Internet trolls are an efficient bunch, combing the interwebs for any ammunition available: high school yearbook photos, forgotten sitcom episodes, split second verbal slips from politicians.
The coronavirus is hardly insulated from the troll mission statement.
In fact, it is prime fodder. The latest vessel of troll efforts?
A Simpsons episode, which originally aired back in 1993, featured a plot that, for internet rascals, is applicable enough to the current global pandemic to kick some fear-mongering and hate around.
In the episode a worker in a Japanese manufacturing plant coughs into a package, that package makes its way to Homer Simpson across the globe, and the "Osaka Flu," as it's called, runs rampant around Springfield and beyond.
When a few people came across that episode, they threw a meme together featuring stills from the episode, and superimposed "coronavirus" across the cartoon-style banner featured in a news broadcast scene.
The Simpsons scares me. This episode aired 27 years ago in 1993 🤯 #CoronaVirus https://t.co/Zc0XUZn5PO— 𝒂𝒔𝒉 𝒊𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒔 𝒃𝒊𝒕𝒄𝒉 (@𝒂𝒔𝒉 𝒊𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒔 𝒃𝒊𝒕𝒄𝒉) 1580397977.0
To complicate things even more, that new broadcast image is in fact from a different episode altogether, solidifying the meme as multilayered poppycock.
Those memes have since been removed from Facebook and Twitter.
Of course, before they were deleted, everyone went completely bonkers and thought the creators of The Simpsons predicted the entire thing.
@ashakiiii Is this for real? https://t.co/WTTGcZFuc1— P*$$y fairy👼👼 (@P*$$y fairy👼👼) 1580398750.0
@Jordan_Coombe https://t.co/CofN5vU2pR— Kudrati-Number10 (@Kudrati-Number10) 1580475556.0
Some news outlets even picked up the story.
The Simpsons predicted the coronavirus outbreak? youtu.be
But the co-writer of that episode, Bill Oakley, is not even close to laughing.
During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Oakley laid into the trolls.
"It was just supposed to be a quick joke about how the flu got here. It was meant to be absurd that someone could cough into a box and the virus would survive for six to eight weeks in the box."
"It is cartoonish. We intentionally made it cartoonish because we wanted it to be silly and not scary, and not carry any of these bad associations along with it, which is why the virus itself was acting like a cartoon character and behaving in extremely unrealistic ways."
In that same interview, Oakley spoke specifically about how many of the comments surrounding those memes emphasized the racist conclusion that Asian people ought to be disproportionately blamed for the global coronavirus crisis.
"I don't like it being used for nefarious purposes. The idea that anyone misappropriates it to make coronavirus seem like an Asian plot is terrible. In terms of trying to place blame on Asia — I think that is gross."