tl;dr : Idiots have never been louder, but nerds never had it better.
It may just be that the public discourse has gone dumber because it’s a more accurate reflection of society than ever before. In the age of global communications, real-time TV saturation and social media everybody gets a megaphone, and being heard and seen is no longer the exclusive of the select few of the pre-internet era, gatekeepers and intellectual elites (relatively) that made for most of the signal.
By Sturgeon’s Law, 90% of this unfiltered content is therefore bound to be crud.
On the positive side, as you yourself highlight without quite acknowledging, things have gone markedly better for nerds on many levels.
Knowledge has never been so accessible or easy to share.
The likelihood for nerds of all stripes to find themselves condemned to perpetual insulation by their circumstances is vanishingly decreasing, again thanks to the same media that drown us in aggressive stupidity. Provided they can get their hands on some kind of internet-able terminal, today’s nerds can join with like-minded seekers and conspirators in thought, explore the most niche and unpopular topics with reckless abandon and obsessive dedication, and find comfort and support — of both the moral and intellectual varieties — from all over the world.
As a card-carrying member of the tribe myself, who grew up in a small town where bookish types of inquisitive mind weren’t exactly doted on, I can attest to the positive impact the information society had for many of us.
Finally, both in spite of and thanks to the mainstreaming of nerdiness through geek chic, compounded by the widening literacy and power gap between those who care to seek and learn vs those who don’t, nerds are on their way to live up to their recent hype and inherit (whatever will be left of) the earth.
It’s not such a bad time to be a nerd, really.