Kurt Andersen shows why America today struggles with “Fake News” and “Alternative Facts” and “Magical Thinking.” From the beginning, when Columbus and the other explorers searched for El Dorado and the Fountain of Youth, the New World was a fantasyland. Andersen analyzes the groups that colonized our country and formed a unique Government. Social movements, religious movements, mystical movements all built the culture we live in now.

Philip K. Dick, who wrote about alternate Realities and the fluidity of Time and Space, gets referenced by Andersen as America becomes a drug culture. Con artists and hustlers flit in and out of American History. I really enjoyed the chapter on P.T. Barnum. Televangelists opposed evolution and pushed faith healing and conspiracy theories. Alien abductions and summoning demons became “normalized.”

Our wacky Government and the loony 2016 campaign act as warnings of what we face in the Future. Holocaust deniers, Moon landing deniers, and climate change deniers are the direct result of making Truth relative. Our civil discourse, riddled with lies and myths, produce marches supporting Science. Things are going to get worse before they get better. Fantasyland is the best book I’ve read in 2016! GRADE: A
1 Now Entering Fantasyland p. 3
Part I The Conjuring of America: 1517-1789
2 I Believe, Therefore I Am Right: The Protestants p. 15
3 All That Glitters: The Gold-Seekers p. 18
4 Building Our Own Private Heaven on Earth: The Puritans p. 24
5 The God-Given Freedom to Believe in God p. 32
6 Imaginary Friends and Enemies: The Early Satanic Panics p. 37
7 The First Me Century: Religion Gets American p. 43
8 Meanwhile, in the Eighteenth-Century Reality-Based Community p. 50
Part II United States of Amazing: The 1800s
9 The First Great Delirium p. 57
10 The All-American Fan Fiction of Joseph Smith, Prophet p. 68
11 Quack Nation: Magical but Modern p. 74
12 Fantastic Business: The Gold Rush Inflection Point p. 82
13 In Search of Monsters to Destroy: The Conspiracy Theory Habit p. 88
14 The War Between States of Mind p. 92
15 Ten Million Little Houses on the Prairie p. 98
16 Fantasy Industrialized p. 104
Part III A Long Arc Bending Toward Reason: 1900-1960
17 Progress and Backlash p. 117
18 The Biggest Backlash: Brand-New Old-Time Religion p. 122
19 The Business of America Is Show Business p. 135
20 Big Rock Candy Mountains: Utopia in the Suburbs and the Sun p. 142
21 The 1950s Seemed So Normal p. 150
Part IV Big Bang: The 1960s and ’70s
Introduction p. 173
22 Big Bang: The Hippies p. 176
23 Big Bang: The Intellectuals p. 189
24 Big Bang: The Christians p. 198
25 Big Bang: Politics and Government and Conspiracies p. 209
26 Big Bang: Living in a Land of Entertainment p. 221
Part V Fantasyland Scales: From the 1980s Through the Turn of the Century
Introduction p. 237
27 Making Make-Believe More Realistic and Real Life More Make-Believe p. 239
28 Forever Young: Kids “R” Us Syndrome p. 247
29 The Reagan Era and the Start of the Digital Age p. 252
30 American Religion from the Turn of the Millennium p. 265
31 Our Wilder Christianities: Belief and Practice p. 272
32 America Versus the Godless Civilized World: Why Are We So Exceptional? p. 286
33 Magical but Not Necessarily Christian, Spiritual but Not Religious p. 293
34 Blue-Chip Witch Doctors: The Reenchantment of Medicine p. 300
35 How the Mainstream Enabled Fantasyland: Squishies, Cynics, and Believers p. 306
36 Anything Gobs-Unless It Picks My Pocket or Breaks My Leg p. 317
Part VI The Problem with Fantasyland: From the 1980s to the Present and Beyond
37 The Inmates Running the Asylum Decide Monsters Are Everywhere p. 325
38 Reality Is a Conspiracy: The X-Filing of America p. 342
39 Mad as Hell, the New Voice of the People p. 356
40 When the GOP Went Off the Rails p. 362
41 Liberals Denying Science p. 376
42 Gun Crazy p. 381
43 Final Fantasy-industrial Complex p. 390
44 Our Inner Children? They’re Going to Disney World! p. 401
45 The Economic Dreamtime p. 409
46 As fantasyland Goes, So Goes the Nation p. 413
Acknowledgments p. 441
Index p. 443

10 thoughts on “FANTASYLAND: HOW AMERICA WENT HAYWIRE By Kurt Andersen

  1. Deb

    I wholeheartedly condone his theory. Anyone who reads your blog comments section knows I’ve contended for years that the right-wing media echo-chamber has effectively brainwashed about 25% of our population. I’m sure it’s a great book, but I’m just as sure it’s depressing as hell to read it because it’s so on-the-mark.

    1. george Post author

      Deb, Kurt Andersen is a witty writer. Yes, the subject matter–the brainwashing of large swaths of America–sucks. But Andersen takes us behind the curtain and shows how all the bells and whistles work. FANTASYLAND fascinates and enlightens!

  2. Patti Abbott

    Every day we read about more and more attempts to promote this magical thinking-that we deserve all of the earth’s spoils and get to spoil it in return. So disheartening. The idea we are exceptional has been taken to new heights. Or lows.

    1. george Post author

      Patti, you are so right! I’m convinced the opioid crisis rises out of the growing disappointment (and disenchantment) that exceptionalism doesn’t deliver a better Life for most Americans.

  3. Jeff Meyerson

    It’s certainly timely. Just this morning I was reading about Kyrie Irving’s moronic belief that the Earth is flat, and he’s far from the only one.

    Is our children learning? Apparently, only if it’s on Facebook.

    1. george Post author

      Jeff, the lunatics Trump has added to his Cabinet will ruin our Government for decades: climate-change deniers, Flat-Earth supporters, EPA destroyers, etc.!

    2. wolf

      I had to look this up – and now I feel better:
      “Kyrie Irving revealed that he doesn’t really believe the earth is flat. The new Boston Celtics player told CBS Sports Radio that he kept up the ridiculous story as a “social experiment,” even when his fans took him seriously.”

      But still the crazy theories that abound in the USA worry me a bit. I just hope that we don’t get similar developments in Europe!

      And I have to confess that I always had a problem with tv series like Twin Peaks, X-Files etc because I feared that too many people thought these fantasies had a kind of relation to reality. On the other hand I found them silly, didn’t watch them often …

      1. george Post author

        Wolf, Trump’s win in the 2016 Election has given a lot of crazy people and lunatic groups licence to act out on their bizarre beliefs.

    1. george Post author

      Rick, too many Americans are denying Reality. They think if they believe in Something, they can make it happen. It doesn’t work that way.


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