As Area 51 raid becomes a joke online, the U.S. Air Force issues a real warning

The U.S. Air Force warned Friday against visiting the secretive base, saying that "any attempt to illegally access the area is highly discouraged."
Image: Area 51
Groom Road or 51 Road is a dirt road that leads from Nevada Route 375 to the restricted area known as Area 51 on June 27, 2010, near Rachel, Nevada.Jon Elswick / AP file

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By Jason Abbruzzese

They want to believe.

The viral phenomenon of a Facebook event calling for people to storm the Nevada military base colloquially known as Area 51 has continued to gain momentum in the past week, becoming a running joke online but also a cause of concern for authorities.

The event — a tongue-in-cheek attempt to find aliens hidden by the government — has taken on a life of its own in the internet zeitgeist, receiving nods from celebrities and brands while also turning into its own meme on the short-form video app TikTok.

Celebrity chef Guy Fieri jokingly offered to cater the event with radioactive ribs. Bud Light created an Area 51-themed beer can. And MoonPie naturally got in on the fun.

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Rapper Lil Nas X even released a special Area 51-themed video for his smash hit, "Old Town Road."

Meanwhile, the event's guest list continues to grow, with more than 1.6 million Facebook users marking themselves as "going." While the general expectation is that most people are embracing the event as satire, the sheer number of people who have joined the event have led to legitimate concern about even a few thousand people flooding the area around the military base.

The deluge of attention on the event spurred its creator, Matty Roberts, to come forward and speak with KLAS-TV, a CBS affiliate in Las Vegas. Roberts told the affiliate that he was worried that the authorities may show up at his house.

The U.S. Air Force warned Friday against visiting the secretive base, saying that "any attempt to illegally access the area is highly discouraged."

Residents of Rachel, Nevada, the small town close to the base, have told local news outlets that they are preparing for an influx of visitors.

The date of the Facebook event, Sept. 20, leaves time for interest and enthusiasm for the topic to wane. But the event has become more mainstream, reinvigorating questions about just what goes on at the military base.

On Fox Business, host Trish Regan spoke with Robert Scales, a retired major general with the U.S. Army, who assured the public that the base is just a "testing range."

He chalked up the recent hysteria to a certain unique national obsession with extraterrestrials.

"This is only in America," Scales said.