If social media has polluted civic life...

If social media has polluted civic life...

 Something strange has happened to public discourse in recent years, says Janet Daley: under the shield of anonymity provided by social media, it dispenses with “all previous understandings of what constitutes acceptable conduct”. Yes, heated debate has always generated its share of insults, but the murderous bile spewed online is something new. Under cover of pseudonymity, and often openly, people give vent to their ugliest, most malicious thoughts. Some see no great harm in this: social media serves a cathartic end, they say, allowing people to air outrageous views rather than hide them. Yet until recently, we believed the opposite: “that it was the proper business of responsible government to teach people to restrain their most malignant, destructive inclinations for the sake of the greater good”. Have we changed our mind on this, secure in the “complacent, post-Cold War belief” that the world is no longer in ideological peril, and that Western democratic values will endure, come what may? If so, we fool ourselves. The “weaponising of inchoate grievance” is just as dangerous when fuelled by nihilism as when fuelled by ideology.

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