The Coming of the Pod People

In 1956, Allied Artists released The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a science fiction classic starring Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter.  It’s an upsetting and somewhat creepy film about aliens invading the earth, and replacing actual human beings with non-human replicas that look and speak exactly like the persons whom they supplant.

The invaders accomplish this by growing the alien replicas in large “pods,” similar to the casings of stringbeans and peas.  When a replica is fully mature it secretly substitutes itself for the human being it has copied, taking his or her place in society.  Other human beings don’t notice the change immediately, since the “pod people” look exactly like the individuals they have supplanted.  But small quirks and tics in the replicas’ behavior can alert one to something wrong or strange or foreign about an otherwise seemingly human pod person.

Kevin McCarthy plays the one man in his small town who figures out what is happening, and who goes through a nightmare of futile attempts to warn others of the danger.  Worst of all is his horrified discovery that many of his closest friends and family members have been surreptitiously replaced by “pod people.”  These interlopers may look human, but they share none of the history, sympathies, or cultural inheritance of real persons.  They are merely pod people, empty husks masquerading as flesh-and-blood individuals.

I wonder if it has occurred to anyone that we are in an analogous situation today.  The invasion isn’t from outer space, however.  We have allowed a bizarre type of human android to take the place of what, under the normal cultural and educational conditions of the past, would have been sane, sensible, and rational people.  For a long time now, the pod people have been coming.

Let’s start with some rather mundane and common examples.  Who are those strange specimens you see in the street or on buses or subway cars with their eyes glued to a small hand-held electronic device, playing some silly game or tapping out half-literate text messages?  Are they actually human beings?  What about their close relatives, the utterly blank ciphers who sit with earplugs on, listening to music non-stop, their eyes glazed over and their heads swaying to a repetitive beat?  A good prima facie case can be made that these are pod people, mere shells of what had previously been real persons, now as devoid of soul as department store dummies.

Addiction to electronic and digital devices is a pretty sure sign that one is a pod person.  Kindles, smart-phones, beepers, laptops, I-pads, small digital cameras—you name it, and a pod person usually has all of them. One of these freaks actually said to me, in a breathless and emotionally supercharged tone, “If I want, I can watch Gone with the Wind on my little device!”  Watching an epic-length film on a screen the size of a large postage stamp was actually thinkable and doable for this idiot.  There’s even a contrivance to wear on your wrist or ankle that tells you how many steps you have taken in a given day.  Why one would need to know that escapes me, but lots of pod people wear this contrivance if the sales figures are accurate.

Another definite symptom of pod personhood is the collection of a vast array of “apps” for one’s phone, and an irresistible urge to show them off to others.  I had to ask a guest to leave my house recently when he wouldn’t shut up about his various “apps.”  Pod people are as proud of their “apps” as military officers are of their fruit salad.  But at least officers have the courtesy not to brag about their decorations.

You might argue that all of this is just a passing fad, the temporary excitement that accompanies every new invention.  But you’d be wrong.  This isn’t a fad like the hula hoop.  This worldwide digital hard-on isn’t going to go away.  The people in the grip of this disease are ceasing to be human in any meaningful sense other than their anatomy.  They are slowly becoming pod people, as robotic as the computers they worship.

Being a pod person isn’t necessarily linked to this digital revolution; there are plenty of other manifestations of the invasion, just as dangerous.  Let me give some examples from my own workplace, academia.

Most obviously, there’s the large number of coed undergraduates in one’s classes who clearly haven’t read a single serious book in their lives, and whose minds are completely fixated on clothing, fashion accessories, celebrity gossip, in-group bitchiness, garish tattoos, trendy corporate logos, sex, and the vacuous advice excreted by Cosmopolitan magazine.  Don’t tell me that teenage girls have always been shallow—this is a different kind of shallowness, so all-encompassing and sterile that it defies remedy.  These coeds are pod people, as devoid of human depth and rational understanding as the aliens that Kevin McCarthy faced.  And they almost always grow up to be the kind of revolting, selfish airheads one sees on The Housewives of Orange County.  Not all coeds are like this, to be sure, and not even a majority of them are like this.  But a very significant and growing percentage of them are.

However, the really scary pod people in academia aren’t sitting in the lecture hall.  They are at the lectern and in the faculty offices.  Unless you have actually worked in a college or university, you cannot conceive of the sheer otherworldly mindlessness of academics.  A prime example is the tenured, full-time professor who makes a six-figure salary, has a huge pension awaiting him, enjoys full medical benefits, owns  luxurious homes in Manhattan and the Hamptons or some other exclusive place, and who nevertheless claims to be a revolutionary Marxist.  He’ll preach a watered-down, theory-clotted leftism to his classes, he’ll get himself arrested at some Occupy rally, and he may even run a turgid website dedicated to understanding Gramsci or Marcuse.  He’ll spout left-liberal pieties about multiculturalism and diversity at faculty meetings or on the common faculty list-serve, but then he’ll profess to be shocked and outraged when he discovers that you don’t share his sociopolitical viewpoints.  Professors like him are the rule, not the exception, particularly in humanities departments.  Do academics generally live in ivory towers?  Sure, maybe so.  But these academic pod people live in small, politically correct cocoons, insulated from a world that they only perceive through their leftist prisms.  I avoid such colleagues like the plague.

