It’s happened again. A social network virus has taken on a life of its own and Facebook is blowing up. The prime mover of all this activity is the planned storming of the top-secret government location known as Area 51 on September 20, 2019. 

Based on the “Raid on Area 51” “official” Facebook page and all the postings there within, it looks like your average internet mix of people with wry senses of humor, true believers, and people who, quite frankly, sound a little dangerous.

And like all good social media viruses, it is proving to be quite contagious, as there is now talk of storming Loch Ness in order to corner its most famous resident, the monster affectionately known as Nessie. I must admit, I do not totally dismiss the notion of there existing a large primate living undetected — or at least sans any reliable evidence to date — in the dense forests of the American North West. 

But the idea that some throwback species from the Mesozoic period of animal life could still thrive in the chilly waters of a landlocked Scottish lake takes more than a leap of faith. And science does not require or benefit from faith, but from data that is boringly reliable. Ironically, faith is often buoyed — contrary to what passes for prevailing wisdom — by science. The Big Bang theory, relativity of time, and the irreducibly complex nature of cellular structure all point very strongly to things that are so natural they are “super”-natural.

God only knows what will transpire in the Nevada desert on September 20, or how many people will be psyching up for the storming of a top-secret installation that has been run quite effectively by the United States government for many decades. But throngs of disparate individuals marching under the common banner of finding the “truth” could get a little dangerous

since, unlike Loch Ness, Area 51 is restricted land space and restricted air space and those charged with keeping it that way are authorized to use deadly force — not a laughing matter.

Like many things on Facebook, there’s a lot of “tough talk” about the proposed storming of this mystery-shrouded piece of government real estate. On the official storming Facebook page you’ll read things like, “They can’t shoot us all.” Brave words indeed, and words I’m almost certain were said by someone who has never had someone point a gun at them. Thanks be to God, I have not had that experience either, but I know people who have. A brother in Vietnam, an uncle who was a cop, and I know from first-hand experience, these guys never talked cavalierly about having people shoot at them. In fact, they never talked about it at all.

Storming things rarely works out well historically. The storming of British troops in 18th-century Boston led to the Boston Massacre. The storming of the Bastille in Paris unleashed one of the most terrible, bloody, and anti-Catholic revolutions in human history. And we all know that the storming of Pontius Pilate’s Praetorium didn’t end very well either.

These unhappy stormings were at least serious, if misguided, undertakings. There is little doubt the storming of Area 51 began as a joke, probably from some 20-something in the bowels of his parents’ basement seeking to boost his “likes” on Facebook. 

And it has expanded my vocabulary. I learned the word “naruto,” as in “Naruto run.” It refers to the style of running found in magical Japanese-inspired anime comics, where characters assume superhero speed with an eccentric running style that makes them impervious to bullets…or something like that. Many on the Raid Area 51 Facebook page claim this will be their primary mode of transportation on the big day.

Who knows where this joke is going to end on September 20? It’s already gone too far, as evidenced by the fact the U.S. government felt compelled to issue a warning to anyone thinking about marking that date. This is still a restricted area, which the government takes very seriously, and if enough people don’t heed their caution, somebody just might get hurt.

Officials in Scotland, responding to the reports of a planned storming of Loch Ness, advised those who contemplating it that there is no need to storm a location that is open year-round to the public. Maybe the Nessie and ET hunters alike would all do better storming Heaven — it’s open year-round too.

Robert Brennan is a weekly columnist for Angelus online and in print. His column Ad Rem won second place in the “Best regular column: Arts, leisure, culture, and food” category at the Catholic Press Awards in 2019. He has written for many Catholic publications, including National Catholic Register and Our Sunday Visitor. He spent 25 years as a television writer, and is currently the Director of Communications for the Salvation Army California South Division.

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