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There is very little there, not much more than desert far away from modern conveniences like cell reception. That is by design: In , President Dwight Eisenhower asked for a secret location in which to start a high-altitude reconnaissance program. They soon found what they were looking for.

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The first is the U-2 spy plane , which helped the US keep an eye on the growing nuclear threat out of the Soviet Union. The Soviets conducted their first atomic bomb test in and started to intercept aircraft heading toward its borders in part to keep that program secret.

In , the Air Force began looking for a plane that could fly so high it could avoid detection and anti-aircraft missiles, about 70, feet in the air, and travel long-enough distances — 3, miles or so — without needing to refuel. The defense contractor Lockheed Martin designed and built one, the U-2, in just eight months. Such funds and presidential backing allowed engineers and others to work out many of the initial kinks. They would do so, turning the U-2 into one of the most important planes in US intelligence and military history.

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But on May 1, , a U-2 plane was shot down over Soviet airspace. The pilot, Gary Powers, and plane were both recovered, forcing the US to admit it was spying. That eventually led to the development of the SR Blackbird , which began flight testing on December 22, It was around that time that the testing area for these aircraft became known as Area More hangars, runways, housing units, and other facilities were installed in order to keep a burgeoning, secret spy-plane program running. But because the US government was making aircraft for the express purpose of beating the Soviet Union and others technologically, secrecy was of the utmost importance.

It was the Cold War, after all. Here are just a couple of examples of what they did: Employees mostly used planes to travel in and out of the facility.

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According to the CIA , components used to create the U-2 would be disassembled, placed on a plane, and then reassembled on-site at Area The CIA also encouraged the myth that UFOs were flying around Area 51 because it helped obfuscate what was really going on: the testing of odd-looking, high-flying, lightning-fast, never-before-seen aircraft. The secrecy continues to this day, and what goes on there is jealously guarded. But some activities that happen there are known.

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Jacobsen told Vox that the US military will train foreign fighters there sometimes, allowing the troops to practice on rough, remote terrain well out of sight of the public. She also believes Area 51 remains a place for American armed forces to develop and test the next generation of aircraft and weapons of war.

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What kinds of things commonly get mistaken for UFOs? Stealth bombers and drones , military decoy flares , weapons tests , military training exercises , and weird classified air stuff. What does Area 51 have a lot of? All of the above. But Lazar believed that the foreign air technology belonged to aliens and that Area 51 was entirely designed to capture, reverse-engineer, and study alien aircraft and aliens themselves.

In , the government ultimately revealed the object to have been a nuclear surveillance balloon.

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Conspiracists like John Lear, a pilot and heir to the Learjet fortune, spun macabre and bizarre stories about aliens being held and studied in such underground camps, where the government fed them abducted children and mutilated cattle. In , Lear described Groom Lake, Nevada — a. Lazar is believed to have fabricated his educational background , making up degrees from MIT and Cal Tech, institutes he seems to have never attended.

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He also claimed to have worked for the Los Alamos particle laboratory during years when bankruptcy filings instead listed him as a photo and film processor. Nonetheless, when he appeared on KLAS he was calm and articulate as he spoke of dismantling and test-flying flying saucers at Area As late as , new claims and conspiracies about Area 51 were still finding their way into the mainstream.

These excuses are just as flimsy as they sound, collapsing into all-out racism under the weight of the slightest scrutiny. The soft-shuffle manoeuvre from race to culture is a routine canard of the far right to avoid accountability, and handwringing about "cultural preservation" is nothing but a dog whistle for those embarrassed to openly show their disgust for miscegenation. There is precisely zero evidence that "liberal elites" would be interested in the fatal dilution of whiteness, even if they did indeed have shadowy cabals of Jewish people to put their plans in motion.

None of this really matters; the conspiracy is less about levelling a statistically robust world picture, and more about telegraphing a sense of global white victimhood around which to arrange a sense of political outrage. Better instead to gloss it with a thin patina of plausible deniability; talking diversity rather than supremacy, preservation rather than extermination.

But really, fears of a white population overwhelmed by racial others is nothing new. It can be found in desperate petitions to preserve chattel slavery as a backstop against the supposed threat of violent black people. In , Enoch Powell declared that an influx of migrants meant "the black man [would] have the whip hand over the white man". If you buy into this world picture and many, many do , any step towards racial inequality becomes an unthinkable concession to a deadly set of enemies who must be crushed — or else.

If you buy into this world picture, must be prepared to do whatever it takes to survive. This, of course, is precisely the point. Of all the swivel-eyed conspiracies shambling through the more squalid reaches of the internet, the Great Replacement has proved uniquely powerful. Its doctrine of survival is a captivating persuasion tactic for people bent on drawing more people to the cause of white supremacy.

It crams children into cages in detention centres, and it puts guns in the hands of men wishing to exorcise their bloody power fantasies. And it veils the real operation of violence, recasting terrorism as heroism and tyranny as the tactical necessities of self-defence.

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It reaches out a hand to the foetid, trembling, paranoid soul of white supremacist culture and tells it that everything it has ever feared is coming true. But that we have the power to stop it. It asks — do you want to be a hero, kid?