- A Facebook event urging attendees to “Storm Area 51” on September 20 started as a joke, then became a national phenomenon, swelling to 2 million RSVPs.
- The prank quickly garnered the attention of both the U.S. military and the rural communities that live near Area 51 in rural Nevada.
- The event’s founder has disassociated himself with the event, out of fear that logistics will overwhelm whoever shows up in the desert next week.
“Alienstock,” the viral Facebook event that invited people to storm Area 51 in Nevada next week, has lost its ringleader. Matty Roberts, a college student who started the event jokingly, has pulled out due to worries about the infrastructure of what is supposedly going to happen on September 20.
“It’s a fantastic relief,” Roberts said in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “I’ve had a lot of concerns leading up to Alienstock. Just to see all those come to a head 11 days before the event is kind of a relief.”
Roberts’ troubles began after listening to an episode of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast featuring Area 51 conspiracy theorist Bob Lazar. Lazar, who in 1989 claimed to reverse-engineer purported extraterrestrial technology at a secret site called S-4 near Area 51, is seen by many as the person responsible for bringing alien theories surrounding the base into the public fore in the first place.
Roberts was not converted to Lazar’s cause. “I just thought it would be a funny idea for the meme page,” Roberts told NPR after the event went viral, but before his name was in the public. “And it just took off like wildfire. It’s entirely satirical though, and most people seem to understand that.”
There wasn’t much information on the Facebook event page. The entire plan:
“We will all meet up in Rural Nevada and coordinate our parties. If we naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets. Lets see them aliens.”
(Naruto is the eponymous character of a Japanese anime show, and running with his arms at his sides is a special talent that many fans of the show reenact.)
But whether the event was a joke or an actual call to organize, people were into it—really into it. At press time, 2 million people have clicked “Going,” and another 1.6 million have indicated they’re “Interested” in the raid.
While the majority of attendees likely responded to the event as a joke, if even a percentage take it seriously, there are real concerns.
For starters, the Air Force has issued a statement “discouraging” anyone from attempting to enter the facility. That’s because Area 51 is a genuinely classified defense site, and is protected as such. Legally speaking, if you crash it, you’re committing an offense against Section 1382 of Title 18: entering a military installation without permission. You’ll face a $500 fine, be thoroughly searched, or worse. In 2019, a man was shot dead after failing to stop at a security gate and refusing to follow verbal instructions.
Still, the big question at this point is not a military conflict, but what happens to a bunch of people in the remote Nevada desert once they’ve gathered for a prank.
That’s the biggest reason why Roberts dropped his affiliation with the Facebook page. Instead, he has partnered with the mainstream Bud Light Area 51 Celebration in Downtown Las Vegas.
“It was either going to go one of two ways,” Roberts tells the R-J of Alienstock. “We saw the red flags and we pull out, or we could have ignored those and have it turn into a Fyre Festival 2.0 on our hands. That’s not something I want to be part of. To move to the event to downtown Las Vegas, where’s there’s infrastructure, medical, security, and everything is set in place, that’s fantastic.”
Left in the lurch, however, are people who actually live in rural Nevada, near the secretive military base. Connie West, owner of the Little A’Le’Inn in tiny Rachel, Nevada, was set to hold Alienstock, which will continue forward in some capacity.
“I’ve paid it out of my pocket anyway because nobody had any money,” West tells the R-J about Alienstock, which will last from Sept. 20-22. “It’s still going full blast. I’ve got a $17,500 down payment to security, and half of that is nonrefundable.” She’s also considering legal action against Roberts.
The big question, which will get answered in a number of days: Who will actually show up?