The Area 51 Raid and the Decline of Practically Anything Serious
By Alex Reinsch-Goldstein
The world has seen its Ice Age, its Iron Age, its Copper Age, and its Bronze Age--and this, the time in which we live, may fairly be called the world’s Silly Age. In a world increasingly devoid of God and all the other things which could give us comfort in ye olde days, the only thing keeping us from staring into the yawning depths of the Absurd is a consummate refusal to take anything seriously. There is no better example of this than the recent “raid” on Area 51.
Started in July as a public Facebook event titled “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us,” more than 2 million people signed up to go within the space of a few weeks. The Air Force put out a sternly-worded warning asking people to please not. In the end, a few hundred people showed--arriving at the gates of the base carrying signs and wearing alien costumes. Thousands more turned out for music festivals with names like “Alienstock” in the surrounding desert. Throughout the night, people surrounded the base and engaged in the usual meme-y shenanigans. A particularly memorable image was captured in the form of a man in a red hoodie Naruto-running behind a TV reporter in the hinterlands in front of the base, making pass after graceful pass like an airborne P-51 Mustang aglow on the silver wings of morning. While the base was never stormed, two people were arrested for trespassing. The crowd peacefully dispersed, and the “raid” ended.
Nobody threw away their lives hunting for aliens that aren’t there, but the fact that this thing happened at all is an indication of the trend towards universal silliness I described above. Hundreds of people traveling great distances to show up at the gates of a highly secretive military installation in order to “see them aliens” is undoubtedly an absurd spectacle--but this world is full of absurd spectacles. All we’re doing now is embracing it and taking it to its fullest extent.
Taking a look at the world around us, we either have a chance to take the lot of it seriously--or to not. In a world increasingly beset by seemingly unsolvable problems, from global warming to income inequality to a never-ending war in the Middle East to a semi-Orwellian national security apparatus, a certain portion of people--particularly the young ones who have to contend with these things the most--are inclined to look at it all and laugh. If you think that the big problems are unsolvable, one might as well embrace it and have a good time. In the state that it is, it is very hard for some people to take the world seriously. And so we have people travelling hundreds of miles to stand outside a secret military installation and chant their desire to see them aliens--and the world becomes an enormous self-sustaining meme.