The Extraterrestrial Jamboree: The culmination of the thrilling saga of the Area 51 raid
Sept. 20, 2019 was a memorable day in pop culture history, as the infamous “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us” Facebook event finally came to fruition.
For those of you who remained unaffected and unaware of the event, here’s a brief rundown of what happened: this past June, Matty Roberts, a 21-year-old college student from California, created a Facebook event titled “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us” out of sheer boredom. The internet, as it does, took to this joke like a moth to a flame, sparking an overnight viral meme – a meme so viral that it caught the attention of government officials who, not knowing how the internet operates, decided it would be a good idea to issue public warnings, unfortunately feeding the flames.
The problem with meme culture today is that it has become pervasive within real life. Before, it was predominantly focused on the internet and used for silly, harmless jokes. But now? Memes have – and I hate to say it – actual implications. We’ve seen it before, with deepfakes and foreign disguised propaganda. It was all fun and games when a meme was just something you saw on your Facebook feed, but now they have transgressed into the real world.
Let’s look at the Area 51 meme. On paper, it’s a hilarious combination of Naruto running, alien-saving and going against the government. The government, however, has taken this joke as an actual threat. The disparities between the older generation that makes up most of the government and the younger generations that grew up with meme culture are also to blame in this blatant discord. What millennials and Generation Z kids see as an obvious joke is lost on the older boomer generation, resulting in a meme like this to spiral so hard it affects actual people.
To recap the event, there were actual people who turned up in Nevada the day of Sept. 20 (the original date set for the raid). The two towns nearest to where the base is assumed to be, Hiko and Rachel, were flooded with tourists. Averaging at populations of 119 and 54, respectively, a rush of approximately 2000 tourists is a lot for such small towns. Much to some locals’ displeasure, musical festivals were also being hosted in the regions in honor of the raid (despite the Alienstock festival in Rachel being cancelled a week before the raid). While only 150 or so people tried to get to the actual gates – where they were politely and peacefully escorted back – the bulk of the alien fanatics were gathered at the festival sites. Dressed in Naruto headbands and toting poster boards with various slogans, the alien-saviors were definitely a sight to behold. In addition to the event there were multiple ‘livestreams,’ mostly proved to be fake and joking – analogous to the actual event.
And while most people were there just to enjoy a fun night of eclectic music and alien-themed food sponsored by Arby’s (yes, Arby’s had a food truck with a specially catered menu featuring “galaxy shakes,” “redacted on rye sandwiches” and more), there were minor casualties in the form of two YouTubers from the Netherlands – Ties Granzier, age 20, and Govert Sweep, age 21 – getting arrested for trespassing. I guess they didn’t get the memo that the government is kind of fastidious about things like that ...
All in all, the raid was not the catastrophic event that everyone, including the government, had predicted. But the point still stands that the mixing of memes and real life leads to actual results far more significant that a like or a share.
I guess the moral of the story here is to think before you tweet.