Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire

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Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire

Post by IT_Veteran » Sun Apr 14, 2019 10:06 am

Anybody else read this book? I’ve recently started it for a book club discussion. The author’s intent is to show how we arrived at this post-fact era. His argument is that it’s largely tied to religion - particularly Protestantism because everyone gets to declare their beliefs as correct without any basis in evidence.
However, out of the new Protestant religion, a new proto-American attitude emerged during the 1500s. Millions of ordinary people decided that they, each of them, had the right to decide what was true or untrue, regardless of what fancy experts said. And furthermore, they believed, passionate fantastical belief was the key to everything. The footings for Fantasyland had been cast.
As someone that’s fallen away from faith entirely, but also someone that’s gone form hardcore conservative to left-leaning moderate over the last few years I’m really enjoying it.

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Re: Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire

Post by MerrieMiss » Sun Apr 14, 2019 11:27 am

I read it last year and didn't care for it much. After hearing an interview with the author I was excited to read it, but in my opinion it was overrated and disappointing. I never finished the last twenty pages or so as I lost motivation.

Since it was a year ago, I don't remember all of the issues I had with it, but I if I recall correctly, it seemed to be book where he had a preconceived idea and cherry picked information to support it. It was more of a feel-good confirmation of everything I hate about the current culture/climate without real research or evidence to back it up.

One particular point I recall being irritated with was his estimation that Europe somehow was more enlightened and rational and didn't engage in magical thinking, unlike americans who ran away with it. Somehow he seemed to ignore Swendonborg (who was seen as a mystic) and european peasant/folk magic traditions. Andersen went on at length about magical elixirs, which I very much doubt were only pedaled in the US, as Donizetti's "Elixir of Love" uses that situation as the basis of his opera from the first half of the eighteenth century. And while I'm on the subject of opera, I don't recall him mentioning anything about Wagner and the immense popularity of his operas in Europe, based on mythology, not that different from Tolkien - both creations rooted in the "fantasy" he despises. What of London's Ghost club, where many famous english intellectuals gathered to study ghosts and spirits? One can state they were using scientific evidence to debunk spiritualism, but that certainly wasn't always the case as in that of Conan Doyle, himself a medical man and an early advocate of forensics as well as author, who was a member. (Also, I think there are some who have used scientific investigation to study the Book of Mormon ...calling it scientific doesn't always make it so.) I also believe he used Buffalo Bill as an example of Barnumesque and showman-like make believe ideas, who did very well touring in Europe, that rational place where magical and fantasy-like thinking was despised. He also lacked a lot of data, particularly for the first half of his book. I also felt like he bashed on conservatives far more than necessary, when there are plenty of kooky leftist ideas he could have really looked into, such as the anti-vaccination movement (which crosses political parties) which I thought he glossed over (maybe not? It's been a year).

It just seemed sloppy and written to get a certain degree of the population to feel good about themselves and angry at the current climate. I just didn't see most of it as well-researched. Again, I didn't read the last twenty pages. And maybe I would have liked it better at another time. I thought it was disappointing.
The true opposite of order is not disorder but freedom. Most profoundly, the true opposite of control is not chaos but self-control. -Jay Griffiths

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