The internet has allowed the collective power of mass protest to be focussed down on tiny, frail individuals, at a moment’s notice, and with virtually no effort or organisation. Nobody needs to be bussed anywhere, anymore. Checking their phones on the way to work, targets can be suddenly overwhelmed by a deluge of scorn and condemnation, often for an off-hand, trivial aside.
This is extremely intimidating and upsetting. Victims fear for their safety, not knowing how far these unknown attackers are willing to go. Influencers fear cancelling. People can even lose their jobs, in a spasm of virtue-signalling, if their employers think the internet storm is damaging their brand.
Victims feel wounded, humiliated and excluded –alone and unloved. This is the most damaging aspect of all. We are pack animals and we need to be included and accepted. No one wants to be singled out.
Online campaigns against individuals are thus highly coercive – as much so as most government policies. Everyone has come, very quickly to rely on internet for so many aspects of their interactions with their society. So users are frightened into conformity by the examples of those who have been sacrificed before. Critics of a movement are silenced, no matter how constructive and useful their comments are; internet personalities, who rely on likes for their career and income, are willing to indulge in the most cringe-worthy virtue signalling. They are also vociferous in their condemnation of others, to put themselves beyond reproach.
And these campaigns are tribal. You proclaim your allegiance and reinforce your identity by adding to the condemnation. You banish your target from your tribe for their crimes, which mark them out as agents of your enemy.
These are the paranoid witch-hunts of a self-policing police state.