How to Choose Between the Area 51 Raid and the Global Climate Strike

Who says you can't "find them aliens" *and* save the world from existential destruction?

Odds are, you aren't going to work or school tomorrow.

This Friday, you have the choice of whether or not to do two very different (but similarly insurgent, anti-government) activities. September 20, 2019 is the date of both the Area 51 raid and the global climate strike.

Area 51, the legendary military base in the Nevada desert that has long been at the center of speculation and paranoia about alien activity, will be the location of a mass Naruto run that will occur early Friday morning. The raid was conceptualized on a Facebook event page called "Storm Area 51, They Can't Stop All Of Us." The page garnered over a million RSVPs, and since then it's become a popular and beloved meme.

The event gained attention from the U.S. government, and an Air Force spokeswoman went on record at the Washington Post and discouraged people from trying to invade the base, saying that "the U.S. air force always stands ready to protect America and its assets." For some, the government's veiled threat to shoot down invaders only added fuel to the flames, as suicidal Gen-Zers and millennials doubled down on their commitment to "find them aliens."

Since the raid took off, Lincoln County, Nevada has declared a state of emergency, and they currently expect a crowd of 40,000 people. Things worsened when the creator of the original event, Matty Roberts, announced a music festival called Alienstock near the site. After it began to draw comparisons to Fyre Festival, the event planners pulled the plug—but all day, people have been showing up in Rachel, Nevada anyway, which makes sense when you think about the kinds of people planning on raiding Area 51 in the first place.

The actual Area 51 raid is expected to occur from 3AM to 6AM tonight. Currently, the highway leading to Area 51, also known as Extraterrestrial Highway, is expecting heavy traffic and will be heavily policed.

Tomorrow is also the Global Climate Strike, which is expected to be the world's largest day of climate change activism. This day of protest was started by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who began sitting outside her nation's Parliament every Friday in protest of global inaction on the climate crisis. The event quickly grew into a movement called Fridays for Future and has gained traction as the effects of climate change have become more undeniable and tangible.

Tomorrow, there will be an expected 4,638 climate strikes around the world, happening everywhere from Moscow to New York. In NYC, 1.1 million students will be allowed to skip school for the event, and millions more are expected to take to the streets. The strike has also garnered support from global trade unions and employees of giant companies like Google and Amazon. (Find and RSVP for your local strike here).

At first glance, these events seem like polar opposites. The main difference between the Area 51 raid and the global climate strikes is that the climate strikes are essentially dedicated to supporting life and ensuring a viable future on earth. On the other hand, the Area 51 raids are nihilistic, and a lot of the online discourse surrounding them seems to imply that there is nothing worth saving.

But when you look closer at the true nature of these parallel events, the more entangled their purposes seem. Attending a global climate strike means that you've accepted the terrifying notion that human civilization will end unless we mobilize on a mass scale, whereas the Area 51 raid requires a certain suspension of disbelief and denial, a certain faith in the extraterrestrial unknown, and at least a somewhat antagonistic view towards science and realism. That means that, essentially, the climate strike is way more punk than the Area 51 raid.

Maybe the events are more similar than they are different. They are both protests against the government and the people who are currently in power. They're both essentially products of young people's growing awareness that the world is not as it seems, that we don't have to listen to the rules we've always been taught, and that there's so much more going on behind the scenes than we know.

Obviously, the climate strikes are the way to go if you care about anything at all, want to make an actual change to the way the government and the world works, and/or want to avoid seeing poor and impoverished communities die in vast numbers over the next few decades while the rich take their spaceships to Mars. Unfortunately, in a lot of ways, raiding Area 51 and finding a bunch of aliens sounds more fun. It's kitschy and spooky; it's also more appealing if you're addicted to the internet or deeply depressed, due to its fundamentally apathetic and masochistic nature; and perhaps the climate movement could learn from the Area 51 initiative's viral nature.

Fortunately, the truth is that you don't have to choose between them. You can have it all: ou can honor your depressive and post-ironic impulses while still making an effort to change the world. The Area 51 raid is going to happen from 3AM to 6AM, so you technically can go to that and (if you don't get arrested) be at the Nevada City rally by midmorning. You can "find them aliens" and save the world, while evading capitalism and giving a middle finger to the U.S. government in the process.

Yes, that entire sentence sounds like something out of an absurdist comic book, and the simulation is becoming as glitchy as a group text with one Android in it. But like it or not, we're all in this messed up cosmic group text together. Now let's take this to the f*cking streets.


Are Memes the Key to a Revolution?

Memes can elect presidents and spark mass revolts. Why shouldn't they determine the fate of the world?

Most of us know that there's something up with Washington and the military-industrial complex that's running our world, which together are ignoring the very real threat of impending disaster due to the amount of carbon we're belching into the atmosphere.

The U.S. military is the number one burner of carbon in the world, after all.

