Category Archives: Death of Truth

Foundational Conspiracy

 

We have all noticed by now that the world is filled with conspiracies. It really is scary and strange out there. I have been trying to figure out why that is the case.

Anna Merlan in her book, Republic of Lies: American conspiracy theorists and their surprising rise to power reminds us, that conspiracies, particularly in the United States have been around forever. Particularly they have been around since the United States was founded. This is what she said,

The Trump era has merely focused our attention back on to something that has reappeared with reliable persistence: the conspiratorial thinking and dark suspicions that have never fully left us.”

I didn’t realize this but there were conspiracies among white settlers of North America who speculated that North American Indians, as they were mistakenly called, were literally in league with the devil. They thought the natives were conspiring with the devil in order to enlist demons to help them drive out these invaders.  It was a crazy theory.

Now Native Americans one the other hand had good reason to be desperate for help, but enlisting the devil was unlikely to be very helpful. They are the ones who would have rational fears about the invaders. Mysterious diseases accompanied them and indigenous people around North America were dying in incredible numbers. To the inhabitants it was incomprehensible. But it was the invaders that had the most conspiracy theories.

I have actually thought that fear has been one of the driving aspects of conspiracies. Richard Hofstadter in his book The Paranoid Style in American Politics said that paranoia was the foundation of conspiracy. Those are unreasonable fears. A good friend of mine, who actually knows some history, warned me to be careful about Hofstadter even though he won 2 Pulitzer prizes. He said his books have been challenged by historians for their lack of accuracy. But I believe Hofstadter is right on this point at least. Paranoia is an unreasonable fear. Sometimes it springs from a guilty conscience.

According to Merlan,

“The elements of suspicion were present long before the 2016 election, quietly shaping the way large numbers of people see the government, the media and the nature of what’s true and trustworthy.

And for all of our bogus suspicions, there are those that have been given credence by the government itself. We have seen a sizeable number of real conspiracies revealed over the past half century, from Watergate to recently declassified evidence of secret CIA programmes, to the fact that elements within the Russian government really did conspire to interfere with US elections. There is a perpetual tug between conspiracy theorists and actual conspiracies, between things that are genuinely not believable and truths that are so outlandish they can be hard, at first, to believe.”

 

I don’t have data to support this theory, but I think, the United States has been particularly susceptible to conspiracy theories. Right now we see them all around us, each one weirder than the one before. Whether that is true or not I wonder why so many conspiracy theories flourish in that country. What is there about that country, even more than many other countries, that leads them to believe crazy stuff? Why are they so eager to embrace conspiracy theories?

I have a theory too. (I just admit I have no data to support it) I think it is because they have a guilty conscience. After all genocide of Native American Indians, as they call them, and slavery, both lie at the foundation of that country. That is enough to generate a lot guilt and fear. Those are two pretty good bases for conspiracies. Don’t you think? Maybe that is why they have such a devotion to wild theories .

 

Inventing America: Dreamers and Doers

 

As I write this during the American election campaign you may notice things are getting crazier and crazier in the good old USA. Why is that? That is the issue I have been trying to explore.

 

The Puritans started to call themselves Pilgrims. According to Kurt Andersen, they saw themselves as “extremists of a better social station—talked themselves into leaving England and creating their own American religious utopia.

The Puritan were interesting fanatics. Of course which fanatics are not interesting? For one thing they did not cross the ocean to improve their economic well being. They had dreams of ideas! When you think about it that was amazing. Remember all the hardships they had to endure for their ideas! They wanted to create a New World. What did that New World entail? They wanted a theocracy where they could banish those evil Catholics that had persecuted them in England. They also wanted to banish Church of England clergy, for they were not better than the Papists in their eyes. They wanted religious freedom where everybody could be just like them.

John Winthrop was their first leader and he created a great myth that was constantly revived by leaders like Saint Ronald Reagan. He said in his famous sermon, “We are as a city upon a hill endlessly happy.” Saint Ronald Reagan used this mythology to enhance his claim to Sainthood. It worked. Yet, many Americans have forgotten that this means they must be better than everyone else, not that they are better than everyone else.

As Andersen said about the Puritans,

“If one has enough belief in the supernatural plan, if one’s personal faith is strong enough, false prophecies are just unfortunate miscalculations that don’t falsify anything. If you’re fanatical enough about enacting and enforcing your fiction, it becomes indistinguishable from nonfiction.”

