The Puppet Masters

I was re-reading this Heinlein classic: it’s about alien parasites that take over and control people. And no, you don’t have to look at it from their point of view.

Our heroes have discovered this: they’re about to tell the President.

” At the beginning of a forest fire or an epidemic there is a short time where a minimum of correct action will contain and destroy. What the President needed to do the Old Man had already figured out – declare a national emergency, fence off the Des Moines area, and shoot anyone who tried to slip out. ”

” The  Old Man’s unique gift weas the ability to reason logically with unfamiliar, hard-to-believe facts as easily as with the commonplace.  Not much, eh? Most minds stall dead when faced with facts that conflict with basic beliefs ; ” I-just-can’t-believe-it ” is all one word to highbrows and dimwits alike. ”



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63 Responses to The Puppet Masters

  1. Coagulopath says:

    If this had been carried out in the 1990s we could have avoided Slipknot’s whole career.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Redfield (CDC) and Hahn (FDA). The Kimmel and Short of the 21st century?

  3. jb says:

    I read a great deal of science fiction when I was a teenager. I clearly remember reading The Puppet Masters, but I think the primary reason it made an impression on me is that a major plot point involved everyone in the whole country having to walk around totally butt naked in order to deny the mind-controlling aliens a place to hide. I thought this was an excellent outcome! (The 1994 movie, I must say, was a disappointment in this regard).

    Much later I learned that Heinlein was seriously into nudism. In fact, in retrospect, it’s clear that more than a few science fiction writers took advantage of the imaginative freedom the genre allows to create worlds where their own personal sexual fetishes were normalized.

    • John Derbyshire says:

      Hm. Now gotta re-read “Venus Plus X”

      • bob sykes says:

        Ah, Theodore Sturgeon, kinky as all get-out.

        Why am I not surprised you remembered him of all scifi writers from the past?

        • texan999 says:

          Heinlein and Sturgeon have always been among my favorites.

          • gcochran9 says:

            You should read “And Now the News”. Sturgeon was having a dry spell, and Heinlein gifted him a plot.

            • texan999 says:

              Thanks, just ordered on Kindle.

            • Loved that. I was only spotty in my sci-fi reading. Loved some, but not devoted. Asimov suggested that one way to identify the superintelligent was to round up the sci-fi readers from the library lists. He said that half of them would not be more than above-average, and you would still miss half of the brilliant folks who didn’t like sci-fi, but that this was still more effective than the Sorting Hats of the day. I’ll bet that is less true now, with the Sad Puppies and all that ilk. But in that time frame, I’m betting he was right.

              • gcochran9 says:

                This wouldn’t work as well as it once would have, but Jerry Pournelle liked ( at least in fiction) the idea of calling upon a brain rust of science fiction writers for advice in times of weird, unprecedented trouble (Footfall).

                Heinlein, Cyril Kornbluth, Poul Anderson..

              • steve sailer says:

                At the first ever American science fiction fans convention in 1941, Heinlein was the guest of honor. And since he was probably, by far, the most socially adroit person in attendance (a naval academy officer and a gentleman), he took over as host as well and made the nerds and geeks feel comfortable. His big keynote speech was that you sci-fi fans are the future. It was evidently a galvanizing moment.

      • JayMan says:

        Which seems to have influenced the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Outcast” and the whole Moclan story arc from The Orville.

  4. James Thompson says:

    Would need to imagine a world in which leaders were always open to hard-to-believe facts. I suspect disasters would accumulate, since many hard-to-believe propositions are false.

    • bomag says:

      …open to hard-to-believe facts.

      Our current leaders are certainly open to embracing beliefs that are counter to historical experience: gay marriage is good; transgender should be encouraged in schools; women are equal to men in all ways; migration of military aged men is good for the receiving country; etc.

      Privately, I suspect they hope these things don’t do too much damage.

    • texan999 says:

      But being open to hard-to-believe facts is not the same as falling for them hook, line, and sinker. It just means an ability to entertain unexpected facts and give them a fair hearing. A strong belief that something is impossible isn’t much more useful than a strong belief that it’s true, if the belief is not based on facts and reason instead of hardened preconceptions that may not fit current facts.

  5. gothamette says:

    Haven’t read the story but the name is great.

    The world quakes in fear before China. That’s what this is all about.

