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The 2020s are crueller than the Noughties

A more innocent time: Anna Kournikova signing copies of FHM magazine at the Virgin Megastore in 2001. Evan Agostini/Getty

Since the Russell Brand allegations were published last weekend, says Michael Deacon in The Daily Telegraph, Britain’s commentators have all “deplored” not just the man himself but the entire decade in which he shot to fame: the 2000s. “The Nasty Noughties: Russell Brand and the era of sadistic tabloid misogyny,” fumed The Guardian. “The Noughties enabled Russell Brand,” explained UnHerd. BBC News described old clips of Brand’s work as “a sobering reminder of Noughties culture”. Amid all this “horrified disbelief”, we’re in danger of overlooking something: “the 2020s are far, far worse”.

Yes, the tabloids used to write unkind things about Britney Spears and others. But today, these poor women must endure the “unrelenting onslaught of abuse” hurled at them on social media. Noughties hacks might have been rude, but they weren’t sending “death threats and photos of their own genitals”. And compared to the hardcore pornography freely available to men and boys online today, an old issue of Nuts or FHM “looks like a cheeky seaside postcard from the 1950s”. The other point we keep hearing is that in the Noughties, “misogyny was applauded”. That’s true, but the 2020s have bred a new, more insidious form of misogyny “disguised as compassion”. Any time a woman like JK Rowling dares to speak up for women’s rights, a man can “scream that she’s a hateful transphobic bigot”, while still affecting to be one of the good guys. That’s why the 2020s are “crueller than the Noughties”. Still, it’s taken us 20 years to see how awful the Noughties were. “It’ll probably take us another 20 to see how awful this decade is, too.”