10 Area 51 Conspiracies


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Nothing at All Happens There
Some theorists claim that Area 51 rumormongering was just a red herring to throw the public off the trail of what the government was actually up to. © Martyn Goddard/Corbis

If you're inclined to really, really distrust the government, this might be the ultimate Area 51 conspiracy theory. What if all those mysterious goings-on at the site — and the official refusal to admit the base's existence — actually were part of an intricate misdirection hoax? It could well be that the government long ago moved its secret research to other, even more remote, locations, while subtly encouraging public curiosity about Area 51 to keep us all looking in the wrong place [source: Stooge].

But that's not all. British journalist and filmmaker Mark Pilkington has argued that the entire UFO-believer subculture has been the victim of an elaborate, ongoing propaganda operation. Over the years, he claims, the U.S. Air Force and the intelligence community quietly have worked to spread the belief that UFOs have crashed on American soil and that the government has been concealing and stockpiling advanced alien technology. It was all intended to divert attention away from the actual experimental spy aircraft and other gadgetry that the government actually was developing. The Air Force, he says, collected reports of UFO sightings and then compared them to the schedule of U-2 spy plane flights, in order to gauge whether the aircraft was visible to ground observers [source: Kingsbury]. Now, how's that for being devious?

Author's Note: 10 Area 51 Conspiracies

This was an interesting assignment because I've been fascinated by the conspiracy subculture for decades — from the old-school doubters of the Warren Commission that I encountered as a newspaper reporter back in the 1980s, to the new generation of 9-11 "truthers." But Area 51 enthusiasts, to me, seem especially fervent. That may be because it's possible to use the bits and pieces of Area 51 lore to spin a grand, overarching conspiracy meta-theory, one that provides an all-purpose alternative explanation for our entire recent history.

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