It’s tempting to think the digital age might yet foster open-mindedness on a scale that preceding technologies were incapable of sustaining. But the truth is I keep feeling that in contrast to the generous and argumentative large-mindedness of the 1960s and 70s of my youth, a new ambient morality has made society more tender, parochial and intolerant.

Across the ideological spectrum, everyone seems more touchy about permissibility, thinking the right thoughts and behaving in the approved way. Of course, sensitivity isn’t always a bad thing — and there’s nothing to be said for wilfully disregarding other people’s feelings. But politesse and humanity sometimes part ways. Spurning openness and debate can risk contributing to the sum of human folly that soon registers in suspicion, fear, hatred and atrocity...

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