As children, many of us believed crazy things, such as the existence of ghosts and fairies and other manifestations of the magical or supernatural. As we grew up, we abandoned many of those absurd beliefs, mainly due to our growing realization that they did not make any sense. But in addition, as we got older our families did not actively seek to have us continue to believe them and, in the case of things like Santa Claus and the tooth fairy, actively sought to dissuade us from doing so. Society at large also does not have a vested interest in propagating a lot of magical thinking.
The one major exception is, of course, basic religious beliefs, where families and society both try keep them going. But even here, society no longer actively seeks to perpetuate their more extreme forms such as faith healing or snake handling and other things that are downright dangerous and are known to contradict our best current knowledge.
But America is currently going through a strange period where a major political party (the Republicans) and a major news outlet (Fox News) are actively seeking to perpetuate ideas that are flat-out wrong and, I suspect, known to be so by the people who are actively promoting them.
The two major ones are the denial of evolution and climate change but there are other ones that flatly contradict common sense and our best knowledge, such as that increased income inequality is beneficial for everyone, that making it harder for poor people to eat and survive is actually good for them, that unbridled access to guns is an excellent way to reduce gun violence, that universal access to free or even affordable health care is bad, and so on.
Because of this intense propaganda campaign, we have large numbers of people who actually believe all this stuff. I don’t know of any other nation that is so modern in other ways that has similar organs of powerful public persuasion that deliberately seek to mislead its public with such fundamental untruths on major issues.
Most myths that have real-life consequences eventually founder on the rocks of reality. Surely propagating such a vast disconnect between reality and myth has to lead to instability? How can a modern society survive for long on a false foundation? What happens then?
It seems like America is embarked on a strange and dangerous experiment to answer such questions.