FantasyLand was born and America is living the dream. Or is it the nightmare? The Puritans wanted a place where no one would knock them for their crazy ideas. That was America. They created America—a place where crazy ideas came home to thrive. Anderson called them “the most literal-minded fantasists ever.” The world they created was truly FantasyLand for adults. For both good and ill.

Now its time to look to see what  they created.

Puritans: The First Extremists

 

Many of us who know and love America as I do, have been perplexed by the all out mania of their extremism. Americans do nothing halfway. It is all in or all out. No medium in between. That may be a product of their birth.

The first settlers to the New World found fertile ground for their extreme beliefs and ultimately for the imposition of those beliefs on others. Many were fleeing religious persecution in Europe so that they could impose religious persecution on others in that new world. Kurt Andersen in his book FantasyLand described early American religiosity this way:

“Yet unlike Roman Catholicism, with its old global hierarchy and supreme leader, the new Protestant Christianity was by its nature fractious and unstable, invented almost within living memory by uncompromising rebels who couldn’t abide interpretations and rules issued by expert super clergy. It was an innovative new religion successful at a time when innovations were transforming the rest of Europe’s cultures and economies. Protestantism was thus part of an exciting tide of novelty, along with the printing press, global trade, the Renaissance, the beginnings of modern science, and the Enlightenment. It’s unique selling proposition was radical. When official leaders lose their way, pious anybodies can and must decide the new improved truth on their own—that is, by reading Scripture, each individual determines the correct meaning of Christian fantasies. The Protestants’ founding commitment to fierce, decentralized, do-it-yourself truth-finding and spiritual purity led to the continuous generation of self-righteous sectarian spin-offs.”

I was born and raised in Steinbach. We had Mennonites and even more radical Pentecostals. Wild and whacky beliefs were in the air we breathed. In America the first extremists were the Puritans who built a society in the New World in their own image. They were given that name by the established Christians. It was not a complement. Many of them were Calvinists. They were nothing if not true believers. They came to establish a world of true believers. They wanted to be separate from the established Church of England. Soon they wanted to separate from England itself. First they tried the Netherlands but there was too much heresy there too so they sailed to the New World.  As Anderson said, “Ferociously believing every miracle and myth wasn’t enough.”

Steinbach was not that different. The Mennonites wanted to keep themselves separate and apart “from the world.”

As Andersen said,

“What really distinguished the Puritans from the mainstream were matters of personality, demeanor. To be a Puritan was to embody uncompromising zeal. (They were analogous to certain American political zealots today, who more than disagreeing with their Establishment’s ideas just can’t stand their reasonable-seeming manner. Moreover, a good Christian life, the Puritans believed, was one consumed by Christianity…In other words, America was founded by a nutty religious cult.”

They were sort of like Mennonites on steroids.

The natives the Puritans found in the New World did not matter. Those people were just not civilized. The people who mattered were the religious zealots. As Andersen described it, “The myth we’ve constructed says that the first nonnative new Americans who mattered were the idealists, the hyper-religious people seeking freedom to believe and act out their passionate, elaborate, all-consuming fantasies.”

And America has been hyper-religious ever since. And it shows. Welcome to FantasyLand.

 

Searching for gold or God

 

Not all of the first visitors to the New World were searching for Gold. Some of them searched for God or souls. Many of them were devout and fervid in pursuit of their targets. As Kurt Andersen said in his book FantasyLand, “For the imminent next wave of English would-be Americans, however, propagating a particular set of Christian superstitions, omens and divine judgments were more than just lip-service cover for dreams of easy wealth. For them, the prospect of colonization was all about the export of their supernatural fantasies to the New World.”

Like Martin Luther King Jr. 5 centuries later the newcomers had a dream. As Andersen said,

“America began as a fever dream, a myth, a happy delusion, a fantasy. In fact, it began as multiple fantasies, each embraced around 1600 by people so convinced of their thrilling, wishful fictions that most of them abandoned everything—friends, families, jobs, good sense, England, the known world—to enact their dreams or die trying. A lot of them died trying.

The first English people in the New World imagined themselves as heroic can-do characters in exciting adventures. They were self-fictionalizing extremists who abandoned everything familiar because of their blazing beliefs, their long-shot hopes and dreams, their please-be-true fantasies.”