    Our response was indeed abysmal, led by our “il buffone” President. But ultimately the virus came from China and we’re too scared to say so, or to take corrective action. (And no, I wasn’t serious about nuking anyone.) Sane trade and travel policies would have been sufficient.

    Is this still happening? It was insane even to think of this six days ago.

  6. peter connor says:

    When Trump shut down travel from China, he ignored the advice of “experts”–i.e.Deep State flunkies– who “couldn’t believe” that the virus was a serious threat….

  7. ASR says:

    Things may not be as bad nor require all the drastic actions many have been suggesting:

    This Nobel laureate established street cred with an accurate prediction of the trajectory of the Chinese epidemic. He’s suggesting that the current extreme measures of epidemic control in the USA may end up being counter-productive.

    • China is using measures like universal masking and hydrochloroquinone treatment/prophylaxis, neither of which the USA is prepared to roll out.  We should at least be giving hydrochloroquinone to all first responders and front-line medical personnel, to prevent them from becoming either victims or vectors.

      • China is simply lying about all of this and nothing that comes ourt of there should be taken seriously.

        • gcochran9 says:

          I think you’re probably wrong. I certainly have seen zero clear-cut evidence that they are. This is not because I’m a big fan of theirs, as you probably know,

          • gcochran9 says:

            If you have strong evidence or a good argument, I’d like to hear it.

              • DrBill says:

                That is about the weakest case for the prosecution ever. A whole month elapsed between the very first hospitalized case and China contacting the WHO! By then, there were 59 whole people sick of whom 15 were known to have the virus!!! China waited an entire week between sequencing the virus and making the sequence public! China sought to control information flow about the virus! On Jan 11, China said that no health care workers had contracted the virus when they clearly knew that Dr Li had been hospitalized on Jan 12! The author of the article equivocates between China saying no clear evidence of human transmission and China saying human transmission is impossible. China said there was no clear evidence of human transmission while some doctors in Wuhan disagreed!!!1! On and on and on . . .

                It’s a new human viral infection. China had no pre-China to look at. Humans make mistakes. That explains everything needing explanation.

                Obviously, it’s beyond question that the US government and media lied continuously about it up until sometime in March.

          • gothamette says:

            I don’t think the Chinese are lying – but I’d like to hear your take on Leavitt. He is not an idiot, or crazy, OK?

            His words have been somewhat misreported. He does support strong measures so as not to crash the health system. But he did say that the DP shows that some people are naturally immune to this virus. I don’t know why he says that, although it may be that some ppl ARE immune for reasons we don’t understand even tho it’s a new virus. I guess that happens but I don’t depend on it.

            He also brought up the crowding conditions on the DP, equal to 250K persons per square km, (750K per square mile). That’s important, too.

      • Possible repost, please ignore if so.
        China is lying about everything at this point, and nothing that comes out of there should be regarded with the least credibility. Whether your suggestions are otherwise good is unrelated,

      • texan999 says:

        There has been the most astonishing pushback on chloroquine in the press, either because the Bad Man “Touted” it with “No Evidence,” or because Bad Man wants to rip it out of the hands of people who might suffer symptoms from its lack after a few months, just to save the life of some guy who’s going to suffocate day after tomorrow. Science deniers! Can’t wait six months for a respectable double-blind trial! No respectable doctor would jump the gun on a drug that has only a 70-year history! Luckily doctors are routinely ignoring all this and prescribing all they can get their hands on, so I’m hoping for some large-scale though admittedly anecdotal evidence that it’s working.

        • gcochran9 says:

          It’s unlikely to work. Worth looking at, though.

          Most tries at a new drug, even when there’s a plausible biological mechanism, don’t work. And if you think that a small-N trial by desperate people tells you much, think again.

          On the other hand: if we find something that knocks coronavirus for a loop, with an effect like penicillin when the world was new, we’ll know: that would show up even in a small trial.

          • texan999 says:

            Exactly: we’re far from knowing anything for sure about whether it works, but it’s a great deal more promising than a random desperate shot in the dark even on the evidence we have already. To my mind, that makes it something well worth throwing considerable resources at, very quickly, to see if it really works. (Ditto for a vaccine, which is similarly iffy.) If it does work, we’re going to need it at scale, fast. If it reduces the crushing stress on hospitals and turns the national mood around, it certainly could be a game changer. None of which is to say I believe wholeheartedly in advance, which is a very different thing from believing it’s well worth concentrating effort on in an emergency. Even if it’s only partially effective, that’s not great news for an individual, but it can have a huge public policy impact.

