Of all the reader responses to former editor in chief Mark Galli’s editorial on President Donald Trump last year, the most encouraging of those disagreed graciously. “We feel differently,” they said. “But we have benefited from CT for decades. We can handle the occasional disagreement.”

Little did we know, in the waning days of December, what challenges the new year would bring. A contagion swept the planet and forced entire cities to a standstill. Then a series of events ripped open the wounds of our racial history and provoked months of civil unrest. Which is to say nothing of a string of historic natural disasters.

But what has made all these things more painful is the rift in our social fabric. Suffering is lighter when borne together, in a sense of neighborly love and common cause. Yet we cannot suffer together when we blame one another for the suffering. Everything from the fundamental science of the pandemic and the practice of wearing masks to the persistence of racial inequality and the need for law enforcement has become battlegrounds of partisan animosity.

The evolution of media has shaped those battlegrounds. The typical media consumer today has thousands of sources at her fingertips for news and opinion. In the democratized digital marketplace, anyone with a social media account can build a platform.

The positives in these developments are undeniable. Powerful stories that earlier might never have seen the light of day now can spread instantly to everyone. Important voices that might never have made it past the old media gatekeepers can now shape the world. The same digital networks that carry conspiracy theories and pornography also carry praise songs and sermons and Bible translations, ...

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