As the White House hosts a summit on social media censorship and Peter Thiel roasts Google for potentially being a tool for Chinese intelligence, the Facebook army has mobilized to remind us what truly makes the internet great – memes.
A Facebook event titled ‘Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us’ gained steam over the past week, amassing more than 1.2 million attendees (and an an almost equal number ‘interested’ – which goes to show some people just don’t know how to commit). While initially, a few internet killjoys were aghast at the group’s plans, the real motivation was quickly clear – to see how many memes the geeks, conspiracy theorists and bored office workers of the internet could come up with. The answer: a lot.
The creator of the event even has a plan to get past security: “We will all meet up at the Area 51 Alien Center tourist attraction and coordinate our entry. If we Naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets. Let’s see them aliens.”
What is Area 51?
Area 51 has long been a favorite of conspiracy theorists (and even a former First Lady and presidential candidate). It has been the subject of movies and documentaries, shrouded in a combination of fiction and fable.
The legend of Area 51 goes hand in hand with the history of the U-2 spy plane. The facility is managed as a part of Edwards Air Force Base. Test flights of the spy plane and similar aircraft prompted many observers to report unusual sightings assumed to be aircraft from outer space. These sightings were in fact straight from the U.S.A. – aircraft including the U-2, the A-12, and the F-117.
As usual, the government did nothing to placate the paranoid – the existence of Area 51 wasn’t confirmed until 2013, when existence of the facility was noted in a Freedom of Information Act request related to the U-2.
For those considering participating in the ‘Storm Area 51’ event, the U.S. Air Force is already discouraging any tempted to knock on its doors this September – don’t. Speaking to the Washington Post, an Air Force spokesperson warned: “[Area 51] is an open training range for the U.S. Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces. The U.S. Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets.”
And with fears of a lawsuit likely in their minds, even the event organizers posted this disclaimer:
“P.S. Hello U.S. government, this is a joke, and I do not actually intend to go ahead with this plan,” wrote user Jackson Barnes. “I just thought it would be funny and get me some thumbsy uppies on the Internet. I’m not responsible if people decide to actually storm area 51.”