After truthers and false flags, an old-school conspiracy theory with benign little green men, flying saucers, and midnight visits by mysterious government agents is almost refreshing. Though you wouldn’t know it from the weary faces of the former members of Congress listening to testimony this week.
Since Monday, five former representatives and a former senator have listened to witnesses talk about a massive decades-long government coverup of extraterrestrial life. The meeting is being billed as the “Citizen Hearing on Disclosure,” and it looks in some respects like a real hearing. Witnesses are sworn in, and there are members of Congress, albeit former ones who are getting paid $20,000 each to attend.
The faux hearing is the latest attempt by the Paradigm Research Group to bring attention to extraterrestrials. Its last was in 2011, when the White House responded to its petition by denying any extraterrestrial contact and politely referring them to real searches for alien life, like SETI. Paradigm plans to use footage from the panel, lent a bit of apparent authority by the former members of Congress, to make a movie about the alleged government coverup of alien life.
The group’s executive director, Stephen Bassett, told the New York Daily News that he initially reached out to 55 former members of Congress with an offer of $10,000 to attend. Not even Dennis Kucinich, who has spoken of his own UFO encounter before, took the deal. Bassett then doubled the offer and got six takers. They’re an eclectic bunch.
Former Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick, the mother of disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, chaired the hearing. Former Rep. Merrill Cook lost a 2000 campaign after aides called him delusional. Former senator Mike Gravel is the guy who marketed his 2008 presidential run with a YouTube video of him staring blankly into the camera for a minute before hurling a rock in a pond. Former Rep. Roscoe Bartlett is a survivalist who has long warned of the potential for an electro-magnetic pulse to destroy the electric grid.
Eccentric or not, the panel expressed some skepticism when questioning witnesses Wednesday. Bartlett repeatedly asked if anyone had ever seen the bodies of the “little men” supposedly being put into crates at Roswell. All the witnesses could offer were thirdhand accounts or deathbed confessions that came decades after the fact. Still, he acknowledged that it was suspicious: if it was just a weather balloon crash, why the secrecy, he asked. Earlier he said it was “arrogant and presumptive to believe this is the only place where life exists in a universe this large.”
Former Rep. Lynn Woolsey tried to make the hearing about government transparency while remaining agnostic about extraterrestrials. “For me it’s not about ETs. I’m all about transparency, and this is the perfect subject, because it’s been treated so poorly for so long,” she said.
Kilpatrick tried a similar approach, focusing on health care for veterans. After the second day, which featured testimony from former Air Force members who reported health problems after a close encounter, she said, “I’m concerned, like some of these men who’ve spent their lives in the military and have been witnesses to some of this, this stuff that we’re studying this week, and then have health-care problems and can’t get them taken care of.” Cook, saying he was “open minded but skeptical,” echoed her, saying the government should unseal documents relating to the health care of the soldiers.
Most of the encounters dated back to the 1950s and ’60s, and the typical reason for the alleged coverup was not wanting the Russians to get their hands on alien technology. Asked why the government would bother covering up alien contact now, panelists struggled to come up with an answer. Maybe they hadn’t deciphered the alien figures yet. Or people would see themselves as Earthlings and lose their allegiance to nations. Or the aliens had technology that would allow us to “pull energy out of space-time” and energy companies didn’t want that. They were, for conspiracy theories, fairly optimistic.
It’s nice to think the only thing standing between us and utopia is an incredibly competent government.
Even with the former members of Congress dancing around the word “aliens,” making air-quotes, and occasionally looking bored, there will probably be enough footage of them asking questions about ETs and crash sites in 30 hours of testimony for Bassett and Paradigm to get what they want for their documentary. After their 2011 petition was politely declined, Bassett was upbeat. “This response from the White House is actually the first official response from the executive branch since this exploded on the scene in 1947,” he said.