 

Is it any wonder that America has been the most hospital place on earth for crazy beliefs? Is it any surprise that the country currently is laced with delusional thinking? This is the home of fantasyland.

A Home for the gullible

 

Much like the Spaniards further south many of the first English colonists in North America were looking for gold and they were not very successful. Yet that enterprise established an important principle. As Kurt Andersen described it in his book FantasyLand, “It also established a theme we’ll encounter again and again: around some plausible bit of reality, Americans leap to concoct wishful (or terrified) fictions they ardently believe to be true.” And they believed fervently without evidence. That was the key and that was the problem. This after all was the land of faith—robust belief without evidence.

Sir Walter Raleigh was one of the dreamers looking for gold, but also failed to find it. He eventually sailed to South America where his chances were better but again he failed. But he did not fail at selling fantasy. It is much harder to fail at that in England where many had dreams of getting rich in the New World or people already in the New World who wanted to believe. And evidence or the lack of it was no obstacle to belief.

Raleigh published a book filled with anecdotes that worked to amplify the dreams and make them real. As Andersen said,

“Raleigh helped invent the kind of elaborate pseudo-empiricism that in the centuries to come would become a permanent feature of Fantasyland testimonials—about religion, about quack science, about conspiracy, about whatever was being urgently sold.”

As Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in his magisterial Democracy in America in 1835,

“The entire man is …to be seen in the cradle of the child. The growth of nations presents something analogous to this; they all bear some marks of their origin. If we were able to go back…we should discover…the primal cause of the prejudices, the habits, the ruling passions, and in short, all that constitutes what is called the national character.”

Tocqueville was an astute observer of America. He also pointed out “It was…gold-seekers who were sent to Virginia. No noble thought or conception above gain presided over the foundation of the new settlements.” Of course most of those gold seekers died, but that did not stop those who brought them to the New World lying about it in the Old World. After all there was money to be made off those suckers. Even though no gold had been found and even though 2/3 of the first hundred gold seekers promptly died, the captain who brought them returned to England claiming to have found “gold showing mountains.” Andersen described those early visitors from England as people who “tended to be the more wide-eyed and desperately wishful.” These were the American ancestors.

 These were the people who shaped the new world of America. Professor Walter McDougall in his book America, Freedom Just Around the Corner described the newcomers this way: “Most of the 120,000 indentured servants and adventurers who sailed to the [South] in the seventeenth century, did not know what lay ahead but were taken in by the propaganda of the sponsors.” In other words, they were duped.

 Historian Daniel Boorstin described it somewhat more charitably than I do. He said, “American civilization [has] been shaped by the fact that there was a kind of natural selection here of those people who were willing to believe in advertising.” Andersen concluded, “Western civilization’s first great advertising campaign was created in order to inspire enough dreamers and suckers to create America.”

 The new world was built on fraud and it has continued that ignoble tradition ever since. And the gullible believed, because they wanted to believe. Evidence was irrelevant.

That was what the New World was like, and in many ways the New World has never varied much from its origins. It continues to shape and even haunt that new world.

 

Why is belief is all-important?

 

Kurt Andersen in his book FantasyLand argued that it was necessary to go back 500 years to explain the New World. He started with the new religion that was born—Protestantism. It was of course just a version of the old Catholicism, but it had some important innovations that had important long term consequences. Martin Luther was particularly vexed by,

the regional archbishop, in order to cover the costs of celebrating his elevation to cardinal, has encouraged local Christians to pay money to be forgiven their sins (and the sins of deceased loved ones), thereby reducing or eliminating the posthumous wait in purgatory.”

 

After all it really didn’t make sense that paying money for prayers would put us in front of the line in heaven.

Luther was also upset by the holy relics found in his local church. Most of them of course were fake. The relics included:

 “a piece of straw from baby Jesus’s manger, threads from His swaddling clothes, a bit of Mary’s breast milk, a hair from adult Jesus’s beard, a piece of bread from the Last Supper, and a thorn from His crucifixion crown. The young theologian, appalled by the church’s merchandising, writes an impassioned three-thousand-word critique in proto-PowerPoint form, nails it to the door of the church on All Saints’ Eve, Halloween, and for good measure sends a copy of his screed to the archbishop himself.”

 

The church had been selling fake news. It’s not popular now; it wasn’t popular then.

