How Donald Trump Represented An Age-Old Fantasy Of America: Examining The Rise Of Alternative Facts And Fake Media
In Fantasyland by Kurt Andersen, readers are taken on a quick historical tour of America’s warped sense of reality.
Through Andersen’s exploration, readers will understand why the prevalence of “alternative facts” and “fake media” has become all too commonplace in our culture.
We discover which racist group was behind the first movie to play in the White House; when exactly the word “hippie” entered our lexicon; and why needing a gun for protection is pure fantasy.
These are just some of the many examples that Andersen provides to illustrate how our willingness to take refuge in fantasy rather than facing uncomfortable realities has been around for ages.
He then considers Donald Trump as an example showing us how delusional beliefs and temper tantrums have replaced using cold hard facts for evidence.
Trump is seen as a symbol of this age-old trend and Anderson argues that his attitude isn’t anything new but instead reflective of American culture unwilling to embrace realities that challenge their worldviews.
England’S Gold-Fever Persisted For Centuries Despite A Trail Of Misery In The Americas
When news of the gold found by Spanish explorers from the Aztec and Inca empires arrived in Europe, it sparked a wave of jealousy among the English.
Their court began to dream of great boats full of gold coming into their own country.
Sir Walter Raleigh was commissioned to create a report that would convince Queen Elizabeth I that North America surely contained untold quantities of gold.
Although the report only contained hearsay and secondhand information, it was enough for Elizabeth to order multiple English expeditions for gold.
Unfortunately, these attempts were met with disaster, as large numbers died on the first expedition and everyone on the secondperished without finding anything.
The next ruler, King James, persevered and sent more colonists in an attempt to establish a base in Virginia and send back whatever riches they could find.
After many difficult times and half of them dying miserable deaths, they eventually succeeded by sending home one successful product: tobacco.
Americans’ Willingness To Indulge In Fantasy Brought Moving The Church Of Latter-Day Saints To Utah
The birth of Mormonism capitalized on the American tendency toward fantasy, particularly with its claim that Jesus Christ had visited America.
Joseph Smith’s story of the gold plates he found containing a previously unknown part of the Bible, which he then transcribed into his Book of Mormon, struck a chord with many Americans.
The message that there was a group of Israelites who had sailed to America and founded a civilization was just too appealing to ignore.
It spurred significant numbers of people to join Smith’s new religion – within its first ten years, nearly 20,000 Americans had become Mormons and by middle of the nineteenth century this number had doubled.
Mormons have proved themselves ready to believe in fantastic tales, so much so that they were able to move out west and form their own state – Utah.
No matter how imaginative or fanciful these beliefs may seem, the fact remains that it was only the lure of fantasy which allowed for Mormonism’s growth and popularity amongst its followers.
America’s History Of Suppressing African-Americans Through Fantasies And Falsehoods
As the turn of the twentieth century approached, an alarming number of white Americans began to entertain fantasies that slavery hadn’t been as harsh as it was made out to be.
A case in point was Nate Salsbury, who opened a theme park in 1895 with the express purpose of displaying nostalgic scenes from plantation life.
Hundreds of African-Americans were hired by Salsbury to act out this inherent fantasy for thousands of onlookers.
The New York Times even praised the theme park for its depiction of what it considered to be the “happy, careless” life of the Southern slave.
Concurrently, another equally disturbing fantasy emerged during this same period; namely, white supremacy.
The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) popularized its own twisted version of white supremacism with an ugly pushback against black Americans moving into what had been exclusively white neighborhoods.
It did so by means of fantastical costumes such as tall pointy hats and ghostly robes – and titles like “Imperial Wizard” and “Grand Goblin” – which managed to glean some 5 percent membership among white men by 1925.
In 1915, The Birth of a Nation film – the first ever screened at the White House – further fueled their anguished cause.
So unfortunately, in this era troubled by racial injustice, there remained plenty a few Americans who persisted actively pursuing fantasies involving benevolent slavery and insidious white supremacy
The 1960S And 1970S: A Time Of Enlightenment And Estrangement Through Drug Use
In the 1960s, young Americans were engaging in mind-altering drug use and exploring mysticism and occult practices that transcended reality.
This period was marked by massive cultural shifts all across America– from the sexual revolution to recreational drug use becoming commonplace, even on university campuses.
More people started using marijuana– in 1962 there were just under one million users in America, but by 1972, this number skyrocketed to 24 million.
Additionally, college students who admitted to have smoked pot jumped from 5 percent in 1967 to 33 percent four years later.
Many Americans continue to smoke more marijuana than Northern Europeans today.
Likewise, psychedelic drugs such as LSD also gained popularity during this time.
There are now reportedly 32 million present-day Americans who have used psychedelics at some point in their life.
The long-term effects of these mind-bending drugs caused a bleary divide between reality and fantasy for many American youths when it came to belief systems like magic, mysticism and anti-rationalism.
In 1969, a New York Times Magazine report noted a sharp increase among college students who dabbled with paranormal activities like tarot cards, séances and UFOs.
The Increasingly Blurred Lines Between Childhood And Adulthood
Over the past few decades, American adults have undoubtedly become more like children.
This is most evident in their recreational activities, as they are now investing in activities and hobbies like comic books, video games and superhero movies that used to be just for kids.
It’s also seen in their clothing – with items such as knee-high socks and backpacks becoming fashionable choices for adult women, and the polo shirt and jeans combination for men that were once strictly reserved for boys.
Not to mention their food choices – where Ben & Jerry’s Tub of Cookie Dough Ice Cream has certainly become popular among adults.
And even at work, we now see beanbag chairs, foosball tables and video game consoles being added so employees can get some good playtime or nap time into their day.
The Dangerous Delusion Of The Gun-Ownership Fantasy
Americans may be buying more guns, but they have fewer and fewer legitimate reasons to do so.
In the 1970s, the average US gun owner possessed just one firearm, with 30 percent of the population stating that they were active hunters.
Fast forward to now, and the average gun owner has three or four guns in their possession – yet only 15 percent of them participate in hunting activities.
So what is going on? One reason appears to be an increase in personal protection claims, despite a decrease in major crime over the same period.
Polls show that individuals claiming that guns are necessary for self-defense have now doubled since the 1990s; however, during this same time frame, the potential for encountering a dangerous criminal has dropped by 50 percent!
For example, New York City’s high restrictions on firearm ownership and carrying still resulted in a massive 82 percent decrease of murder rates between 1990 and 2017.
This clearly shows that the idea of needing an automatic weapon for protection is nothing more than another delusional fantasy – yet Americans across the country keep buying more guns despite having fewer reasons to do so.
The main theme of Fantasyland is that for generations, millions of Americans have been drawn to collective delusions.
From the English colonists expecting to find gold in America, to the hippies of the ’60s and the gun fanatics of today, our culture has been filled with those who cling to dreams and fantasy even when they are completely irrational.
The key takeaway from this book is that American history has been shaped by people holding onto unrealistic expectations or ideals.
By understanding this pattern, we can draw valuable lessons about modern life and how it might be improved for future generations.