Jaron Lanier:

There are recognizable stages in the degradation of anonymous, fragmentary communication. If no pack has emerged, then individuals start to fight. This is what happens all the time in online settings. A later stage appears once a pecking order is established. Then the members of the pack become sweet and supportive of one another, even as they goad one another into ever more intense hatred of nonmembers.

…New patterns of social connection that are unique to online culture have played a role in the spread of modern networked terrorism. If you look at an online chat about anything, from guitars to poodles to aerobics, you’ll see a consistent pattern: jihadi chat looks just like poodle chat. A pack emerges, and you are either with it or against it. If you join the pack, then you join the collective ritual hatred.

…The genetic aspects of behavior that have received the most attention (under rubrics like sociobiology or evolutionary psychology) have tended to focus on things like gender differences and mating behaviors, but my guess is that clan orientation and its relationship to violence will turn out to be the most important area of study.

Mainly, I’m just tacking this on as an addendum to a recent post. But I’ve gotta say, there’s a sad irony to reading comments at Freethought Blogs, of all places, and seeing this dynamic unfold.