The truth is out there, as they say on “The X Files.” And some 1.7 million people have signed up to help get it.
That's the number of Facebook users who by Friday had volunteered to gather in Nevada on Sept. 20 to storm the legendary Area 51. The organizers' idea is to charge en masse into the mysterious site and find out what the Sam Hill has been going on there for the past 61/2 decades. Their slogan: “They can't stop all of us.”
The saga began years before the site in the Nevada desert was dubbed Area 51 and turned into a secret U.S. Air Force test site in the mid-1950s.
In July 1947, a rancher in Roswell, New Mexico, discovered materials on his land that appeared to be the remains of some bizarre-looking aircraft. It was actually the remains of a top-secret, high-altitude balloon, part of a project to listen for nuclear tests by the Communists. Whether kept in the dark themselves or ordered to lie, military officials on the scene at first implied the craft was from another world. According to Smithsonian Magazine, an article in the Roswell newspaper the following morning contained this sentence:
“The intelligence office of the 509th Bombardment Group at Roswell Army Air Field announced at noon today, that the field has come into the possession of a Flying Saucer.”
Imagine how that statement from a military official would resound around the twitterverse today.
The assertion was quickly denied, but not fast enough to stop a growing sense that extraterrestrials were on the way and the government knew all about it. The inside story later became that the Roswell craft, with incredibly advanced equipment and the bodies of several little aliens, was hidden at the furtive base in Nevada – and is still being studied today.
Eventually it was revealed Area 51 had its own covert operation – testing superfast planes called U2s. Those high-flying planes were often misidentified as UFOs – and, of course, the government passed on every opportunity to clear up the misunderstanding because the U2s were top-secret spyplanes. Until one was shot down by the USSR in 1960.
By then it was far too late. The two top-secret-for-real government programs had helped spawn a UFO coverup legend powerful enough to continue to this day.
The organizers of the September plan are reported to have said the whole thing is a big social-media-style joke, so it's unclear whether anyone will even show up on Sept. 20. Of course, that's just what they're hoping will happen.