The recent congressional hearing on unidentified anomalous phenomena sparked a new wave of conversation and fanaticism.

A photo illustration of an alien spaceship flying into the top portion of the Capitol building, the top of which appears to be open like a lid.
More Americans believe that reports of unidentified flying objects are “either alien ships or alien life-forms,” according to a 2022 YouGov poll, which surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults. (Photo illustration: Sam Whitney for Yahoo News; photos; Getty Images.)

What’s happening

July 26 gave many UFO-enthusiastic Americans what they’ve been waiting for: The government publicly confronted the topic of extraterrestrial life. On that day, a former military officer, David Grusch, along with two other military veterans, testified to House representatives that the military and executive branch agencies had withheld information regarding unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP) from Congress and the public.

As America’s infatuation with the otherworldly grows, a pressing question takes center stage: Does solid evidence exist to substantiate the existence of visitors from the unknown?

Grusch told lawmakers that the U.S. has possibly been aware of “non-human” activity since the 1930s, and that it had addressed crashed UFOs.

A Defense Department spokeswoman told the Associated Press that the agency had not discovered “any verifiable information to substantiate claims that any programs regarding the possession or reverse-engineering of extraterrestrial materials have existed in the past or exist currently.”

Jock Brocas, the creator and editor in chief of Paranormal Daily News, a publication that covers all things extraterrestrial, said the congressional hearing has turned everything “upside down.”

“It gave me shivers when Grusch said that we have biological evidence of beings … that goes beyond anything [we’ve heard],” he told Yahoo News.

Why there’s debate

Recent polling shows more Americans believe that reports of unidentified flying objects are “either alien ships or alien life-forms,” according to a 2022 YouGov poll, which surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults.

The poll found that 34% believe UFOs are probably alien ships or alien life-forms, up from 20% in 1996, while another 34% said they didn’t know and 32% said there’s a natural scientific explanation for the phenomena.

Grusch’s testimony drew skepticism, particularly among those who doubt that UFOs, UAPs and aliens even exist. Mick West, an American science writer who appeared on Elizabeth Vargas Reports on NewsNation, said that Grusch’s assertions aren’t accurate and that “the video evidence doesn’t stack up.”

“It’s hard to say what evidence we may have regarding life on other planets,” says Carrie McCabe, co-host of the Ain’t It Scary podcast, a show that focuses on mysterious, unexplained encounters. “We don’t know of many confirmed sightings or concrete cases; we have a lot of interesting videos and pictures, but not a whole lot else.”

The U.S. has “a very unique relationship with the concept of extraterrestrials and alien life,” McCabe told Yahoo News, adding that she believes it’s because “America has had very particular experiences with UFOs, ones that have become famous in the country, in alien ‘history,’ and across the world, like Roswell and Area 51.

“In events like these, our government has become involved and even part of the story, so it’s all become deeply entwined with the American identity. We’re also one of the foremost producers of pop culture, especially film, and so we grapple with these unanswered questions via film and fiction even more than our counterparts across the world, leading to big titles like E.T.Independence DayThe X-Files and so on,” she said.

What’s next

The congressional hearing wasn’t a one-off event, with lawmakers indicating that a bipartisan bill and additional hearings could be forthcoming.

“It was a very illuminating hearing,” Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wis., said about the testimonies, according to SpaceRef. “Obviously, I think several of us are going to look forward to getting some answers in a more confidential setting. I assume some legislation will come out of this.”


Federal government says there’s still no evidence that aliens exist

“While the Defense Department has said there’s no evidence linking UAPs to aliens yet, many social media users still took the hearing as proof aliens exist. The hearing did spawn a lot of memes, but many of them signaled how uninterested users were in the findings. UFOs, previously a hot topic for conspiracy theorists, are now almost too mundane to break through the news cycle, some users said.” — NBC News, Daysia Tolentino

Americans are too overwhelmed to care

“Seventy years ago, claims of flying saucers around Washington were the talk of the town and front pages. Today? Many Americans suggested they are too overwhelmed by the problems on Earth to care much about what’s outside it.

“‘Man I got a lot going on lately,’ read one meme viewed nearly 6 million times on Twitter since it was posted Wednesday, depicting a fictitious exchange between a human and a member of a newly identified alien class.” — Annabelle Timsit, Washington Post

Members of Congress are searching for answers

“The long love affair between the United States and UFOs is experiencing a torrid second honeymoon. In 2020, the decision by the Department of Defense to release a series of videos from 2004 and 2015 — depicting encounters by military pilots with unidentified flying objects (UFOs) — sent the imagination of public opinion soaring. Now, this curiosity has moved a group of congresspeople in Washington to shake off long-standing taboos in search of answers about what the authorities prefer to call unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) — a term used to brush away the tinge of conspiracy that the term ‘UFO’ carries.” — Iker Seisdedos, El País

People remain fascinated by the potential of otherworldly life

“America’s obsession with aliens and UFOs is nothing new — in fact, it’s something that’s been in the zeitgeist since at least the immediate postwar years of the late ’40s and ’50s, when paranoia stemming from the use of the atomic bomb and fraught international tensions caused many to start looking to the skies, wondering what could possibly happen next.” — Carrie McCabe to Yahoo News.

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