Other kinds of pod people in academia are found among the curriculum coordinators and other mid-level administrative types who supposedly serve as “resources” for the faculty. Some are real human beings who do their job fairly well; others are pod people who spout the most godawful, sterile, mealy-mouthed jargon—a kind of New-Agey, therapeutic, Smiley-Face fakery that says nothing while causing you to vomit in disgust when you read it or hear it.  I’ve reached the point where I immediately delete any message from such persons without even glancing at it, and I pointedly avoid talking to them at all.  Listen to their gaseous, feelgood, Department-of-Human-Resources rhetoric for too long, and you’ll become a pod person yourself. 

Let’s look a little higher up the food chain.  Pod people are replicas, and their fixation on living a replicated, fake life is a telltale sign of their alien nature. Consider the damaged persons who have no real friends or acquaintances, much less any actual and intimate human relationships, but who are obsessed with having a long list of pals on Facebook, or some other stupid on-line network.  In fact, the internet and its silly social media constitute their total interaction with others.  For many of them, even their sexual lives are virtual, happening solely in a realm of pornographic images. And these pitiful losers seriously think that all of those names and photos and Smiley-Face messages and chatroom memberships prove that they are part of a vibrant world of human intimacy.  Pod people, all of them.

Pod people are invariably leftist or left-liberal, not so much out of genuine commitment but because it is easier to live in an optimistic fantasy world of hype and hope that is ratified as proper by mainstream media and your teachers.  Logical thought, careful discernment, and extensive  reading are infinitely harder and time-consuming.  How much more pleasant and reassuring to parrot what everybody else around you is saying, and to call yourself a “progressive”!

Look into the arena of political activity.  Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the Democratic nomination is essentially driven by a strange subgroup of pod people: low-information menopausal white females who don’t know a thing about the real world or geopolitics, but who are simply driven by brainless enthusiasm for “a woman president.”  Hillary’s utter incapacity to be honest, her (and her husband’s) insatiable greed, her complete disregard for any law or rule that inconveniences her, her staggering sense of entitlement and elitist narcissism, and her frighteningly vindictive nature mean nothing to these hard-core supporters.  Such mindless female pod people are Hillary’s natural constituency.

In fact, what is ordinarily called kneejerk or reflexive liberalism is almost always a symptom of the glandular reactions of pod people.  Consider the typical pod person’s response to the “legalization” of fraudulent and perverted gay marriage in Ireland, the United States, and elsewhere.  Homosexual marriage is no more valid now than it was when Nero married Sporus, but that doesn’t dampen a pod person’s enthusiasm for nancy-boy nuptials.  He’ll wave some asinine rainbow-colored flag to show his solidarity with the ludicrous idea that a judicial decision can change the objective reality of matrimony, as if a court could order the morning tide not to come in.  The pod people are ubiquitous, posting rainbow-colored stickers on their avatars and websites, thus demonstrating their passionate fixation on an ideological delusion even in the face of nature.  They are alien beings, not actual persons.

Pod people can literally destroy a country.  Could there be anything more robotic, more android, more zombie-like, more detached from reality, than the smiling faces on those Germans who are crowding the depots in their nation to welcome the hordes of Third-World refugees arriving there?  Think of it: these Germans are smiling at the prospect of their nation being overwhelmed with Moslem dregs.  They are apparently pleased with the specter of the culture and structure of their country being changed forever.  These are pod people par excellence. 

It’s even worse in Scandinavia, the most pod-substituted area in Europe.  Despite the fact that eighty percent of the rapes in Sweden are committed by Moslem immigrant garbage (frequently followed by the murder of the woman), Swedes as a whole are celebrating the coming of more of these vermin to their land!  In Norway it’s beyond all rationality—last year one hundred percent of the rapes in that country were committed by these immigrant aliens, but the clueless Norwegians are more than happy to let this catastrophic and illegal invasion continue.  What can explain this, other than the replacement of rational Scandinavians by pod people?  The Vikings are obviously gone from the region.

I am haunted by the memory of Kevin McCarthy’s face in The Invasion of the Body Snatchers—the terror, the dismay, the utter incredulity and yet undeniable certainty that an unstoppable corruption of humanity and human culture was taking place without any widespread awareness of the disaster.  No one in his town took McCarthy’s warnings seriously, and in consequence the inhabitants were slowly and inevitably replaced by pod people.  And so it is here in the West: the steady onslaught of pod behavior, pod attitudes, pod thinking, and pod irrationality.  You can’t escape any of it now. These pod people are everywhere, like rats in the sewer system.  But maybe we should stop pretending that they are human beings.


Joseph S. Salemi has published poems, translations, and scholarly articles in over one hundred journals throughout the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. His four collections of poetry are Formal Complaints and Nonsense Couplets, issued by Somers Rocks Press, Masquerade from Pivot Press, and The Lilacs on Good Friday from The New Formalist Press. He has translated poems from a wide range of Greek and Roman authors, including Catullus, Martial, Juvenal, Horace, Propertius, Ausonius, Theognis, and Philodemus. In addition, he has published extensive translations, with scholarly commentary and annotations, from Renaissance texts such as the Faunus poems of Pietro Bembo, The Facetiae of Poggio Bracciolini, and the Latin verse of Castiglione. He is a recipient of a Herbert Musurillo Scholarship, a Lane Cooper Fellowship, an N.E.H. Fellowship, and the 1993 Classical and Modern Literature Award. He is also a four-time finalist for the Howard Nemerov Prize.