Yet, though there have been significant pockets of protest, in general, activism has not taken off on the level required to spark change on the necessary scale. Part of this could be because there's just so much to protest, as every single day seems to bring another racist attack, another horrific report from the border, another apocalyptic headline. With the 24/7 news cycle constantly screaming or beeping out informational toxic waste, it's become too much information to bear.

Fortunately, memes have leapt in to provide an outlet for existential despair, suicidal ideation, hate, and other feelings too dark to express in the day-lit realm of seriousness. If reality is like the sun, impossible to look at straight-on, then memes have become like sunglasses for certain subsects of the online sphere—ways to comprehend events or express views without fully acknowledging their implications. This is visible in the rise of memes about mental illness and of course, politics.

The Area 51 Raid Could Be a Blueprint for a Revolt

In recent times, memes—or rather, a single meme, which blossomed into a Facebook group and spawned posts and tweets—have successfully persuaded one million people to RSVP that they are "going" to invade Area 51, the U.S. military base that has long been the subject of conspiracy theories. This is a clear example of how quick and effective memes are at mass mobilization.

Soon enough, people began to understand the implications of this spontaneous unification. Critics began questioning why people were rallying around an impossible and pointless Area 51 attack (sorry—I wish it were possible as much as the next guy, believe me) instead of a raid on, say, the ICE prisons at the border where people are actively dying in U.S. custody.

The truth is, though, it's becoming clear that serious, genuine attempts at changing the world have difficulty catching on in today's nihilistic, fragmented society. Fifty years after the summer of '69, hope doesn't hold the sway it used to; we don't believe that anything like 'give peace a chance' will work. We've watched too many optimists fail. We've seen too many cult leaders carted off to prison, too many men we thought were great exposed for who they really are.

We've seen the explosive production that defined the 20th century launch globalization in the 21st century, which has resulted in mass ecological crisis and waves of displacement that we know will only worsen as the earth warms. We've been told to turn off our lights as carbon companies churn out more pollution every year.

We've seen lies infiltrate our television screens from both sides of the political spectrum. We've watched pundits say the world will end in ten years because of climate change, then we've switched to FOX to see other pundits saying that climate change is a conspiracy.

Really, there's not much else to do except fall into complete depression and/or anxiety, or laugh it off. Perhaps merely incidentally, memes help us to do the latter, allowing us to alchemize those two polarized reactions into something unified, if only in its distortedness.

Memes as Tools of Social Change—Or Alt-Right Solidarity

After all, for all their flaws, memes do something vital for any healthy social movement, something that few digital users would care to admit. Memes foster community, presenting an alternative to the lonely echo chamber of the social media sphere and the capitalist system at large, which thrives on competition and the cult of the individual.

There is revolutionary potential in this resilient unification. Imagine, for example, if someone could shape climate change into a contagious meme. Imagine if "storm the Exxon Mobil factory" could collect the number of comments and RSVPs that this event has. Could it be that memes are the best hope for humanity?

Memes are perfect revolutionary devices because they allow us to connect and unify in the most anonymous of senses, permitting secret or radical thoughts to catch on like wildfire. Sometimes, this can have horrible consequences. Being implicitly neutral, memes are just as useful at fostering the rise of the alt-right and electing Trump as they could be in unifying protestors against climate change, or around the next Democratic presidential candidate.

But while memes can fuel hate, they can also fuel—to quote presidential candidate and meme Marianne Williamson—love. Perhaps the rise of memes says something about love; perhaps it proves that while we (as Gen-Z and millennials, to make a sweeping generalization) can't tolerate the intimacy of real, genuine bonds anymore—while ideas like "love will save us" feel antithetical—we can tolerate intimacy through the synthetic, chemical bonding that occurs through internet friendships, which allow us to remove ourselves from the equation, to strip away our public personas and instead to distill ourselves to something fluid, changeable at will.

In that anonymity, we feel the freedom to be ourselves, outside of the cage of the 'self' we perform in the real world. We can admit our flawed natures and fears; we can admit that we are "in shambles," while still preserving a self-effacing detachment. Always, there's the oddly comforting possibility that it's all a joke.

Needless to say, we need some new climate change memes

If Revolution Were a Meme

More and more, memes are becoming one of the primary ways to comprehend the truth of ourselves and our world, a truth so submerged in layers of complexity and misinformation that sometimes it only feels possible to discuss it in the liminal space of half-seriousness, half-absurdity that defines the memetic sphere.

Memes allow us to address what's breaking us down—such as the unchecked greed and corruption that began way back in the early stages of global colonization and is now causing climate change—without risking the kind of vulnerability that genuine emotion (be it hope or anger) requires. Memes allow us to commit to traveling across the country to rally and protest not because we think it will work, but because we think it will fail.