The manifesto that Luther published in 1517 also had a profound effect. Andersen described its genesis this way:

“Luther’s main complaint had been about the church’s sale of phoney VIP passes to Heaven. “There is no divine authority,” one of his theses pointed out, “for preaching that the soul flies out of the purgatory immediately [when] the money clinks in the bottom of the chest.”

That didn’t have much to say for itself either. But Martin Luther had 2 extremely important ideas that actually had some long-term pernicious effects. The first of those ideas was that,

clergymen have no special access to God or Jesus or truth. Everything a Christian needed to know was in the Bible. So every individual Christian believer could and should read and interpret Scripture for him- or herself. Every believer, Protestants said, was now a priest.”

 

This allowed everyone to create his or her own truth. While I am no advocate for relying on authority, this idea had some dangerous consequences. Some people in time abandoned the notion of truth entirely, or at least substituted the idea that anyone could claim truth for any idea, no matter how hair-brained.

Luther had a second important concept to bring forth. This was the idea that belief or faith was all-important. It did not matter what one did, if one had the right faith or belief. You could not buy your way into heaven but why were beliefs or faith so important? I have never quite understood that. Maybe someone can explain.

 

Andersen describes the new attitude of Protestantism this way:

“…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.”

 

Good ideas are not often enough to launch a revolution in thought on their own. In Luther’s case he took advantage of an astounding new technology—the printing press. As Andersen said,

“No new technology, during the thousand years between gunpowder and the steam engine, was as disruptive as the printing press, and Protestantism was its first viral cultural phenomenon.”

 

Reminds me of the disruptive effect modern technologies like social media have had. Are we on the brink of another revolution in thought? What will it’s long term consequences be?

Facts are not stubborn enough

 

The election of a new president in 2016 was the culmination of a 500-year history of disparagement of reason. That is the point Andersen wants to make in his book FantasyLand. As he said,

“Despite his nonstop lies and obvious fantasies—rather, because of them—Donald Trump was elected president. The old fringes have been folded into the new center. The irrational has become respectable and often unstoppable. As particular fantasies get traction and become contagious, other fantasists are encouraged by a cascade of out-of-control tolerance. It’s a kind of twisted Golden Rule unconsciously followed: If those people believe that, then certainly we can believe this.”

 

Andersen argues, that a 500-year history of denigration of facts and reasoning in favour of belief without reasons has gradually led us to our particular modern circumstance where some can claim, truth is dead. He puts it this way in his inimical style:

“Each of the small fantasies and simulations we insert into our lives is harmless enough, replacing a small piece of the authentic but mundane here, another over there. The world looks a little more like a movie set and seems a little more exciting and glamorous, like Hitchcock’s definition of drama—life with the dull bits cut out. Each of us can feel like a sexier hero in a cooler story, younger than we actually are if we’re old or older if we’re young. Over time the patches of unreality take up more and more space in our lives. Eventually the whole lawn becomes AstroTurf.”

 

That history has landed us squarely and uncomfortably in FantasyLand. It is a world where we can believe whatever we want. Again, our wants are supreme. In the 1700s John Adams said, “Facts are stubborn things.” But the fact is they are not stubborn enough. Fantasy can trump facts. No one knows that better than Trump.

 Instead of being bound by facts, as Andersen says:

 

“…we are freer than ever to custom-make reality, to believe whatever or to pretend to be whomever we wish. Which makes all the lines between actual and fictional blur and disappear more easily. Truth in general becomes flexible, a matter of personal preference. There is a functioning synergy among our multiplying fantasies, the large and small ones, the toxic and the individually entertaining ones, the ones we know to be fiction, the ones we kinda sorta believe, and the religious and political and scientific ones we’re convinced aren’t fantasies at all. Scientists warn about the “cocktail effect” concerning chemicals in the environment and drugs in the brain, where various substances “potentiate” other substances. I think it’s like that. We’ve been drinking bottomless American cocktails mixed from all the different fantasy ingredients, and those various fantasies, conscious and semi-conscious, intensify the effects of others.”

 

Andersen does not deny that fantasies are abundant elsewhere too. A quick look around is all you need to realize that. Yet, for some reason, fantasy does seem to be deeper and more powerful and all consuming in America than anywhere else in the world. As Andersen said,

“This is not unique to America, people treating real life as fantasy and vice versa, and taking preposterous ideas seriously. We’re just uniquely immersed… nowhere else in the rich world are such beliefs central to the self-identities of so many people. We are Fantasyland’s global crucible and epicenter.”

