A long, desolate dirt road leads to a gate of the Nevada Test and Training Range, commonly referred to as Area 51, near Rachel, Nevada. A joke Facebook event named "Storm Area 51, They Can't Stop All of Us," was created in June 2019. Multiple alien related events are now set to take place over the weekend of September 20, 2019 along state Route 375 also known as the "Extraterrestrial Highway." (Photo by Bridget Bennett / AFP)        (Photo credit should read BRIDGET BENNETT/AFP/Getty Images)

A long, desolate dirt road leads to a gate of the Nevada Test and Training Range, commonly referred to as Area 51, near Rachel, Nevada. A joke Facebook event named "Storm Area 51, They Can't Stop All of Us," was created in June 2019. Multiple alien related events are now set to take place over the weekend of September 20, 2019 along state Route 375 also known as the "Extraterrestrial Highway." (Photo by Bridget Bennett / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRIDGET BENNETT/AFP/Getty Images)

When does a joke go too far? Maybe when the U.S. military is being briefed about it? Or when tourists are being arrested for participating?

Here’s how an online joke about aliens spun out of control:

  • A joke Facebook event created in June entitled “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us” suggests that a group of people break into the Area 51 military facility in Nevada to try and find aliens that are supposedly stored within.

  • Hundreds of thousands of people mark themselves down as attending (that number has now swelled to 2.1 million). The Air Force gets nervous and issues a warning.

  • Small towns around the base begin to worry.

  • A spin-off festival called “Alienstock” is planned in part by a local businessperson.

  • The event is canceled over safety concerns.

The “storming” is supposed to occur this Friday. We sit down to discuss online culture, how it affects reality and who is held accountable when things get out of control.

Produced by Haili Blassingame.

Guests

  • Ed Komenda Las Vegas Reporter, USA Today.; @ejkomenda

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