  8. j says:

    Our Chief Physician went on TV with a graph looking like y=2.2^x and said he was happy that the disease is no more exponential. Idiots like him can drive one to drink. To drink more.

  9. kpkinsunnyphiladelphia says:

    Martial law porn. Nice.

  10. swampr says:

    Plot twist?

    “Remuzzi says he is now hearing information about it from general practitioners. ‘They remember having seen very strange pneumonia, very severe, particularly in old people in December and even November,’ he says. ‘This means that the virus was circulating, at least in [the northern region of] Lombardy and before we were aware of this outbreak occurring in China.'”

    “In the past it has been recorded the custom of the peasants of Costozza (in the province of Vicenza, Italy) to eat bats, especially horseshoe bats.” Peasants in various parts of North Italy have a bat eating tradition.

    CoV viruses have been detected in Italian bats. Is it possible it started slowly in a small Italian village, then jumped to Wuhan, a dense Asian megacity, where it was able to spread faster and get noticed? Seems unlikely, but it’s puzzled me why it has been so concentrated in small towns in Italy. Not hubs of int’l travel like elsewhere.

    • dearieme says:

      As a matter of curiosity: did the Italians send anyone to the Military Games in Wuhan?

      Yep: WKPD says 139. Though if lots of Chinese citizens travel to and fro maybe a few troops wouldn’t much matter.

  11. peter connor says:

    Jack Vance’s Asutra in the Durdane series are another example of control by alien parasites….

  12. marcel proust says:

    And no, you don’t to look at it from their point of view.

    A verb master blogger, we need a verb.

  13. kpkinsunnyphiladelphia says:

    “Old Man” experts.

    We love experts. Let’s listen to Dr. Fauci, one of those “Old Man” experts, who apparently is having a great time right now basking in the limelight.

    Fauci on AIDs, 6/20/2011

    “Every once in a while one of these emerging microbes not only jumps species but it explodes through the population the way HIV/AIDS did.”

    “Explodes.” Nice. It certainly “exploded” in the population of bush meat eaters, promiscuous gay men, anal sex lovers, and intravenous drug users sharing dirty needles. Other populations? Not so much.

    Fauci in an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine. 2/28/20

    “If one assumes that the number of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic cases is several times as high as the number of reported cases, the case fatality rate may be considerably less than 1%. This suggests that the overall clinical consequences of Covid-19 may ultimately be more akin to those of a severe seasonal influenza (which has a case fatality rate of approximately 0.1%) or a pandemic influenza (similar to those in 1957 and 1968) rather than a disease similar to SARS or MERS, which have had case fatality rates of 9 to 10% and 36%, respectively.”

    Wow, that’s a relief.

    What? What Dr. Fauci? You said WHAT when testifying to Congress on 3/11/2020, just two weeks later?

    “The [seasonal] flu has a mortality rate of 0.1 percent. This [Wuhan} flu has a mortality rate of 10 times that.”

    Right. We absolutely positively know what that CFR is RIGHT NOW. Totally.

    You know what else is in short supply besides N95 masks and ventilators?


    Now back to your regularly scheduled shelter-in-place, justified or not. I promise I’ll buy a pizza for the National Guard Solder outside my door next week if he promises not to shoot me for coming outside without a mask, since there are none available.

  14. Anon says:

    What’s the correct explanation for the (currently) high ratio of deaths to recovered cases?

    Current value is 16:101. I suppose deaths occur or register sooner than recoveries and the balance will shift at the end of the pandemic towards a 1% – 3% death rate but I can’t really express this properly.

  15. The superforecasters seem to all be above-average in intelligence, and some are very high indeed, but it seems to be more of a threshold phenomenon where habits of mind and the personality that can allow itself to be questioned are more important beyond a level between 1 and 2 SD above average.

  16. Anon says:

    There we go, . .

    I have read that the mean time from symptom onset to death is 14 days however at the link it says it says that it takes 20 days for a recovering patient to clear the virus. (The piece is a discussion of the efficacy of Chloroquine.)

