy theories regarding its supposed predictions. For instance, in 2023, we debunked rumors suggesting that the show had predicted the rebranding of Twitter to "X" and the design of Tesla's Cybertruck.

Sources:

"Al Jean | Producer, Writer, Additional Crew." IMDb, https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0419830/. Accessed 11 Sept. 2023.

Confirmation Bias | Definition, Examples, Psychology, & Facts | Britannica. 18 Aug. 2023, https://www.britannica.com/science/confirmation-bias.

Kasprak, Alex. "'The Simpsons' Predicted Tesla's Cybertruck?" Snopes, 8 Sept. 2023, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/simpsons-predicted-cybertruck/.

McMahon, James. "'The Simpsons' Showrunner on Uncanny Predictions: 'The 9/11 One Was Bizarre.'" NME, 16 Nov. 2021, https://www.nme.com/news/tv/the-simpsons-al-jean-predictions-911-3096871.

Salam, Maya. "'The Simpsons' Has Predicted a Lot. Most of It Can Be Explained." The New York Times, 2 Feb. 2018. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/02/arts/television/simpsons-prediction-future.html.

"The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson." The Simpsons, directed by Jim Reardon, 21 Sept. 1997.

Wrona, Aleksandra. "Did 'The Simpsons' Predict Twitter's Rebrand to 'X'?" Snopes, 24 July 2023, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/simpsons-predict-twitter-rebrand-to-x/.