The heated culture wars of the 1990s are back – the modern battle ground is the internet. The rising alt-right, full of transgressive energy, includes everyone from obscure neo-reactionary and white separatist movements to geeky subcultures like 4chan to world-famous trolls and provocateurs. In contrast, lurking behind a wall of trigger warnings and no-platforming, the left looks like a reactive filter-bubble of retweets and struggle sessions. Will the casualty of these fierce and empty battles be democracy itself – and along with it any hope of engagement with the moral complexity of daily life?
The pop culture cliché of the American High School movie, which adapted old archetypes, depicted a social world in which the worst sexists were always the all brawn no brains sports jock. But now that the online world has given us a glimpse into the inner lives of others, one of the surprising revelations is that it is the nerdish self-identifying nice guy who could never get the girl who has been exposed as the much more hate-filled, racist, misogynist who is insanely jealous of the happiness of others.