A student from Bakersfield, California, Matty Robertsruns a Facebook meme page named, “Shitposting cause I’m in shambles”, where he likes and shares memes, also creates some.
On a fine day in late June 2019, he decided to do something different. He created a Facebook event as the platform for his joke, calling it “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All Of Us”.
Area 51 is the secretive military base in southern Nevada that has long been associated in the pop culture imagination of extraterrestrial activity. The plan was simple, to storm the place on Sept. 20 at 3:00 a.m.
“We will all meet up at the Area 51 Alien Center tourist attraction and coordinate our entry,” the event explains. “If we Naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets. Lets see them aliens [sic].”
More than 2.1 million people RSVPed to “attend,” with another 1.5 million responding as “interested.” This shitpost gained tremendous popularity and caused a great stir as the event turned out to be both hilarious and serious.
Undoubtedly, the event gave birth to several memes on the planning and extraction of the extraterrestrial life locked up inside Area 51.
There were a myriad of animations and illustrations. The memes started spreading to other social media too such as Instagram, Reddit and TikTok. Roberts’ meme page was filled up with satirical posts about breaking into this covert Nevada military base. He started to fear that the FBI might show up at his place. But even if it had all started out as a joke, several people started taking the event seriously, thus leading a spokesperson from the Air Force to warn the people at large against approaching the borders. In fact, two people were arrested for trespassing near the Area 51 base, telling police they “wanted to look at the facility.”
The inspiration of Robert’s event was a Joe Rogan interview, which featured Area 51 whistleblower Bob Lazar, a supposed ex-government engineer who claims to have worked on alien technology near the base. As the event gathered more demand, Robert utilized this opportunity to the fullest. He planned three separate non-digital events on September 19th and 20th, which included an EDM concert in downtown Las Vegas thrown by Roberts; a Burning Man-like event in the approximately 35-person town of Rachel hosted by the town’s only business, the Little A’le’Inn; and a gathering of U.F.O. enthusiasts at the Alien Research Center, a gift shop in Hiko.
Thus when the event neared, Matty Roberts cleared all confusion regarding whether the event was actually taking place or not. “It started out as just from a pure stroke of imagination. It was meant to be funny. I wanted to do something cool out there, now that we have a bunch of people, I don’t want anybody to get hurt”, he said to a channel. The only person to actually “storm Area 51” was the 65 year old Laura Prater who was eventually arrested for doing so.
Many celebrities also participated in promoting this historic event. On July 16, rapper Lil Nas X released an animated version of his record-breaking hit “Old Town Road” along with Billy Ray Cyrus, Young Thug, and Walmart kid, Mason Ramsey. The video imagines a scenario in which the Area 51 security is forced to respond to a threat by the four artists arriving on a horse and with the aid of the legend Keanu Reeves. They befriend the aliens within and ride off into the sunset. The video has over 3 million views. Other than these, celebrities like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jackie Chan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and others also came out in support of raiding Area 51. This too was meant only for entertainment purposes only.
The “Storm Area 51” was probably the biggest meme trend of 2019. It left a great impact not only on the meme community at large, but it also left some effect on the business and security of the nearby areas. Lincoln County and Rachel announced emergency declarations regarding the fear of overcrowding in the region with insufficient supply of food, water, gas and others. Business increased in the region as a part of the preparations for visitors who planned to go to Area 51.
Matty Roberts literally created chaos in 2019. No matter how successful or unsuccessful his event turned out be, he did something which no other shit-posting Facebook page could have possibly done. He has been immortalized as the Area 51 guy.
Article written by Krishanu Sanyal