It’s all fun and games until an ammonia sensor detects your presence inside the restricted zone and a cyborg on a stealth hoverboard vaporizes you from 100 feet with a laser space gun the government denies even exists.
Then none of this will be amusing.
There are bad ideas. And then there are idiotic ideas inspired by internet tomfoolery that can lead to mortal danger or, at the very least, a stiff fine. Take a recent fake invite posted to Facebook that, as of Wednesday morning, has more than 1.5 million presumed Earthlings clicking on “Going,” with another 1.1 million “Interested.”
Fewer people showed up for the Raptors parade.
The joke invitation is a called: “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All Of Us.”
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(Spoiler alert: They can and they will.)
The mock mission statement calls upon intrepid Fox Mulders to solve one of the most enduring conspiracy theories of our time, the claim that Area 51 is not just an Air Force training facility — it’s also ground zero for a shadowy government cabal that is studying downed UFOs.
So the plan is for human attendees to converge at the Area 51 Alien Center in Nevada on September 20 at 3 a.m. to “co-ordinate our entry” and “see them aliens.”
Right. It’s kind of like when you hatch a last-minute plot with friends for New Year’s Eve. Only instead of trying to get into a crowded bar in the Entertainment District, you will be on a hardscrabble pilgrimage across a heavily patrolled stretch of unforgiving desert toward one of the most secretive and garrisoned military installations in the world. Instead of lining up for tequila shots, you will be trying to avoid bullet shots after broaching the No Trespassing perimeter, where surveillance is borderline supernatural and guards are authorized to use lethal force.
But for the sake of argument, let’s say you survive this arduous journey on unmarked roads and don’t die of dehydration after realizing there is no Starbucks within 20 miles. Let’s say you elude the most sophisticated security in human history and aren’t savaged by coyotes. So now you’ve broached the Nevada Test and Training Range and someone you met two hours ago has a blurry schematic of the sprawling compound downloaded from a UFO site. Now what? You’re just going to sidle up to a hangar and hope the steel doors slide open like you’re ambling into a Walmart on Black Friday? You’re going to perch on a boulder and wait for a Little Green Man with a full-access lanyard around his skinny neck to venture forth and offer a guided tour, while regaling you with charming tales about life on his planet?
Storm Area 51? It would be way easier to swipe the Mona Lisa.
Now, if humanity could be trusted to identify fictional lore or a social-media gag when they see one, there’d be no reason to worry. We could just enjoy this viral post and kill time chuckling over the creative memes it has spawned. We could consume the celebrity contributions to Storm Area 51, including a new animated video for “Old Town Road” from Lil Nas X and the photos Miley Cyrus posted on Twitter this week, including a selfie in which she poses with a jaunty alien while costumed as a taco.
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But from Slender Man to the Tide Pod Challenge, it’s clear humanity can’t be trusted to sort out what is real and not real on the internet. In a recent story about this Facebook joke, the New York Times reported The Little A’Le’Inn, a motel not far from Area 51, “has gotten an unusually high number of reservations” for Sept. 20.
As one of the inn’s co-owners told the paper: “Oh, it’s insane … People are coming.”
This may be why the U.S. military is now issuing ominous warnings.
As Air Force spokesperson Laura McAndrews told the Washington Post: “(Area 51) is an open training range for the U.S. Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces. The U.S. Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets.”
So to anyone who is now seriously planning to Storm Area 51 this fall, I say stand down and get a grip. What do you think is going to happen? You’re going to fly into Nevada in your Yeezy boots and “I Survived Groom Lake” T-shirt and then march into a top-secret military base without incident? Oh, there will be incidents. And in every one of these incident scenarios, your life gets decidedly worse.
I strongly believe we are as close as we’ve ever been to discovering the truth about UFOs, even if that truth is all of this is a total crock of disinformation. But pay heed to the life story of UFO-whistleblower Bob Lazar, subject of a recent Netflix documentary, and keep the intergalactic consequences in mind.
The truth is out there. But finding it is still probably not worth the risk.
Vinay Menon is the Star’s pop culture columnist based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @vinaymenon