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.
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 making 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 government authorities may show up at his house.
Related: Viral and bizarre content
Viral and bizarre content of 2016
The Mannequin Challenge is a viral video sensation where people pose in frozen positions like mannequins as a camera pans around the scene they created. Many videos included Rae Sremmurd’s song, Black Beatles. The trend is believed to have started at a high school and since then everyone, from celebrities to athletes and politicians have joined in on the fun.
(Photo by Jerritt Clark/WireImage)
The American everyman became an instant celebrity by calmly asking a question about energy policy during a debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Even his name has been a source of amusement on social media.
(PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Not to be out done by #TheDress of 2015, this pair of flip flops also had people talking. It was a similar debate, some people see them as blue and black, while others see them as white and gold… the debate continues.
Candace Payne won the hearts of many with her infectious laughter after buying a Chewbacca mask at Kohl’s. The Facebook video has been watched millions of times and Candace appeared on talks shows and newscasts around the country.
(Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
Bald eagle stuck in car grill
Pictures of a bald eagle stuck in the grill of a car also had people talking in 2016. Clay County Sheriff’s Office in Florida posted several pictures of the trapped bird on their Facebook page, which were shared more than 16,000 times. The good news is they were able to rescue the eagle safely.
(Facebook/Clay County Sheriff’s Office, Florida)
Can you find the cell phone on the rug in this picture? If you said no, you’re not alone. This picture stumped thousands of people and the original post on Facebook has been shared more than 155,000 times.
Look near the right leg of the table.
(Facebook/Jeya May Cruz Estigoy)
Another internet obsession this year was a compilation of video clips centered around the shoes and outfits of a high school student named Daniel Lara. Lara’s friend Joshua Holz filmed the video that has been shared hundreds of thousands of times and landed them an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
A grandpa went viral after his granddaughter tweeted this,
“dinner with papaw tonight…❤️ he made 12 burgers for all 6 grandkids and I’m the only one who showed. 😢 love him.” People were devastated by the story and sad papaw became a internet celebrity. There was even an event to honor him and thousands of people waited in line to have burgers with him.
Water Bottle Flipping
A high school talent show routine turned into a viral sensation. Mike Senatore flipped a half-filled water bottle and made it land upright on a table. The video resulted in kids around the country attempting the feat and got so out-of-hand in some places that schools banned the craze.
(Twitter/@Mike_Senatore YOU ARE A LEGEND https://t.co/iOr8EIyBgU)
This viral video was the feel good story many people needed. Derrick Culpepper’s daughter, Linda, can be heard in the video offering her dad encouragement as he did her hair and people fell in love with it.
(Video credit: Derrick Culpepper, Dad)
Shiny Legs or White Paint
Another optical illusion that sent the internet a buzz was a pair of legs. Were they shiny and oily or did they have white paint on them? Many people say once you know it’s paint you can’t see it any other way.
Joanne The Scammer
She is an internet personality who often wears a fur coat and messy wig. Branden Miller created the character who is known to be a con-artist and the internet can’t get enough of her. The internet darling has 708,000 followers on Twitter and she even attended the MTV Video Music Awards.
(Twitter/Simply iconic. truly. https://t.co/Eid3YBOVHq)
The internet went nuts over a Texas grandpa and his good looks. Irvin Randle is a 54-year-old teacher and his Instagram account has become a hit with people who can’t get enough of his fashion sense.
2016 was the year when the 1996 hit “My Boo” by Ghost Town DJ’s made a comeback. Two high school students, along with two Maryland basketball players helped get the dance craze known as the Running Man Challenge going. Just like the viral sensations that came before it like the Harlem Shake and the Nae Nae, celebrities and athletes joined in on the fun.
The story of Harambe had a tragic beginning that took an odd turn. The silverback gorilla was shot and killed at the Cincinnati Zoo after he grabbed a young boy who fell into his exhibit. The gorilla’s death sparked protests, but the animal was soon turned into a viral meme, with its name and image showing up across social media and even at sporting events.
(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
The U.S. Air Force warned on 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 on 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 extra terrestrials.
“This is only in America,” Scales said.
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