Om Malik's pointing to Robert Scoble's friends hammering Andrew Orlowski over the IE7 beta got me thinking about blogging social structures. (The image is from the archives of Johnstown, New York's Colonial Little Theater.)
It's becoming gang warfare, done on a psychological level.
Every top blogger has a gang of toadie blogs that will do its bidding. I got a little taste of that with the Ev Williams mistake (not that I didn't deserve the hammering) When a top blogger identifies a target for ridicule, others can jump in like wolves.
It works the other way, too. When an individual becomes a target a mob of bloggers may take them down, unled. This is what happened to Dan Rather. The story about Bush being a chickenhawk was sound. There was a problem on one of the sources. But a mob of bloggers brought him down, and now they celebrate this, daily.
Tyranny knows how to use such mobs. Tyranny of all sorts, business and technological as well as political. The mob can be like Salem and the victims of this blog mob psychology may, in fact, turn out to have been right in the end.
For bloggers to say "let the market decide" and "let's not have ethical standards" is to turn the world of ideas into Lord of the Flies -- and any one of us can become Piggy at any moment.
The point is we all have power, as individuals, and as groups, in the blogosphere. This power can be abused, it can be turned on people, it can destroy.
Those bloggers who refuse to acknowledge their power, and the responsibility which comes with it, do liberty no favors. They do you no favors, either. Those whom the blogs raise up can be taken down, just as easily and quickly. Without internalized standards of behavior which cause us to shun those who incite to virtual riot, Blogistan will destroy itself.