    “What’s more, most patients cleared the virus in three to six days rather than the 20 days observed in China.”

    So people die six days faster than they recover. I guess when the dead/recovered ratio begins to improve it is a sign things have turned.

  17. dearieme says:

    One feature of the data seems odd to me. We read that, say, a man of 30 has died of, or at least with, CV19. He had, we are told, an underlying condition. Why not tell us what that condition was? Do medical confidentiality laws really apply once you’re dead?

    I would have no problem if the occasional case were kept confidential for some compelling reason. But the rest of us would surely gain by getting a feeling for which “underlying conditions” were bumping people off.

    It might also be instructive if we were told that he did, or did not, smoke cigarettes.

    In neither case would there be any reason to attach a name to the deceased; a code number would be quite enough.

    Separate point: how much good is treatment in an ICU likely to do? Save 10%, 20%, 50%, …? Have we any idea?

    • 낭만코쟁이 says:

      You can get some idea of what constitutes an ‘underlying condition’ according to the Koreans. Here’s some data from their CDC, updated to March 16. (You can find it on their website at, but only on the Korean portal.)

      98.7% of the dead had underlying conditions, given as follows:

      Circulatory system diseases (Myocardial infarction, cerebral infarction, arrhythmia, hypertension, etc.) 62.7%
      Endocrine and metabolic diseases (Diabetes, hypothyroidism, etc.) 46.7%
      Mental illness (Dementia, schizophrenia, etc.) 25.3%
      Respiratory system disease (Asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia, etc.) 24.0%
      Urinary and reproductive system diseases 14.7%
      Malignant neoplasm (cancer) 13.3%
      Nervous system diseases 4.0%
      Digestive system diseases 2.7%
      Blood and hematopoietic diseases 1.3%

      …so no mention of obesity or heavy smoking, although I think we can guess how those traits might be distributed among Koreans.

      • dearieme says:

        Thank you. I suppose that someone somewhere is setting that data up as an array of condition versus age group. Then the array could be compared to the equivalent array for the population at large.

  18. Anon says:

    I read that 15% of people being hospitaiized die in there, with the implication that 85% survive.
    No link sorry I can’t find it.

    • dearieme says:

      Thanks. Somewhere I saw a (purported) Canadian doctor say that ICUs were known to be rather uneconomic – or perhaps he used a euphemism to that effect. When I googled I found that the case for them had been under-investigated. Maybe that means that unfavourable studies are mouldering in a filing cabinet drawer.

  19. Jacob says:

    I wonder how bad the economy would be if we had stopped all inbound planes, trains, and automobiles in mid-January. I wanted to keep CoV19 out of the country as long as possible, even if it were costly or controversial to do so, rather than letting it in and then shutting everything down.

    • dearieme says:

      When did Trump stop the flights from China?

      • dearieme says:

        Sorry, I meant when did racist, xenophobic, racistly xenophobic Literally Hitler Trump stop the flights from China?

      • Jacob says:

        Jan 31, but he didn’t even really stop them. US citizens, their family, and permanent US residents who are foreign nationals could all come home. Foreign nationals who were not US residents couldn’t come here if they had been to China in the last two weeks.

        I wanted to do a much more thorough job, and I wanted to do it shortly after Jan 7. By that time, we knew the pathogen was similar to SARS, although the first fatal case had not yet been reported.

    • Difference Maker says:

      The right thing of course. But people would have screeched that we were crashing the economy on a whim. Abuse of power, etc

      • Jacob says:

        My thing is, you err on the side of caution, and then you ride that shit out. Depending how bad the disease is actually going to be, you either look like a doofus for overreacting to a pathogen that didn’t turn out to be deadly, or in this case you would save lives. I’d take that risk.

  20. Regret says:

    “And no, you don’t have to look at it from their point of view.”
    It certainly seems like it’d be useful to contemplate an enemy’s thoughts and desires. It would help you predict what they’ll do.

    You just can’t let that stop you from flushing the yeerk pool.

  21. peter connor says:

    Chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine have been known by the CDC to be effective against all coronoviruses, including SARS, since 2005…But the magic box wouldn’t produce money for Big Pharma, as these drugs are off patent and cheap to make….so, CDC is reluctant to endorse them….Or maybe there are other reasons, like control…..

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