Though it resulted in a hundred people marching in the desert, the original idea might be better suited for larger causes.
In June, a college student posted a Facebook event titled “storm area 51, they can’t stop all of us,” which was scheduled to take place on Sept. 20, 2019. At first, it just seemed like a dumb joke, and the memes poured out. At the beginning of September, everyone was wondering if anyone would actually go through with storming Area 51. Over 2 million people had said they were going on Facebook, but the event was clearly facetious, and most people said they were going as a joke. On the actual morning of Sept. 20, everyone was wondering how the event was going to turn out: Were we finally going to find out in aliens are real? Or was everyone that showed up just going to get shot?
The actuality of the event ended up much less exciting than anyone hoped. Only around 100 people showed up, and only one was arrested for public urination. The memes and internet hysteria over this event, however, had an odd impact on everyone. The original title of the event ended with “they can’t stop all of us” and directly pointed to the fact that, if 2 million people had shown up to Area 51, the day would have gone much differently.. Current internet culture is full of people jokingly saying “let’s use the overwhelming force of depressed millennials to raid area 51” rather than “let’s use our voices to enforce positive change in the world.”
One subcategory of Area 51 memes were centered around the stereotypical millennial (and now Generation Z) depression. People were fine getting shot at Area 51 because they already wanted to die; why not prove the existence of aliens while doing it? Not to get existential, but with such an intense political climate at the moment, with so many begging for change with little action towards it, why can’t this attitude be put into enacting change that will improve the lives of millions of people? When things are joked about they gather more traction: the Area 51 raid got its popularity because of how ridiculous it is, but when it comes to real social issues, such as the current state of healthcare or climate change, very few want to take action to speak out against it.
A global climate strike happened the same day as the Area 51 raid, but had much less coverage because everyone wanted to see an idiot get shot rather than see people fighting over arguably more pressing issues. People will joke about the government hiding extraterrestrial technology before they admit that their government structures are failing them and killing the world. Not to say that one of those isn’t much less to take in than the other, but imagine what could have happened if all 2 million people that signed up to raid Area 51 actually showed up, then imagine that they stormed DC for change. This fun internet joke shows how committed some people be, and how far radical ideas can be spread, but just like here, a lot of people talk a big game but won’t show up to actually create change.