WE’RE in the middle of a Culture War that no-one will win. The only guaranteed outcome is mutually assured destruction.

Although some new front opens up every day, the fault-lines crystallised perfectly during the last BBC Question Time when actor and panellist Laurence Fox claimed there was no racism in the treatment of Meghan Markle by the press, and that Britain is “the most tolerant and lovely country”. An audience member told Fox he was a “white privileged male”. Fox said that comment was itself racist.

Who’s Fox, you might ask? I’d answer: a man designed to cause the kind of stir the BBC revels in today. For although this Culture War is very real, it’s also stoked by a media in search of cheap clickbait. And the Culture War’s main battlefield is in the heads of those who live in the world of politics and the media – step outside those two wearying bubbles and many people care little about this increasingly bourgeois conflict. They’ve lives to live.

Ridiculous as the Fox row is, let’s pick it apart so we can understand the shape of this Culture War. First, we’ve a scion of the Fox acting dynasty – son of James, nephew of Edward – sneering at people who cannot see as he does, after a life of Harrow and RADA, that Britain is perfect.

If I must take lessons in reality, it won’t be from the Laurence Foxes of this world. If you wanted to find the embodiment of white, male privilege – he’s it. But this Culture War isn’t about Fox. It’s about people who think like Fox and those who don’t think like him – and Fox was cheered by the BBC audience when he rolled his eyes at the words “white privilege”.

READ MORE: Laurence Fox labelled a ‘disgrace’ following BBC Question Time race row

So we learned precisely nothing from the exchange. A claim that Britain has a problem with racism was dismissed. In response, allegations of white privilege were deployed. Nobody ‘won’ the argument, nobody changed their mind. Nothing improved.Haven’t we learned from Brexit that screaming abuse at ideological opponents gets us precisely nowhere?

We seem incapable of holding two thoughts in our heads. Yes, evidently Britain has a problem with racism – and sexism and all other isms. But no, not everyone is racist, or sexist, or a follower of some nasty ism or other. Yes, of course, white privilege exists – as a white guy I’ll never truly understand the experience of black people. But how cruel words like ‘white privilege’ must sound in the ear of a white single mum living in a rundown scheme trying to make ends meet using food banks.

So while it’s true to say that white people can be blind to racism – and are thus ‘privileged’ – to claim that this equates to the idea that all white people are racist is as deplorable and intolerant as claiming all Muslims are Islamist, or all Jewish people are part of the demented conspiracy theories that anti-semites dream up. You cannot say that an entire group is guilty of X.

Shaming people doesn’t work. You don’t shame people into changing their minds. You may silence them, but you’ll also make an implacable enemy. When we hurl insults, we only entrench the views we want others to change. When you’re under fire in a war, you dig in – that’s what’s happening now on all sides. As a result, we cannot see the wood for the trees, and we’ll never change a country that needs changed.

If you want proof that there’s something wrong when it comes to race in Britain look to two men: footballer Gary Neville, and musician Stormzy. Last Christmas, Neville said “we have a racism problem in the Premier League [and] in England.” The same week Stormzy said “definitely 100% … there’s a lot of racism in the country.”

Neville was rightly praised for his passion in The Independent, and by Sky Sports commentators for starting “an important discussion on racism”. Stormzy was attacked by journalists and academics. So white guy says something and it’s fine. Black guy says the same thing, and all hell breaks loose. If that doesn’t look like racism, then I don’t know what does.

These culture wars spill over everywhere – sometimes the fight really matters, sometimes it’s absurd. There was a row over whether white models should wear corn-row wigs at the weekend. There’s an endless battle over trans rights that’s more cruel on each side every day. The issue over whether investigations into child grooming gangs were hampered by fears of racism has reared its head again. We cannot be at war over everything. We need to pick our battles. What will bring the greatest good?

READ MORE: Lily Allen and Laurence Fox in online spat over BBC Question Time appearance

In 1996, academic Samuel Huntingdon warned in The Clash of Civilisations that with the end of the Cold War and the great political battle between left and right, culture and religion – identity – would become the main source of conflict. He envisioned this on a global scale. The truth is, identity politics have divided us to the extent that there is You and then there is everyone else. Unsurprisingly, the isolation and narcissism of social media has accompanied the coming of this war.

We’ve imported our Culture War from America. Just look across the Atlantic if you think ‘total war’ against your opponents is the way forward. We run the risk of degenerating into complete division and hate. Then there’s no going back.

We need a little empathy, to spend a few moments thinking what it’s like to walk in another’s shoes. Once again, that means learning the ability to keep two thoughts in your head at the same time: like, racism is real, but not everyone is racist. You can support a woman’s right to choose and still hate the reality of abortion. You can be against religious discrimination, and still not want religion to have any role in society. You can support trans rights, and believe in the science of biology.

Nobody is the arbiter of truth. Nobody’s beliefs are law. We don’t want a Culture War, we need a cultural dialogue. And where there are unresolved tensions, is it beyond our wit to try and resolve those with a smile on our face, not hate in our heart?

Neil Mackay is Scotland’s Columnist of

the Year