A metal monolith is seen in Red Rock Desert, Utah, U.S., November 25, 2020, in this still image obtained from a social media video. @davidsurber_ via REUTERS

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

The 12-foot tall silver monolith found in the desert by The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources workers disappeared over the weekend, sparking a debate around what happened to the mysterious structure. The Wildlife Resources team discovered the monolith while counting bighorn sheep via helicopter. According to Google Earth‘s historical view feature, imaging shows that the monolith has actually been in the Utah desert since as early as 2015.

A similar monolith appeared in Romania shortly after the disappearance of the original monolith in Utah, sparking more debate about aliens and supernatural forces on social and earned media. The Mayor of the Romanian city Piatra Neamț, where the second monolith was found, joked about its discovery, stating, “My guess is that some alien, cheeky and terrible teenagers left home with their parents’ UFO and started planting metal monoliths around the world. First in Utah and then at Piatra Neamt,” he added. “I am honored that they chose our city.”

Despite the humorous banter surrounding extraterrestrials, photo evidence appears to show the monolith in Utah being destroyed by locals who then carried the pieces away in wheel-barrows.  According to a post on Instagram, several men arrived with tools to dismantle the monolith, with one of them reportedly saying “This is why you don’t leave trash in the desert” before carting off the structure’s remains.

The monolith has become a meme in pop culture, and several brands cashed in on the chance to turn the mysterious structure into a branding opportunity. Southwest Airlines, Steak-umm, Moon Pie, Kum & Go, and several others gave the vanishing monolith the branded meme treatment. A viral TikTok video that appears to show a mysterious scary creature is also making the rounds on the video-sharing app.

The search term “monolith” appeared 1,591 times in earned media in the past 7 days, and 184,031 times on Twitter during the same period.

Google Trends Worldwide Search Volume for Terms ‘Monolith’ & ‘Alien’ Over Past 30 Days” – Google Trends

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Four men removed mysterious Utah monolith, eyewitness claims – New York Post – 12/1/2020
“As they walked off with the pieces, one of them said, ‘Leave no trace,’” Bernards told the newspaper. Worried of a possible confrontation and suspecting the men might be armed, Bernards decided not to snap photos of them. He did post other shots on Instagram, however. But a friend of his from Denver, James Newlands, 38, managed to get a few images with his cellphone, he said.

Mysterious Monolith Update: New Mysterious Monolith Appears in Romania – Vice – 12/1/2020
An almost identical structure to the now-famous Utah monolith has been found across the world in Romania. This one has what look to be deliberate loop-de-loop scribbles scratched on its entire face and stands at about the same height as its Utah twin. The European monolith is only a few feet away from where an ancient Dacian fortress once stood, according to The Daily Mail

Artist or aliens? Mystery surrounds Utah monolith’s appearance and disappearance – NBC News – 12/1/2020
The public’s first guess: aliens, of course. Theories and jokes abounded. Ones that only grew stronger after the federal Bureau of Land Management said Saturday that the monolith had suddenly disappeared. In its place was a pile of rocks, appearing to commemorate the vanished structure.

Southwest Airlines jokes it’s responsible for Utah monolith disappearance – The Hill – 12/1/2020
Southwest Airlines took to social media on Sunday to joke that the mysterious metal monolith that recently disappeared from a remote area of Utah was one of their airport boarding signs. “Sorry y’all, we needed it back,” the airline tweeted alongside an image of the three-sided monolith with boarding numbers edited onto the picture. 

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

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