Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Book Review: Fantasyland

This is how conspiracy theories begin:
Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, who hosted the webinar, suggested that law enforcement may have deliberately ignored multiple tips about the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, in order to allow a massacre that could pave the way for gun control.
“It was a conspiracy to intentionally leave our children exposed to mass murder,” Rhodes said.


Blogpost #4600!

I'm currently reading both Fantasyland, as well as Fire and Fury. They are interesting companion pieces. One has a bit more provable research than the other. I keep thinking, "AHA" as I read Fantasyland.

Fantasyland is a good read. It traces the colonial invasion of North America, specifically what led to the collision of politics with the evangelicals, fundamentalists, charismatics, and mainline Christians. As always, I review a book, taking notes to keep it straight in my head, then look these things up for further information. These are below, if you are not likely to read the book. It's an interesting map of Protestant history on this continent.

There seems a predisposition to believe things that aren't true. This is the point of Fantasyland. There is a long history of this in the early days of the U.S.A., as you connect the dots between then and now.
Can you see how reality TV became reality?
Why, in such a religious country, do North Americans not treat one another with respect?

The book is divided into parts:
PART I The Conjuring of America: 1517–1789
PART II United States of Amazing: The 1800s
PART III A Long Arc Bending Toward Reason: 1900–1960
PART IV Big Bang: The 1960s and '70s
PART V Fantasyland Scales: From the 1980s Through the Turn of the Century
PART VI The Problem with Fantasyland: From the 1980s to the to the Present and Beyond.

The section titles are interesting. Andersen cites the embracing of the magical and the fantastic, despite amazing developments in science. There is a hard core segment of the US who still hold to these fantasies: superstitions, astrology and alchemy; add in birthers, climate change deniers, 9/11 conspiracy theories.

We've moved into a new age, The Anthropocene, where our human activities have seriously impacted the planet. This is the part that frightens me.

Andersen quotes "history doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme." You need not read further, but scan for that which you are unfamiliar. It is simply food for thought.

If you'd like to listen to Andersen, he was interviewed in this video. (Thank for pointing it out, Barrie!)

These are my notes, I didn't know some of these names, incidents or dates. They're here for posterity. 

PART I The Conjuring of America: 1517–1789

Basically, it was the drive for gold in the 'new world' that led to exploration, as well as myths about the southern part of the US. There were many notions, encouraged by colonial powers to encourage settlers to emigrate, and take possession of natural resources. The puritans wanted a haven, and religion took over America, with the Protestants and Puritans, Quakers and Shakers, having a huge impact on daily lives, and the "God-Given freedom to believe in God."

Joseph Smith (Latter Day Saints), wrote the Book of Mormon, which came to him when he placed a seer stone and his head in a hat, and read it aloud from these tablets.

Then, there was  The Pequot War (1636–1638), which was an armed conflict basically between the English colonists and the Pequot tribe. The natives were decimated, and ~700 were killed, or taken into captivity, or sold as slaves. Satanism had its roots here, Heaven and Hell were firmly held beliefs, and fundamentalists held fast to their notions. In their great race to escape Catholicism, settlers brought many biases to America. This included the concept that Native Americans were satanists, their spirituality was badly misunderstood by Puritans. Even Martin Luther wrote of a Jewish conspiracy, and this notion was carried to the New World, hence the old rhetoric in recent times.

The Puritans: Anne Hutchinson (1591–1643) rebelled against Massachusetts ministers, she was infamous as an early female preacher, who disagreed with local clergy. There are many women missing from the Herstory. More controversy surrounds the  Free Grace theology of Puritan minister John Cotton (1585–1652).

The Massachusetts Bay Colony's first governor wanted to force women to wear veils, that failed. The second wave Puritans were more upper class than the first, having created an American theocracy that banned Church of England clergy, they hung Quakers and Catholic priests. Increase Mather (1639–1723), a Puritan minister, preached that Armageddon would happen any day. Mather was also president of Harvard College, and involved in the Salem Witch Trials (1692).

