“American society as a whole, and politics in particular, has become considerably ruder, cruder, and more paranoid than it used to be,” said John Hawkins in Pajamas Media, and the Internet deserves “more than a smidgen of the blame.” The main reason is that the Web lets people all over the world “say absolutely anything without fear of being punched in the nose.”

It’s true that the Internet has helped make us more “ferociously partisan,” said Robert Stacy McCain in The Other McCain, by giving “small, like-minded groups” a space where they can gather and vent. But television, with 100-plus channels to absorb time educated people once spent reading, “has been a far more powerful contributor to the decline of civility.”

But blogs have certainly reinforced the ugliness of cable talk shows and radio, said Joe Gandelman in The Moderate Voice. Blogs have morphed from citizen journalism to “cyberspace print talk radio.” It’s now “cool and edgy to be rude and name call,” and bloggers who don’t spout rage “simply will not get links” from partisan sites.