On June 27, three pseudonymous Facebook users created a mock event: “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us.” The event creators — “Sh—posting cause im in shambles,” “Smyleekun and The Hidden Sound” — scheduled the raid for Sept. 20 from 3 to 6 a.m. The description, coated in sarcasm and humor, reads, “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.”
About Area 51
Area 51 is a landmark whose notoriety is centered around conspiracy theories. Located in Amargosa Valley, NV, Area 51 is a highly classified United States Air Force facility with unknown and indefinite operations. The surrounding area has become a tourist attraction with alien-themed stores and a gathering spot for tourists, conspiracy theorists, geocachers and UFO seekers.
Near Area 51 is the “Extraterrestrial Highway,” which is named due to the many UFO sightings recorded along the road. The Area 51 facility is assumed to house extraterrestrial beings and alien spacecraft. Other theories on their secret operations include the development of weather control, time travel and even teleportation. It wasn’t until 2013 that the CIA finally confirmed Area 51’s existence.
Gauging the General Raid Response
The satirical event quickly turned viral, the raid on Area 51 generated a heavy following with 1.9 million people “going” and 1.4 million “interested” in attending as of July 25. The event, within two months’ time, gained massive popularity with the help of Gen Z, millennials and celebrities, with a the type of fervor unseen before the existence of memes and TikToks.
The hype revolving around this raid even caught the attention of the Air Force. Air Force spokeswoman Laura McAndrews issued a warning for the seemingly driven Naruto runners: “[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,” said USAF spokeswoman Laura McAndrews to the Washington Post.
The government seems to be taking this event as a potentially serious threat as they hold training and information sessions regarding the Area 51 raid. The event’s original creator, California student Matty Rogers, delivered a statement saying the event was innocent and purely for satirical purposes.
While the raid is meant to be a joke and the Facebook event a forum for endless memes, absolutely no one knows exactly how seriously this is being taken. There are, however, a couple of theories.
Theory one shows there are two main categories of people: prideful trolls and true believers. The trolls stick to their memes, TikTok videos and bountiful sense of humor, and the true believers and conspiracy theorists are using the raid as an actual excuse to decode Area 51’s mysteries.
The second and most accurate theory has multiple layers:
— People who are drop-dead serious about storming a highly secure, mysterious military facility (Naruto-style, of course)
— People who will go to watch the chaos ensue and possibly get involved because of mob mentality
— People who say they’re attending to add to the hype but won’t actually go
— People who won’t go because they’re not sure if it will actually turn out
— People who won’t go because they fully believe there will be zero turnout
— People who want to go but won’t because they value their lives
— People who would rather watch the livestream
—People who, simply put, will not go
Despite the currently unforeseeable outcome, out of the 1.9 million people who hit the “going” button, many of them seem to be tagging along for the clever memes and videos. The Area 51 raid has sparked a creative, humorous, albeit sometimes raunchy light in Gen Z and millennial social media users.
An Embodiment of Meme Culture
So far, the Facebook event has over 80,000 posts in the discussion board, and most of them consist of memes regarding the raid. Apps like iFunny and TikTok are littered with photos and videos of little green men and plans on how to approach the raid, among a wider variety of subjects.
The memes created from the Area 51 raid are among a new scale and breadth. The themes underlying the Area 51 memes have branched and created new sub-themes, providing for a whole new volume of subjects, ideas and content types.
These images suggest and exaggerate the possible existence of extraterrestrial life, and this highly represents the simulated goal of the raid. Some memes explore discoveries ranging from 100% germ-killing Clorox wipes and alien booty (yes, you heard right) to “Shrek” number 5 through 11 and Red Bull that actually gives you wings.
Weapon and tactic ideas, such as flame-throwing drones and etched-out swarm plans, are intermixed with memes predicting the “Great Area 51 Massacre” and how people will use their new alien friends. Throwing it back to early 2000s cartoons, a few even rank characters from shows such as “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and “Total Drama Island” to see how they would be involved in the Area 51 raid based on their personalities.
TikToks have taken a more recent rise. Gen Z and Millennials are posting videos displaying the “they can’t catch us all” idea by creating duplicates of themselves running. Others are giving a look inside to what life living with an alien would be like, and some people are predicting how the aliens would react to millennial and Gen Z culture.
Celebrities and influencers like Keanu Reeves, Jeffree Star, Chuck Norris and Lizzo have hilariously demonstrated their support through Snapchat and Twitter. People have begun selling mock UFOs on Facebook Marketplace, and a few supporters living in Nevada are offering up their homes as “home base” options. Newscasts have demonstrated the Naruto run and shared the dangerous reality of the situation if people were to follow through. Apparently, Arby’s will also be on-site with exclusive menu items.
The popularity generated by this single Facebook event is eye-opening to the ability of newer generations, who grew up with the internet, to make a mock event go viral on every platform possible.
The Area 51 raid has truly become a trend worthy of praise and answers. Maybe we’ll even get to “see them aliens.”