Moaning about young people has always been “irresistible”, says Samuel Earle in the Times Literary Supplement. Socrates had “a long list of gripes”. A reader’s letter in Town and Country magazine in 1771 dismissed young people as “a race of effeminate, self-admiring, emaciated fribbles” – words that wouldn’t be out of place in The Daily Telegraph now. Today young people are accused of being woke ideologues, “drunk on delusions of righteousness”. The writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie criticised their intolerance earlier this year, while The Economist accused them of posing an “illiberal threat from the left”.
But the blame for cancel culture “lies less with the minds of millennials and more with social media platforms”. Young people have always challenged the political status quo. What’s new is the witch hunts, which are “endemic to the internet”. The anonymity of the internet makes abusive language easier and social media fosters a culture of “unforgiving scrutiny”, as foolish posts can be dredged up from the past. Blaming the young may be simple, but it shows a “lack of empathy” and a “disregard for a complicated reality”. It’s not easy to grow up with “the disruptions of the digital revolution”.