The culture wars may have changed, but that doesn’t mean they’re over. Nowhere is this more clear than on the internet. Hartman’s culture wars were fought in national magazines, peer-reviewed journals, cable news shows, and in the halls of Congress: all venues with some degree of gatekeeping. Today, a broader swath of self-proclaimed culture warriors can engage in comment sections, on blogs, and on Twitter, where the #tcot hashtag is filled with echoes of earlier flashpoints. Whether the internet is simply a new, more broadly accessible forum for old debates about the meaning of America, or whether it is facilitating a new kind of culture war altogether, is not entirely clear. Nor are online spaces any less susceptible to the imperatives of capitalism than any other part of American culture. But if the culture wars are over, no one told their most energetic partisans: on this new frontier, the battle rages on.
If this is the case, it has altered the culture war landscape in multiple ways:
1. Increased the speed of battle. Now, new issues can pop up all over the place through text and videos on multiple platforms. Who can keep up with it all?
2. The old gatekeepers – traditional media like television, newspapers, and radio as well as politicians – have to scramble to keep up. This means they may race to the bottom or endlessly cycle through everything to stay relevant.
3. The culture wars don’t have to be about big issues but rather can be a larger series of micro battles. There may be no big “culture war” but rather an endless number of skirmishes involving small numbers of participants.
4. Anyone can participate with the possibility of being part of a larger conversation behind their smaller sphere. However, it is hard to know which of these skirmishes might blow up.