America is awash in fantasy and the world is awash in America. This is Andersen’s précis of 500 years of American history that has brought it to become the lord of fantasy:

“America was created by true believers and passionate dreamers, by hucksters and their suckers—which over the course of four centuries has made us susceptible to fantasy, as epitomized by everything from Salem hunting witches to Joseph Smith creating Mormonism, from P. T. Barnum to Henry David Thoreau to speaking in tongues, from Hollywood to Scientology to conspiracy theories, from Walt Disney to Billy Graham to Ronald Reagan to Oprah Winfrey to Donald Trump. In other words: mix epic individualism with extreme religion; mix show business with everything else; let all that steep and simmer for a few centuries; run it through the anything-goes 1960s and the Internet age; the result is the America we inhabit today, where reality and fantasy are weirdly and dangerously blurred and commingled…how deeply this tendency has been encoded in our national DNA.”

 

The result is the modern world. Goya says “the sleep of reason brings forth monsters.”  The modern world is here to prove him right.

 

That is the real problem.

Why do we so often prefer fantasy to reality?

 

According to Kurt Andersen, we live in a world of fantasy, often paying scant attention to the world of reality. After all, the real world is a lot less fun and much more troublesome. Why bother with reality?

 

Canadians share many of these fantasies, but here is one example mentioned by Kurt Anderson in his book FantasyLand that is particularly American and less Canadian:

“We stockpile guns because we fantasize about our pioneer past, or in anticipation of imaginary shootouts with thugs and terrorists. We acquire military costumes and props in order to pretend we’re soldiers—or elves or zombies—fighting battles in which nobody dies, and enter fabulously realistic virtual worlds to do the same.”

I do not want to suggest that Canadians are immune to these fantasies. It is just less common here. We must remember that most of Andersen’s book was written before the tumultuous events of 2016 when the people of the United States, through the zany machinations of the Electoral college, elected as their president a man who breathed fantasies as the rest of us breath air. Andersen described that change this way:

“And that was all before we became familiar with the terms post-factual and post-truth, before we elected a president with an astoundingly open mind about conspiracy theories, what’s true and what’s false, the nature of reality.

We have passed through the looking glass and down the rabbit hole. America has mutated into Fantasyland.”

 

Why did this happen? That is the really interesting part. Andersen’s book explores why and I found that exploration endlessly fascinating. But he did give a short answer:

“The short answer is because we’re Americans, because being American means we can believe any damn thing we want, that our beliefs are equal or superior to anyone else’s, experts be damned. Once people commit to that approach, the world turns inside out, and no cause-and-effect connection is fixed. The credible becomes incredible and the incredible credible.”

 

The even shorter answer, I would submit, is Americans wanted to believe that. In the American ideology wants are supreme. Facts are puny.

Andersen says the historic institutions that kept unreason at bay have over the last few decades in particular, been eroded. It is not just American democracy that has paid the price. The American people have as well. They have lost their way. Instead of helping to constrain unreason this is what happened:

“Yet that hated Establishment, the institutions and forces that once kept us from overdoing the flagrantly untrue or absurd—media, academia, politics, government, corporate America, professional associations, respectable opinion in the aggregate—has enabled and encouraged every species of fantasy over the last few decades.”

 

Many of those institutions are commonly mocked and we all pay a very high price for that. Most of us are complicit. And it is not getting better. That means that things are likely to get much worse.

 

Promiscuous Devotion to the Untrue

Kurt Andersen in his book FantasyLand diagnosed the problem as an attitude. This is how he described it:

“What’s problematic is going overboard, letting the subjective entirely override the objective, people thinking and acting as if opinions and feelings were just as true as facts. The American experiment, the original embodiment of the great Enlightenment idea of intellectual freedom, every individual free to believe anything she wishes, has metastasized out of control. From the start, our ultra-individualism was attached to epic dreams, sometimes epic fantasies—every American one of God’s chosen people building a custom-made utopia, each of us free to reinvent himself by imagination and will. In America those more exciting parts of the Enlightenment idea have swamped the sober, rational, empirical parts.”

