This is a kind of narrowly focused history of a specific American penchant for the belief in the completely implausible and fantasy (ie unsupported by empirical evidence) by a journalist and novelist. For the most part, I think it makes a lot of sense and takes on a thesis that it supports with a ton of evidence and even more examples. It begins with the ways in which America as a continent was created, mythically, out of whole cloth, lies, speculation, and overly generous readings of scripture. How that pushed its way forward through the Great Awakening, the Revolution and the founding of the republic, the push West and Manifest Destiny, spending lots of time in the 20th century especially with the Cold War, Vietnam, evangelicalism, and landing squarely on Trump. While most of its critique is neutral, especially in dealing with far past events, as it approaches our current time period Andersen can’t help but admit that while the Left has its own issues, in general it keep its extreme to the extreme. And the Right, well…
The way it approaches the Left includes things like anti-vaxxing (which is not solely on the Left but involves a lot more people on the Left than has business), Conspiracy theories, and GMO food. In addition, there’s a critique of post-structuralism, which I would say is more situated on the Left than anywhere else. Also, the critique of post-structuralism is the weakest analysis of the book because either Andersen misrepresents, misunderstands, or doesn’t agree with the ways in post-structuralism functions. He seems to think its a radical critique of the whole concept of reality (as being real – ala the Matrix) but misses that post-structuralism is more generally a critique on the narratives the infuse information and knowledge creation with specific Ideological bents. He doesn’t seem to realize that “Rationalism” and “Enlightenment”, which post-structuralism does critique are not neutral terms and neutral tools for “progress” and “thinking” but are subject to deeply troubling and deeply violent and dangerous paradigms, namely that Europe is the center of all culture (leading of course to Imperialism and Slavery) and that Capitalism is progress (leading to economic domination, especially violent in the 20th century). It’s also among the smallest part of the book.
Lastly, the other glaring issue is that since it’s narrowly focused, it pretty much leaves out almost all race critiques. I don’t think its erasure on purpose, but whether he felt incapable of including these ideas or didn’t think to, it’s a huge omission.