As an old (Social Security/Medicare/trifocals/bad knees-qualified), white, straight, middle-class man, it may be impossible for me to make a comment without being seen as engaging in some kind of generational/entitled-class mansplaining, but–
This it-will-be-better-when-the-old-farts-die stuff strikes me as an unlikely and, if I might put it more strongly, unreflected-on notion. One of the things that being old (and not yet senile) has taught me is that the assholes we have always with us. I have plenty of contemporaries who are not assholes, who do not harbor asshole attitudes, who occupy and articulate political positions to my left and right without making asshole arguments. And I encounter (on line mostly, thanks to the way I run my social life) plenty of younger folk who behave in spectacularly assholey manners. Some of their assholery is even located to my left (and I’m an old lefty), though that’s a minority condition.
I’ve observed on-line behavior since you needed an acoustic coupler to do so, and what I’ve seen is not different in quality from what I saw in other social settings my whole adult life. It is, however, different in visibility, which means that it’s harder to avoid. In 1968, there were bars where a guy like me would not enter, let alone start an honest conversation. When I worked blue-collar jobs, there were topics I didn’t participate in, groups I didn’t hang out with at lunch.
Now any unmoderated forum can draw the attentions of badly-socialized loudmouths with many of the traits of the schoolyard bully, and it’s hard to figure out how to make such spaces comfortable for those who would prefer not to have their conversations derailed, dominated, and generally made unpleasant by resident or drive-by assholes. In the old off-line, real-presence world of, say, the corner tavern, the response to an offensive loudmouth might be for the host to throw him out or for an offended patron to kick the shit out of him. There’s also the military tradition of the blanket party. Of course, the latter mechanisms depend on the kind of primate/guy social machinery that I have spent my life avoiding, and in any case I’m not sure what the virtual equivalents would be.
By the way, just to reinforce my proposition that this is not a new thing under the sun, as clever and apt as the shitting-in-the-cornflakes phrase is, there are much older metaphors for this process: the turd in the punchbowl, and (one I learned from my father) “who pissed on the campfire?”
BTW-II: I regret to acknowledge that almost all the really satisfying terms of dismissal or scorn have the potential of offending someone in a non-trivial way. I once made a list of as many non-ethnic/gender/sexual-preference putdowns/insults/denigrating labels as I could recall, and many of them would be seen as being hurtful to some innocent class. As a lifelong bespectacled, unathletic, bookish dweeb who has been the target of much verbal assholery, I may have such a thick skin that I don’t notice such things. I suppose part of our social evolution must be to find ways of expressing scorn without injuring innocent bystanders.