Urban legend has it that Area 51 is a weird place. Yet even if the conspiracy theories are true and the Nevada air force facility harbors extraterrestrial technology and/or life, it would still barely qualify as being weirder than the internet where, early this month the anonymous users behind a Facebook meme page proposed a jaunty group invasion of the restricted compound.
In a Facebook event titled “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us,” the creators explain: “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.”
The “naruto run” part of this call to action refers to the particular, oft-memed, ostrich-like sprint of a popular Japanese anime character.
Their plan, scheduled for the wee hours of 20 September, has gained momentum; 1.4 million people have RSVP’d as “attending” the raid, while 1.1 million more are “interested”.
In a post pinned to the top of the event page, a user named Jackson Barnes has drawn a diagram “game plan”, illustrating how different factions of attendees could best swarm the base.
Beneath his scheme, Barnes writes: “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.” (He currently has 101,000 “thumbsy uppies” for his effort).
Barnes’s disclaimer contains perhaps the most important bit of information to retain from this story: “Storm Area 51” is all a joke.
The US air force, however, is not amused, with a spokeswoman telling the New York Times “any attempt to illegally access military installations or military training areas is dangerous”. “No trespassing” signs in the area reportedly state that the use of “deadly force” against intruders is authorized.
Granted, even those who do travel to Nevada with the intent to descend upon Area 51 are very unlikely to get anywhere close to the base’s restricted zone, not only because it’s assiduously surveilled and patrolled, but because it’s located deep within a desolate and punishingly hot stretch of desert, far from amenities like convenience stores and public bathrooms. Is that really how anyone wants to spend their vacation days? In this economy?
Whether this wildfire meme will be forgotten by next week, or catalyze real (inadvisable!) action come 20 September remains to be seen.
The truth, maybe, is out there!