PART II United States of Amazing : The 1800s

Walden Thoreau.jpg
1854 –'Walden'
was located a 1/2 mile from town.
In the 1800s 94 % of the US were rural,
by the 1900s almost 50% lived in cities.
This era was a long history of conquering both the land, and its peoples. The new arrivals carried with them their bibles, as well as archaic notions of the occult, clairvoyance, shamanic healing, prophetic dreams, and magical thinking.  Their need for personal freedom, as well as land, drove them. The first event of note: The Revival of 1800 led to a transition from the religiosity of the old world to a religious fervour and manifestations more suited to the settlers in America. 

The second event of note, Cane Ridge Revival (1801), Andersen tells us that people shouted, cried, freaked out! People ran and leaped, screamed, barked and sang. This was the beginning of Christian emotionalism. The meeting was hosted by the Presbyterian church, and Barton W. Stone.

Andersen writes: "American Christians, from the start, tended to the literal and the hysterical" (p.70). As towns increased in size, people now wanted to escape. Hence, Walden.

Hydrotherapy, homoeopathy, mesmerism, phrenology, Christian Science, quacks, all flourished in this era.

The Fox Sisters (1888): began rapping on tables and supposedly brought messages from the other side. 

Fake News first reared its ugly head in the New York Sun in 1835. They began a series about life on the moon . It was called The Great Moon HoaxIn this series of articles they purported to have discovered life on the moon! It was claimed to have been reprinted from the Edinburgh Journal of Science. Seriously!

PT Barnum promulgated fantasyland, and created his special displays of the strange. Buffalo Bill was a fantasy creation of the 1870s, as well. People wanted escape!

Then there was the pseudo pharmacy industry: elixirs, promising to cure all our ills. Snake oil salesmen made it into the lexicon. Medicine shows were the first infomericals!

PART III A Long Arc Bending Toward Reason: 1900–1960

Aimee Semple McPherson (1890–1944) was a Canadian/American Christian evangelist, as famous as Billy Sunday (1862–1935 a baseball player turned evangelist), they proclaimed Darwinism and evolution as fake. McPherson did faith healing in front of large crowds, and stated that the US was a nation founded on divine inspiration. She was infamous, had a large following, and 'disappeared' for a time,  and wondered why it was taught in tax-funded schools. The Tennessee's Butler Act made it unlawful to teach evolution[1]. Finally, she converted to Pentecostalism.
Then, there was the 1925 Scopes Trial, John Scopes was charged with illegally teaching evolution in a Tennessee school. 
In cities like Cambridge, suffragist campaigns
deliberately depicted women in academic dress.
Women were not allowed to become
 full members of the city’s main university until 1948
.CreditCambridge University Library

Billy Graham
 (1919–2018) made a fortune. TV evangelism became lucrative, he was the more recent pastorpreneur. If you send money, you will be saved! Megachurches, with powerful TV presences, continue to influence congregations and still sell those promises, like the Catholic church's Indulgences of the past.

The John Birch Society (an extreme right-wing group) began writing of the New World Order, which threatens that the Illuminati (e.g. a 200-year-old secret group including the Rockefellers, the UN)  are going to be taking over Earth. (Google them, it is still in the news: This Religious Group Is Targeting Rihanna: 'She's Part Of The Illuminati'.

Said Frederick Perls (1893–1970), "You are you and I am I, and if by chance we find each other..." He was with the California Esalen Institute, where they taught personal growth, meditation, massage, Gestalt Practice, yoga, psychology, ecology, spirituality, and organic food. Truth vs. reality was fudged in relativism. Your truth is your point of view, and need not be based in facts. (Alternative facts!)

Food dyes, face lifts, malls, re-enactors, WWE and pro-wrestling, Candid Camera, gambling and lotteries, all led the US towards this embracing of escape fantasy.
The myth of Zionism came from Henry Ford's Anti-Semitism (1918), borrowed from a Russian novel. You become famous and you get a platform. Sound familiar?

The suffrage movement was going full force during this time (1920), as women fought to get the vote. I need not write of the disadvantaged and people of colour. That took another battle.

The Civil War didn't erase the definite divide between north and south, Andersen writes. All but one of the seven states without female suffrage were located in the south.  During this era, rather than taking their loss in the civil war, southerners mixed Christian and Confederate images. Their religion embraced a Christianity almost Puritan.

Between the 1900s and 1920s paid ads went from $6 billion per year to $48 billion. Capitalism changed society.

