It started as a satirical joke on Facebook.
But before long, an event page titled “Storm Area 51, they can’t stop all of us” had garnered the interest of over nearly 2 million people vowing to raid the famously secretive military base in a bid to “see them aliens”.
Naturally, it doesn’t take a well-seasoned ufologist to see how stupid an idea this not-even-a-quarter-baked plan is. As the internet knows from the iconic line in Lord of the Rings that became an early viral meme, one does not simply walk in to Mordor.
While it’s safe to assume a large portion of those who have clicked ‘attending’ have only done so “for the lulz”, there are also those short-sighted ultra-truthers who are legitimately packing their bags for a perilous trek through the dusty Nevada desert on September 20th of this year.
According to the creator, there are even people who have written to him on Facebook to say that they are willing to die to get in the base and uncover its secrets. In truth, that is likely the fate of anyone who actually does turn up to Area 51 this September – after all, the last person who did attempt to access Area 51 illegally was allegedly shot on sight.
In their response to the viral joke that has since evolved into a national security issue, The U.S. Air Force spokesperson Laura McAndrews said:
“[Area 51] is an open training range for the US Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces.”
Despite the warning, users are still posting memes theorising the best way to break into the top-secret facility on the event page, where organisers said, “If we Naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets” – a reference to the to the manga and anime series whose protagonist Naruto Uzumaki runs with his arms stretched out at top speed.
Of course, bullets are only a threat to those who make it to the facility in one piece. In a part of the world that offers less logistical support than Fyre Festival, anyone who makes it that 50km+ walk from where they have to abandon their car to the airfield won’t need to be shot – they’ll arrive looking not unlike a Roswell Gray due to dehydration and exhaustion, even with all the water they can physically carry. At this point, their primary objective will likely be emergency aid as opposed to exposing government coverups.
Yet, behind the banter of the tongue-in-cheek Facebook page is a truth that no one can deny: the desire to believe in “something more” is a valuable commodity that is constantly capitalised on by anyone eager to seize the opportunity. Just as Loch Ness has profited from the myth of the monster and the town of Roswell rakes in the dollars from truth-seeking tourists, the Storm Area 51 campaign has succeeded in monetising the global interest in uncovering whether or not we really are alone in the universe.
Already, the popularity of the Facebook event has enjoyed constant coverage from global news sources and even triggered a line of Merchandise. For just $20, you can now purchase T-shirts adorned with slogans such as “I Survived Area 51” and “I saw them aliens.”
While any UFO expert with a few brain cells knows it’s a bad idea, the amount of traction that the page has gained is a testament to how easy it is to tap into this market. Whether the creator of the page is desperate to know what’s happening inside the top-secret military base or not, he certainly got what he wanted in the short-term: “some thumbsy uppies on the internet.”
Should those thumbsy uppies translate into a dangerously unequipped gang of believers attempting to raid Area 51, one thing is for sure: anyone who got the T shirt will certainly not have been there, done that.