The internet’s quest for aliens

Meme culture becomes mainstream in the raid on Area 51


Photo by Peyton Sims

Photo Illustration

Story by Doug Kyles, staff writer

If more than a million citizens forced their way in a secretive military base, could the guards stop them? Could the raid prove decades of conspiracy theories on extraterrestrials true? Could the internet realistically rally enough participants in such a short time? The internet answered these questions when a Facebook event titled “Storm Area 51:They Can’t Stop All of Us,” went viral in June of this year.

The idea was pushed into the limelight after going viral on some of today’s most successful social media platforms: TikTok, Instagram and Reddit. After only a few weeks, the meme made an astonishing feat when it received national attention.

“I heard about it first on Instagram and it blew up from there,” sophomore Jeremy Creek said. “Memes are so weird in that they happen so quickly and unexpectedly and then go away just like that, but for some reason, the public just chose for this one to linger a little longer.”

Some of the world’s largest media outlets, The New York Times, CNN and the UK Guardian, all published multiple articles leading up to the raid. Late night show host Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert both featured the raid in segments on their respective shows. After all of this exposure, the Facebook post peaked with over 2 million users signed up to attend. 

Then, after months of fanfare and viral memes, the day had arrived. On Sept. 20, the internet realized they had grossly overestimated what the raid would actually look like.

There was no “raid” as planned; the internet fell through on their promises. Only 150 people actually arrived to the raid, nowhere even near 1% of those who signed up. Shockingly, one person, Ellie Urquhart, ended up crossing the security line set by the bases guards, and like the local police warned, was instantly arrested.

“There were a lot less people at the actual raid than signed up because most people thought of signing up as a joke,” sophomore Preston Smallwood said. “It was something random that people thought was funny; no one actually intended to go.”

Perhaps the raiders reconsidered their prospects or listened to the military when they threatened to defend the base with force. For many, it was because dropping work or school to drive to rural Nevada, all for a joke, just wasn’t realistic. 

Even though the raid was overestimated, the internet will long remember the time that America’s military was threatened, all in the name of a viral joke.

“I’d say it was the most popular meme this year so far,” Creek said. “I think the people who showed up will mainly be the ones to remember, while everyone else will either have a good story for future generations or maybe forget about it all.”