Suburbia was created through more disposable income, the prolific family cars, which required money. The Wizard of Oz took us to a fantasy world. It was in 1957 that McCarthyism was coined, with the myths of the communist threat during the The Cold War.

PART IV Big Bang: The 1960s and '70s

In  1963 conspiracy theories began around the assassination of John Kennedy.
Von Daniken wrote Chariots of the Gods (1968), in which he hypothesized that the technologies and religions of the ancients were given to them by astronauts, welcomed as gods.
Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, meme and textIt was the US army in the 1970s that did research on the paranormal and UFOs.
It wasn't until 1976 that they lifted the ban on teaching evolution in public schools in the US.
Religion began invading politics, in the form of Jimmy Carter, who was an Evangelical. Most U.S. politicians have a fervent belief in God, God-fearing Christians.
Then, Star Trek (1966–1969), a spiritual fantasy, more than SciFi, it was a wonderful myth of a future where all are equal, and all races and nations can come together. Dungeons and Dragons, a fantasy table top role playing game, was introduced in 1974.

PART V Fantasyland Scales: From the 1980s Through the Turn of the Century

Fantasies became even more fun with Comicon dress-ups, Live Action Role Playing (LARP), video games, Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch was built (1988).

Fake News

The Fairness Doctrine was abolished.
The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, that required the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was—in the Commission's view—honest, equitable, and balanced.
This meant that news outlets, like Fox News, have free rein. All you have to do is watch Hannity to understand the folly of this. He's been casting aspersions on the FBI (you don't wanna piss off the FBI, just sayin'!). Then, he did an about face: Hannity: There's No Proof! Wait...There's Proof? .

Contrails (condensed water from high altitude jets) began to be called chemtrails, while conspiracy theories thrived. They said that Princess Di (1961–1997) faked her own death, the JFK assassination was again fantasized, and end time claims like those of the Seventh Day Adventists, have begun to resurface, as well.

In 1987, 'intelligent design' replaced creationism. They are still denying evolution.

PART VI The Problem with Fantasyland: From the 1980s to the to the Present and Beyond

"What do you know for sure?" Oprah once featured Smith, the author of Michelle Remembers, and Willson, who also wrote a fictitious Satanic ritual abuse survival memoir, on the same show in 1989.  Conviction of Things Not Seen: The Uniquely American MythOprah, sadly, with her positive thinking, and interviews with Shirley McLaine, has reinforced such notions as the Law of Attraction, from her interview with The Secret author. (If you believe it; wish it, pray for it, it will come.) Oprah ended her talk show shortly thereafter. Men, like Dr. Oz, convinced Americans to purchase $40 BILLION in supplements, reinforcing the 60s idea of consensus vs. reality.

Good Vs. Evil

What amazes me are the 'statistics' that the public accepts. When Geraldo Rivera took on Satanism (1988), he helped revive the war on the devil. Horrific incidents, like child abductions, were grossly exaggerated in an effort to seek attention and generate fundraising. Sexual abuse incidents were the same. Most children are abducted, or abused, by people they know, not Satanists. The Denver Post received an award, in 1986, for:  “The truth about missing kids: Exaggerated statistics stir national paranoia.”  These things occur, but boatloads of money are dumped on them, focusing on the wrong solutions.

The X-Files

At this time hypnosis was being used for past life regressions, and multiple personality disorders were increasingly diagnosed, in which people are led to believe that they led particular lives, and lived certain experiences. Then Andersen moves to discuss alien abductions. How about claiming that aliens living on our planet?

It was 2008 when Ron Paul tried to get elected, support by Richard Spencer (Nazi). David Duke (former head of the KKK), who supported Trump.
There are conspiracy theories around 9/11, Alex Jones, in 1996, generated a lot of bizarre ideas. Says Andersen, "Fantastic beliefs that were beyond the pale 20 years ago are now mainstream."

The New World Order

In a 2013 Public Policy Polling survey, 34 % of people who voted Republican agreed that,
"a secretive power elite with a globalist agenda is conspiring to eventually rule the world through an authoritarian world government."

Speaker Paul Ryan, in 2009, has been quoted saying we are living in an Ayn Rand novel (Atlas Shrugged). This novel is the story of a "heroic cabal of men's men industrialists who cause the socialistic U.S. government to collapse so they can take over, start again, and make everything right." (This is the Secretary of State's favourite book.)

