Several people are typing, and they’re all saying Netflix’s Leave the World Behind is wildly prescient. The movie, directed by Sam Esmail, opens on a world where communication has been knocked out following a cyberattack. And earlier this week, when nearly all of Meta’s platforms—Facebook, Instagram, Threads—went down, people took to (other) social media platforms to post and hand-wring about the apocalypse.

Most of the posts, per usual, were jokes: wry observations to help soothe the agita that comes with being alive when everything feels unstable. “Another dry run for Leave the World Behind,” wrote one X user. “I fear we are moving close to a Leave the World Behind scenario,” wrote another. “These tech glitches are increasingly [sic] with regularity.”

But there was also a more conspiratorial undercurrent. For those who don’t know, Leave the World Behind was produced by Barack and Michelle Obama through their company Higher Ground Productions. Ever since the movie’s release, a conspiracy theory has persisted online that the film is somehow a warning about the widespread disorder to come.

This same thread emerged late last month when an AT&T network outage wreaked havoc on US cellular networks. “The predictive programming of the Obama’s [sic] movie, Leave the World Behind, is becoming a little too real right now,” one user wrote on X. “I wouldn’t put it past our own federal government to institute a terrorist or cyber attack, just to blame it on foreign countries like China and Russia.”

Odds are that nothing of the sort happened. Leave the World Behind is based on a 2020 book by Rumaan Alam and, according to the film’s director Sam Esmail, the former US president came on as a production partner only after the script was pretty much done. “I would just say [the conspiracy theorists] are pretty wrong in terms of his signaling,” he told Collider. “It had nothing to do with that.”

Not that facts have ever gotten in the way of an online conspiracy before. Case in point, this week’s big trailer drop: Civil War. When the first trailer for Alex Garland’s next film dropped in December, online right-wing pundits speculated that it was also predictive programming, something meant to prepare the populace for events already planned by those in power. When the new trailer dropped this week, people on Reddit and elsewhere seemed to be fretting that the film will become, as The Hollywood Reporter put it, “MAGA fantasy fuel.”

Ultimately, reactions like these to Leave the World Behind and Civil War merely serve as proof that they’re effective as works of fiction. They’re not part of some psyop to placate the public—they’re reactions to a political era that is fraught at best. Comfort is not a prerequisite for good filmmaking; movies are supposed to be unsettling sometimes. Concerns about a movie being too real are just signs that the filmmakers have tapped in to the collective psyche. Rather than think that Esmail or Garland—or Obama, for that matter—are trying to send some warning, perhaps consider the circumstances for why you’re worried that they might.

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