That's the kind of abandon it's going to take to protest climate change, or its forefather—late-stage capitalism—both of which can feel so overwhelming that it's hard to act at all. To really fight climate change and the capitalist systems that created it, maybe we need to stop taking everything so damn seriously. Maybe we need to lighten up—to rage against the apocalypse—to do something utterly absurd, like hold a collective dance-off at the site of the next pipeline in the Pacific Northwest, or a mass juuling session, or all throw tide pods at ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods' house—or something else, something that could only come from the belly of the Interwebs. Something that will flicker on cell phone screens across the country and across the world, provoking smiles or raised eyebrows, calling people to action in spite of themselves, pulling Americans out of their inclination towards apathy.

Maybe the Area 51 revolt could be a lesson. It's proof that today's Americans can and are willing to rally around specific causes. It's proof that memes are extraordinarily powerful weapons or tools, depending how they're used. It's all this, and it's none of this, because memes elude serious scrutiny, existing in a space that looks something like freedom.

Image via CBC


How Memes Sparked an Area 51 Invasion

1 million people have said they're going to Area 51 to meet the aliens. Is this the result of a collective millennial/Gen-Z desire to die, to revolt, or a little bit of both?

It started as most revolutions start: rather innocuously, the product of a half-hearted joke that managed to hit a nerve.

The first whispers of an Area 51 invasion began with a Facebook event called "Storm Area 51, They Can't Stop All of Us." Hosted by three primary parties—"Shitposting cause im in shambles," "Smyleekun," and "The Hidden Sound"—the page quickly amassed support, with a total of 1 million users committing to "going" as of Monday, July 15.

Several plans of attack have been proposed: "We will all meet up at the Area 51 Alien Center tourist attraction and coordinate our entry. If we Naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets. Let's see them aliens," posted one of the group's creators.

Other plans were more detailed, dividing raiders into ranks. Revolutionaries could identify themselves as "Karens," "Kyles," "Tylers," and "Daltons," among other things. Karens are, presumably, momager-types, aggressive and fast-talking women. One proposal suggested that we send a "Karen" with "no-nonsense hair" to the front gate to attempt peaceful negotiations; should that fail, the Kyles, pumped up on energy drinks, would be unleashed.

According to Know Your Meme, "Kyle is an online caricature of a white boy referenced as an antagonistic character in memes. Similar to how Karen is used online, 'Kyle' jokes parody of a certain kind of person with a set of characteristics one associates with the name; in 'Kyle's' case, these are characteristics of an angry white male teenager. 'Kyle' is generally presented as rage-filled and aggressive, and he is a fan of Monster Energy Drinks and Axe body spray, which has been documented in the Kyle Punches Drywall meme." In essence, Kyle is the heart and soul of the Area 51 attack. Perhaps Kyle is the heart and soul of the fragile, toxic masculinity at the core of America, or more likely, Kyle is the wreckage left behind when this fragile masculinity reveals itself for the hollow shell that it is.

From there, the memes blossomed like fireworks on the Fourth of July, filling the web with increasingly outlandish theories about what it might be like to actually "see them aliens."

The Call of Area 51

While the Area 51 invasion might be more based in absurdity and conspiracy theory than anything else, the amount of support it's has amassed is not a joke. The U.S. Air Force is scared, as they should be, because the popularity of this event is proof that the people have the capability to organize and take down the government, should they so desire. "[Area 51] is an open training range for the U.S. Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces...The U.S. Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets," stated the Air Force, confirming that it knows about the planned raid, and that it's prepared to defend whatever it's hiding inside the base, even at the cost of citizens' lives. That's right: a Facebook meme has the U.S. Military on alert.

Why Area 51? The super-secret military base in the Nevada desert has long been at the center of conspiracy theories that which propose the US government is hiding aliens inside. Other theories include the belief that the government is conducting experiments on teleportation and time travel inside the base.

There's a definitive allure to the prospect of discovering alien life, and that certainly plays a role in the interest. More likely, Area 51 is so alluring because of what it symbolizes. In some ways, it's the perfect representation of the distrust that American people feel in their government and in the state of the world.

In its surreal, almost mystical absurdity, Area 51 just might be the perfect symbolic portrayal of our postmodern hellscape, which seems to be entirely run by the Koch Brothers, juul companies, and tech bros who have achieved god-like status, like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk. Area 51 feels like it could be the source of whatever oozing, radioactive substance has made the world the way it is today. In a way, it's represents the Truth in a world beyond truth.

In light of this, planning to storm Area 51 via memes feels like a way of meeting our world's absurdity—be it the government's, the Internet's, or any of life's many other oddities—on its own terms.

Even more fascinating than the causes of the proposed Area 51 raid, though, is the rapidity with which the event gained traction. Its success reveals that a full-on political revolution is really just one meme page away. The success of the Area 51 venture shows that it's not hard to amass the kind of support needed to make the government take notice—and that's at least a start.

So grab your Monster drinks, Karens and Kyles of the world, and channel that rage into some hefty Photoshopping. You just might be our best hope at a revolution yet.