June 16, 2024

A man named Max Azzarello, who committed self-immolation outside Donald Trump’s trial location in Manhattan, appears to have left a Substack, dubbed “The Ponzi Papers,” which highlights numerous linked conspiracy theories—among them, a complex one implicating “The Simpsons.” Azzarello, who specifically referred to certain episodes, expressed that his aim was to give visibility to these notions, hence his on-fire protest last Friday.

Azzarello managed to survive the initial incident, but later lost his life at the hospital.

If you or anyone you know are contemplating suicide, please connect with the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988, or send “STRENGTH” via text to the Crisis Text Line at 741741, or visit 988lifeline.org.

In his last post’s manifesto, simply titled “I have set myself on fire outside the Trump Trial,” Azzarello confronts several accusations, including the suggestion that Harvard University serves as a front for organized crime. He connects this to “The Simpsons,” citing the substantial number of Harvard alumni who contribute as writers for the show.

Azzarello queried, “What if ‘The Simpsons’ functioned to further organized crime’s agenda?”

He argues the proof lies in the show’s portrayal of “a broken family plagued by moral erosion, a community that fails to address its issues, a laborer tirelessly working for a malicious billionaire, and therapeutic laughter at our unfortunate collective situation.”

Azzarello acknowledges most would agree that the show and its humor do, indeed, mirror this description. However, he doesn’t bother to substantiate his belief that criminal motivations steer the show’s direction.

He admits his ideas might seem ludicrous, stating, “These assumptions may appear as baseless conspiracy theories, but they aren’t. They demonstrate a conspiracy.” He later states, “Upon learning about Ponzi schemes in-depth, you will realize your life has been a lie.” His doubts extend back to his debut post in April 2023, where he even questioned his own sanity.

Azzarello’s Substack features images of pamphlets he published in attempts to disseminate his thought—the NYPD reported that Azzarello flung pamphlets around before setting himself ablaze. The digital version of the pamphlet also features a segment dubbed “The Simpsons is Evil Brainwashing,” suggesting the show was produced by Harvard alumni to propagate their criminal interests through mass media.

According to Azzarello, the show’s purported mission is to indoctrinate us with the idea that the American Dream is unattainable because of our clumsiness, division, and moral degradation, while big corporations and the government exploit us financially.

In his manifesto, Azzarello criticizes “post-truth America,” tying it to Donald Trump’s tenure. This connection could explain his choice of self-immolation location. His extensive conspiracy theories also involve Trump and the idea that the Republican and Democratic parties are mere facades for the real power collaboration.

He attributed his initial research to billionaire Peter Thiel’s dubious involvement with a bank run on Silicon Valley Bank. He then linked this to cryptocurrency, billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, COVID-19, professional wrestling, and more, presenting a blend of facts while skimming over details that would substantiate his conspiracy theory.

Donald Trump addressed the press on the first day of his hush money trial in New York on April 15

Describing cryptocurrency as a Ponzi scheme, Azzarello joins a chorus of mainstream critics who question its practical applications. But he goes further, suggesting several wealthy and influential individuals with ties to Stanford and Harvard—that bring us back to “The Simpsons”—orchestrated a “planetary multi-trillion-dollar Ponzi scheme” via cryptocurrency.

Though the inventor of cryptocurrency remains unknown and anonymous, no substantial evidence has surfaced linking it to the individuals Azzarello references.

Azzarello spends considerable time analyzing certain episodes of “The Simpsons”—“Marge vs. The Monorail” and “Lisa the Iconoclast,” to be precise.

A man in a red jacket and bowtie sings loudly in front of a group of men singing in colorful vests, on stage.Conan O’Brien as The Simpsons’ Lyle Lanley at the Hollywood Bowl (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

In the famous monorail episode, written by Harvard alumnus and late-night star Conan O’Brien, the Simpsons’ town, Springfield, succumbs to Lyle Lanley’s monorail scheme. Keen on Ponzi schemes, Azzarello classifies Lanley’s scam as a “fake monorail Ponzi scheme.”

Ponzi schemes involve robust initial investments that are usually repaid by later investments, typically leading to a model that’s unsustainable in the long run. Lanley’s plan doesn’t fit the Ponzi scheme mold, as he swindles towns and subsequently supplies them with deficient and poorly manned monorail systems.

Supporting his initial assertion, Azzarello notes, “Given the show’s close ties with an organization that invests billions in Ponzi schemes, this becomes quite incriminating.” He doesn’t clarify how alerting viewers to potential scams would make them more prone to falling for fraudsters.

In “Lisa the Iconoclast,” it is revealed that the town’s founder, Jebediah Springfield, is also a con man, meaning the townsfolk are living a lie. Azzarello points out that even though Lisa discovers the truth, she is unable to convince the townsfolk and eventually decides it might be better to maintain the lie.

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Towards the end, he likens himself to Lisa, expressing his failed endeavors to enlighten those around him.This leads to the inescapable conclusion made in ‘The Simpsons’: our movers and shakers convey that the dilapidation of our shared situation is our own fault, with the implication that we are powerless to change it, while they usurp our American Dream. To describe it in a more simplistic term, it’s psychological manipulation.

While he staunchly backs these elaborate plots, he didn’t mention the Stonecutters’ ‘Homer the Great’ episode of the sitcom — which demonstrates an undercover syndicate operating the world we live in — in his written work.

Moreover, warning people about these problems doesn’t exactly seem like the ideal way to get them to be resigned to those problems; to believe that there is no ulterior motive and suppress whatever resistance they may have.

He even ties other elements of popular culture to the conspiracy, most notably ‘The Simpsons’ creator Matt Groening’s ‘Life Is Hell’ comic strips (which he cites when posting these conspiracy theories on Instagram), The Beatles, films like ‘Do the Right Thing’ and ‘Chinatown’ among others. He arrives at drastic deductions from the implications of these creative pieces, as observed by internet users on social media.

Earlier, Azzarello elaborated on his theories regarding ‘The Simpsons’ in a blog post released in November 2023 with a straightforward title ‘How ‘The Simpsons’ Brainwashed Us’. He explores what he interprets as covert signals in other episodes of the series, particularly ‘And Maggie Makes Three’ and its disconcerting gift from Mr. Burns to Homer Simpson that reads ‘Never forget: You’re trapped here.’ Azzarello acknowledges that many find Homer pasting photos of baby Maggie over the warning to modify its message to ‘Do it for her’ deeply emotionally moving, yet Azzarello believes this is simply a strategy designed to convince the audience that they ‘have no choice but to slave away for evil billionaires for the entirety of our existence. And what can we do in defiance? We get to decorate our workspaces.’

He then links this to the infamous German phrase ‘work makes you free,’ prominently displayed at Nazi death camps. He perceives other episodes’ messages as part of these plots, such as ‘The Computer Wore Menace Shoes,’ ‘The Simpsons Movie,’ and the popular internet trend of ‘The Simpsons’ accurately forecasting global events. In his leaflet detailing his opinions, he mentioned the recurrent phrase ‘Lisa needs braces/Dental plan,’ which he classifies as a ‘familiar, well-known catchphrase’ that he asserts is used to alert the majority of the public to be anxious about these matters.

The end of that blog post gives recognition to Phil Hartman and his spouse Brynn, as he thinks their untimely demise is yet another cover-up.

If you or a person you know has suicidal thoughts, please reach out to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Helpline at 988, text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or visit 988lifeline.org.

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