More Conspiracy Theories

Climate change deniers abound (see The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, 2012) written by a U.S. Senator). Food for thought:
a CBC radio IDEAS show: Are We F--ked? Decoding the resistance to climate change.

Some are Sandy Hook truthers (2011), they deny it happened. It's this huge underground of people who hold to these ideas and perpetuate the fear mongering.They exchange emails, post evidence of this on Twiiter.  Libertarians, birthers, anti-vaxers (thank Jenny McCarthy on Oprah).The result?  Measles and whooping cough cases are up. Then there are the warnings about Shariah Law! Another book: Shariah: The Threat to America (2010), about "an enemy within that is openly determined  to replace the U.S. Constitution with shariah." (As if!) This conspiracy theory was led by Frank Gaffney, who'd been a Pentagon official in the 80s.
The NRA funds politicians
Recently, there is some discussion between people in the NRA who want more laws, and the NRA executive who continue to be adamant. Yet, " Fewer than 20 percent of American gun owners are even NRA members. "
The NRA's (1871) path into political lobbying began in 1934 when it began mailing members with information about upcoming firearms bills. The association supported two major gun control acts, the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA) and Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), but became more politically active following the passage of the GCA in the 1970s.In 1975, it began attempting to influence policy directly via a newly formed lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action. In 1977 it formed its own Political Action Committee (PAC), to channel funds to legislators.


Why is the NRA so successful? The conspiracy theories, like the Illuminati, who predict that evil people will come for them. Guns do horrible things to people, many believe they can defend their families using Concealed Carry, Stand Your Ground laws.  Agenda 21 (1992), for example. It was a UN non-binding environmental sustainability agreement, which right-wing conspiracists claim is "a plot to subjugate humanity under an eco-totalitarian regime". (The U.S. stopped banning semi-automatic weapons in 2004.)
The debate continues around the 2nd Amendment, the founding fathers surely couldn't have meant rapid fire AR-15s should be freely sold to anyone. Trump removed the ban on selling guns to mentally ill people.

Further examples...

This story isn't true. Read the Snopes post about it.
She was a hired security guard and police officer,
they knew he was coming.
The 2nd amendment, written by God?????
This is a powerful message
religion statistics
Click icon for more
book review blogs
@Barrie Summy


Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
Interesting stuff! There have been a few similar works arising of late, and now I go to where I thought I had one in particular bookmarked, I find I haven't...sigh... It researched the current state of things according to 'tribes' - Irish, Scottish, French, German, Dutch and so forth. Included the various religious and social schisms associated with same and how it manifests today. YAM xx

Sarah Laurence said...

Wow! You read the book very carefully. There are definitely times when I'm envious of those living in Canada and that happens more frequently with Trump in charge. Ugh.

Red said...

Your notes tell it all. It helps to understand what you were reading. There has been a lot of weird stuff going on. Read "In the World Bot of it"

Powell River Books said...

When you review a book you really get down to the meat. I have avoided Fire and Fury. I’m very unsettled about what is currently happening in the States. I was a history major in college but even in the 60’s the books we read were pretty sanitized. Look at all the harm that has been done in both countries in the name of religion. So many things to think about. -Margy

DUTA said...

I'm not religious, but I do believe in God (or as others may say, Superpower, Nature). The picture that reads "America wasn't white before" sums it all up. America, Canada, Australia and other territories which were allotted by God to first nations (non-european) live in a phantasy world. How long would that last? Maybe forever, and maybe not.It all depends on God,the Superpower, and His plans about the universe he has created.

Perhaps, climate change is also related to the above. Maybe it's the first stage in turning us into nomads again and starting from the beginning. In certain places people are already leaving the coast areas for fear of tzunamis and earthquakes.

William Kendall said...

I'll have to look for this book.

Barrie said...

Thank you for including your notes. I'm shocked at how much I don't know. An interesting review...especially given these political times. Thank you.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Great detailed review, .Jenn. I have the book but haven't had time to read it yet. Another interesting book is White Trash: the 400 year history off class in America by Nancy Isenberg.

Yamuna, are you talking about American Nations or American Character by Colin Woodard?

Jenn Jilks said...

Definitely First nations, Linda!