Alien decoys

What really happens at Area 51 is a lot scarier than aliens.

A few years ago, the artist and former University of Nevada, Reno professor Joseph DeLappe said to us, “Reading up on Area 51, the whole flying saucer thing is just conspiratorial nonsense. That’s a weird non-story compared to what actually goes on there. Area 51 has been the main testing site for all of these [weapons] systems. That’s where all the drones were first flown and tested, and the SR-71 and the U-2 spy plane. There’s this lineage of secret aircraft.” (“What drones may come,” cover story, April 17, 2014).

A widespread recent Facebook event page titled “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us” has attracted the “interest” of more than 2 million possible participants of a theoretical raid to “see them aliens” at the part of the Air Force’s Nevada Test and Training Range commonly known as Area 51.

The organizers of the Facebook page say the event, supposedly planned for Sept. 20, is a joke, and indeed, judging by the anime references and the “official ’Storm Area 51, website,”, the whole thing is just a ruse to sell some T-shirts. Still, more than a few Internet Neckbeards seem to be taking the raid seriously.

Area 51 has long been rumored to house aliens or alien technology—and this rumor is mainstream enough to appear in blockbuster movies like Independence Day and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

It’s also a rumor that the Air Force has done little to squash because, as DeLappe said, it’s a cute story compared to what really goes on there—the development of sophisticated weapons systems. We’ll use the lingua franca of the event planners—nerdy pop culture references. On the NBC situation comedy NewsRadio, the conspiratorial character of station engineer “Joe Garelli” claimed that Area 51 was actually a decoy for the real super-secret site, Area 52. And the latest Spider-Man movie provides a perfect analogy. (You’ve probably already either seen the movie or really don’t care, but spoiler alert all the same.)

The movie features what appear to be alien monsters from another dimension. In the film, the monsters are actually illusions, but the damage they do is real. The havoc is actually wreaked by disgruntled weapons manufacturers, using weaponized drones with sophisticated projectors creating the illusory monsters.

Those kinds of deadly, deceptive drones are exactly the kind of thing actually developed at Area 51. The aliens are just a clever illusion. (The Spider-Man movie comes close, but stops slightly short of making a powerful political statement. The main villain, a master of weaving deceptions, says he’s “the truth,” and one almost expects him to deride everything else as “fake news.”)

Joke or not, the Air Force is taking the threat seriously enough to have released official statements reminding potential raiders of a basic American truth: storming a government weapons testing site is a good way to get shot.

If you want to see some alien tech in the Nevada desert, go to Burning Man. If you want to die in a raid on a government facility, wouldn’t storming those border detention centers where children are kept in cages be a more worthy cause?