Modern history

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History

America was founded by wishful dreamers, magical thinkers, and true believers, by hucksters and their suckers. Fantasy is deeply embedded in our DNA.

Over the course of five centuries—from the Salem witch trials to Scientology to the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, from P. T. Barnum to Hollywood and the anything-goes, wild-and-crazy sixties, from conspiracy theories to our fetish for guns and obsession with extraterrestrials—our love of the fantastic has made America exceptional in a way that we've never fully acknowledged. From the start, our ultra-individualism was attached to epic dreams and epic fantasies—every citizen was free to believe absolutely anything, or to pretend to be absolutely anybody. With the gleeful erudition and tell-it-like-it-is ferocity of a Christopher Hitchens, Andersen explores whether the great American experiment in liberty has gone off the rails.

Chapter 1: Now Entering Fantasyland

Part I: The Conjuring of America: 1517–1789

Chapter 2: I Believe, Therefore I Am Right: The Protestants

Chapter 3: All That Glitters: The Gold-Seekers

Chapter 4: Building Our Own Private Heaven on Earth: The Puritans

Chapter 5: The God-Given Freedom to Believe in God

Chapter 6: Imaginary Friends and Enemies: The Early Satanic Panics

Chapter 7: The First Me Century: Religion Gets American

Chapter 8: Meanwhile, in the Eighteenth-Century Reality-Based Community

Part II: United States of Amazing: The 1800s

Chapter 9: The First Great Delirium

Chapter 10: The All-American Fan Fiction of Joseph Smith, Prophet

Chapter 11: Quack Nation: Magical but Modern

Chapter 12: Fantastic Business: The Gold Rush Inflection Point

Chapter 13: In Search of Monsters to Destroy: The Conspiracy Theory Habit

Chapter 14: The War Between States of Mind

Chapter 15: Ten Million Little Houses on the Prairie

Chapter 16: Fantasy Industrialized

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

Chapter 17: Progress and Backlash

Chapter 18: The Biggest Backlash: Brand-New Old-Time Religion

Chapter 19: The Business of America Is Show Business

Chapter 20: Big Rock Candy Mountains: Utopia in the Suburbs and the Sun

Chapter 21: The 1950s Seemed So Normal

Part IV: Big Bang: The 1960s and ’70s

Chapter 22: Big Bang: The Hippies

Chapter 23: Big Bang: The Intellectuals

Chapter 24: Big Bang: The Christians

Chapter 25: Big Bang: Politics and Government and Conspiracies

Chapter 26: Big Bang: Living in a Land of Entertainment

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

Chapter 27: Making Make-Believe More Realistic and Real Life More Make-Believe

Chapter 28: Forever Young: Kids “R” Us Syndrome

Chapter 29: The Reagan Era and the Start of the Digital Age

Chapter 30: American Religion from the Turn of the Millennium

Chapter 31: Our Wilder Christianities: Belief and Practice

Chapter 32: America Versus the Godless Civilized World: Why Are We So Exceptional?

Chapter 33: Magical but Not Necessarily Christian, Spiritual but Not Religious

Chapter 34: Blue-Chip Witch Doctors: The Reenchantment of Medicine

Chapter 35: How the Mainstream Enabled Fantasyland: Squishies, Cynics, and Believers

Chapter 36: Anything Goes—Unless It Picks My Pocket or Breaks My Leg

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

Chapter 37: The Inmates Running the Asylum Decide Monsters Are Everywhere

Chapter 38: Reality Is a Conspiracy: The X-Filing of America

Chapter 39: Mad as Hell, the New Voice of the People

Chapter 40: When the Gop Went Off the Rails

Chapter 41: Liberals Denying Science

Chapter 42: Gun Crazy

Chapter 43: Final Fantasy-Industrial Complex

Chapter 44: Our Inner Children? They’re Going to Disney World!

Chapter 45: The Economic Dreamtime

Chapter 46: As Fantasyland Goes, So Goes the Nation