 

Andersen believes, as I believe, that the roots of fantasy are deep and it is important for us to understand them if we want to understand where we are at in the modern world. As he said,

“Little by little for centuries, then more and more and faster and faster during the last half-century, Americans have given ourselves over to all kinds of magical thinking, anything-goes relativism, and belief in fanciful explanation, small and large fantasies that console or thrill or terrify us. And most of us haven’t realized how far-reaching our strange new normal has become. The cliché would be the frog in the gradually warming pot, oblivious to its doom until too late.”

And the consequences of giving ourselves over to fanciful thinking are not innocent. They are very dangerous and we are paying the price now. We are paying it bigly. As Andersen explains:

“Much more than the other billion or two people in the rich world, we Americans believe—really believe—in the supernatural and miraculous, in Satan on Earth now, reports of recent trips to and from Heaven, and a several-thousand-year-old story of life’s instantaneous creation several thousand years ago.

We believe the government and its co-conspirators are hiding all sorts of monstrous truths from us—concerning assassinations, extraterrestrials, the genesis of AIDS, the 9/11 attacks, the dangers of vaccines, and so much more.

We stockpile guns because we fantasize about our pioneer past, or in anticipation of imaginary shootouts with thugs and terrorists. We acquire military costumes and props in order to pretend we’re soldiers—or elves or zombies—fighting battles in which nobody dies, and enter fabulously realistic virtual worlds to do the same

And that was all before we became familiar with the terms post-factual and post-truth, before we elected a president with an astoundingly open mind about conspiracy theories, what’s true and what’s false, the nature of reality.

We have passed through the looking glass and down the rabbit hole.

America has mutated into Fantasyland.”

As a result of this attitude, 500 years in the making Americans, and to a lesser extent their little cousins, Canadians, have come to believe in a large host of wildly extravagant  beliefs, when you really think about it. About 2 out 3 Americans believe that angels and demons are active in the world. About a half believe that a personal god is looking after them no matter how much evidence there is to the contrary. At the same time about a third of Americans reject the science of climate change even though 97% or more of scientists assure them it is real. In fact many Americans believe climate change is a hoax or an evil communist plot against them. About 25% believe that vaccines cause autism. These are just a few of their wild beliefs. We will look at lot more. About 20% believe that the government adds secret mind controlling technology to television broadcasts. None of these beliefs are benign. They all have consequences. The problem is that Americans and Canadians too, have what Andersen called a “promiscuous devotion to the untrue.”

America has mutated into FantasyLand

 

Kurt Anderson wrote a book that touched on many issues I have been thinking about lately. It is called, Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire. It describes how a country has gone crazy. He calls it a 500-year history. He goes back to the founding of America. He says during that time the changes in America have been astonishing, but often largely unnoticed because it has happened so slowly. As he said,

 

Little by little for centuries, then more and more and faster and faster during the last half century, Americans have given ourselves over to all kinds of magical thinking, anything-goes relativism, and belief in fanciful explanation, small and large fantasies that console or thrill or terrify us. And most of us haven’t realized how far-reaching our strange new normal has become. The cliché would be the frog in the gradually warming pot, oblivious to its doom until too late.

 

I think Anderson is exactly right. The war on truth is fueled by a centuries long abdication of reason in favor of faith that has resulted in a persistent American (though not just America) determination to believe without evidence since the time of the Puritan arrival in America.

In recent times the fantasies people have come to believe in have constituted a tsunami. Surprisingly many of them, believe, that the country is under peril from a government that together with its co-conspirators “are hiding monstrous truths from us–concerning assassinations, extraterrestrials, the genesis of AIDS, the 9/11 attacks, the dangers of vaccines, and so much more.” I have heard these from intelligent people. What has led to this? This is what interests me.

The result has not been pretty. It is damn ugly. As Anderson describes it,

“We stockpile guns because we fantasize about our pioneer past, or in anticipation of imaginary shootouts with thugs and terrorists. We acquire military costumes and props in order to pretend we’re soldiers–or elves or zombies–fighting battles n which nobody dies, and enter fabulously realistic virtual worlds to do the same.

And that was all before we became familiar with the terms post-factual and post-truth, before we elected a president with an astoundingly open mind about conspiracy theories, what’s true and what’s false, the nature of reality.”

We have passed through the looking glass and down the rabbit hole. America has mutated into Fantasyland.

 

I want to emphasize at the outset that fantasyland is everywhere. Not just in America, but it has truly blossomed in America, and I believe that has happened for some important reasons. Part of goes back there to their history as a nation. People lust after crazy stuff!

 

Why is that?