Area 51


Thomas Dobbs, Features Editor

     “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us,” a viral event established with the intention of freeing aliens from the secretive military compound in Nevada on September 20, has attracted mainstream attention. Orchestrated on Facebook by anonymous administrators of a public meme page and a video game streamer, the event has been regarded by media outlets as simply a meme-worthy gag, rather than a sincere attempt to discover what really transpires within the gates of Area 51.
     Disbelievers of the “Storm Area 51” event, like Allegra Frank, associate culture editor at Vox, identifies the disorganization of the event as proof of its insignificance.
     “The ‘Storm Area 51’ event has gained traction online for its absurdity, drawing reactions across multiple social media platforms,” she wrote last month. “On Twitter, for example, one post that omitted the creators’ names — which make it clear that the event is just a high-concept gag —led people who were unfamiliar with its origins to take the idea quite seriously.”
     Undoubtedly, Frank was referencing Jackson Barnes, host of the event, who had released lazily drawn battle plans (see Image 1) on Facebook that draw similarities to the flanking maneuvers of Julius Caesar, Hannibal, or Napoleon. Barnes substituted Caesar’s highly trained cavalry and legions for a front line of stone throwers to distract the base while thousands of sprinters flank the sides.
     To substantiate Frank’s argument, Barnes conveniently discarded his preparations in a Facebook post following the event’s creation: “P.S. Hello US government, this is a joke, and I do not actually intend to go ahead with this plan. I just thought it would be funny and get me some thumbsy uppies on the internet.” Although Barnes’ plans are shrouded by memes, questionable motives, and lackluster preparation, we should never discard a threat to a US military base, however trivial the threat may appear.
     Are Barnes’ plans simply bait for the US Government while he develops a more serious plot?  Perhaps the entire event is coordinated by Russians capitalizing on their Facebook influence (and mutual obsession with the American people in Area 51) to spy on the most infamously secretive US military base?
     When questioned about the proposed “Storm Area 51” event, a US Air Force spokesperson responded: “‘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.’”
      Since its establishment in 1955, The US Government has maintained that Area 51 is a test facility for aircraft such as the U2 spy plane and S-71 Blackbird. Everything changed in 1989, however, when Robert Lazar, a former Area 51 employee claimed to have seen alien autopsy photographs and alien spacecraft within the gates of Area 51. Although Lazar’s claims were later discredited, conspiracies have arisen ranging from claims of crashed alien spacecraft to developing time travel. For example, in 2009, a group at the annual UFO conference in Alamo (35 miles east of Area 51) suggested that they should storm the base on motorcycles.  Disappointingly, this biker takeover never materialized, although one cannot shake the mental image of dozens of biker gangs racing on Harley-Davidsons toward the gates. Despite the mission’s failure, it demonstrates the persistence of the conspiracy theorists in undercurrents of the population.
     The success of the September 20 event “ Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us” is about as plausible as aliens themselves, especially considering the likelihood of millions of people gathering outside of Area 51.  Even if a few hundred invested conspiracy theorists show up, the US military is more than capable of preventing a takeover, especially if the contents of the base are as secretive as believed. Despite the unlikelihood of a successful “Storm Area 51” event, the fascination with this unexpected desert location is entrenched in the American psyche and will undoubtedly produce mainstream attention.