Messages fuel unsupported 9/24 disaster theory
CLAIM:Warnings urging people to stay indoors on September 24, survival gifts, a flyer recruiting volunteers for a ‘mass casualty exercise’ and an episode of ‘The Simpson’ are proof that a large-scale disaster scale will occur that day.
AP ASSESSMENT: False. This conspiracy theory is not supported by credible evidence. He grew up online after a German lawmaker misspoke when commenting on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
THE FACTS: An unfounded conspiracy theory that some sort of catastrophic event is set for September 24 has spread around the world this week online, with netizens pointing to an emergency bag giveaway from Denver, a Kansas firefighter training event and a German legislator’s mistake as supposed evidence.
The theory emerged after the leader of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany party, Friedrich Merz, mistakenly referred to the September 24 date in a February speech.
In his remarks on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at a Feb. 27 meeting in the Bundestag, or German parliament, Merz misspoke and said Sept. 24 would be a day people would remember. .
But in the official minutes of the Bundestag meeting, Merz’s comments include the date of February 24, the day Russia invaded Ukrainenot on September 24. Yet videos of his false statement have spread on social media with false claims that a major event is scheduled for September 24.
Some social media users went further, suggesting Germans were asked to stay indoors that day. There is, however, no evidence of a large-scale announcement like this – neither German lawmakers nor Olaf Scholz, the country’s chancellor, issued such a warning.
Following the German politician’s slip-up, netizens have seized on more evidence that could support that something big is going to happen on September 24.
Some even pointed to an episode of “The Simpsons” in which Homer join a survivalist group prepare for the end of the world. This is the ninth episode of the show’s 24th season, which according to a number of posts reflects the date Merz mistakenly stated.
While some posts acknowledged that “The Simpsons” didn’t actually make a doomsday prediction, others urged caution. “Just in case it happens be prepared,” one Twitter user wrote along with a clip from the episode.
Others pointed out that the Denver Office of Emergency Management announced it would be handing out what it called “bug out” bags on Sept. 24 in honor of National Preparedness Month. The city website advertises the emergency kit giveaway as part of a series of events as part of its DenverReady initiative to educate residents about disaster preparedness.
Social media users shared videos and posts interpreting the giveaway as proof that the bags would be used for a planned doomsday event. “Yes, Denver is giving out bug bags in the days leading up to September 24th,” one Twitter user wrote. “I have a feeling something terrible is going to happen that day.”
However, the agency released a statement dismissing these claims as “unequivocally false”.
“We have been made aware that a video is circulating on social media by a conspiracy theory network alleging that our Bug Out bag giveaway for National Preparedness Month is the result of a known/expected disaster expected to occur in Denver,” the statement read. “We want the community of Denver to know that if we ever knew of an imminent threat or impending disaster, the first thing we would do would be to alert our community and the media because your safety is our number one priority. a.”
As evidence of an impending crisis on September 24, some netizens also pointed to a flyer calling for volunteer actors for a mock “mass drill” at a fire station in Oskaloosa, Kansas, that day.
“September 24, False Flag Event,” several social media users wrote in posts featuring the flyer.
Keith Jeffers, Emergency Manager for Jefferson County, Kansas, where Oskaloosa is located, and whose coordinates were on the leaflet, confirmed in a telephone interview with The Associated Press that the event was going to be a regular training exercise intended to help firefighters prepare for a possible wildfire resulting in injury.
He said the event was canceled ddue to the cross-country and bike races taking place in the community that day, but had received hundreds of calls from 40 states, such as well than countries all over the world, on the leaflet. He said people had even asked him about a potential nuclear event or a meteor strike on September 24, and that it was all “misinformation”.
“We get phone calls from across the country, as well as emails and calls from Canada, Ireland and Puerto Rico,” Jeffers said. “It’s on every social media site I’ve heard of and a lot I haven’t heard of. And we’re just trying to shut it down.
This is part of AP’s efforts to combat widely shared misinformation, including working with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.