Radically decentralized communications
I wonder how much of what's going on is due to cyberspace's ability to make distance less important. Most importantly, this allows people to find others with similar attitudes; and in numbers, there is strength. Once you discover others share your interests, it reinforces that this is okay; and so you're more confident – so for rare interests, that could previously attain critical mass only in major cities (or very liberal subcultures) (or very privileged individuals), there's now a chance at a broad base….
What, then, does that mean about people who grow up with this environment? I kind of sort of did just a little, but really not until early 20s; when I was a teenager (small town in Pennsylvania), and even a college student (Boston area) there was no escape from geography. By grad school, I had good net access and pervasive e-mail; and then of course by the time I had been at work for a couple of years, the pre-web "net" was in high gear (e-mail, BBSs, anonymous remailers, usenet, ...). Now geography became an additional opportunity ("munches" of people who tended to know each other online). But I was probably very largely "formed" already by that point.
I recently read a description of rave as "the first truly global youth culture"; same thing?
Throw in the fact that cyberspace's (current) ability to cross borders makes it harder to stamp these things out. We can't rely on this forever, of course (is the focus on spam a dry run for attacking other forms of speech?); but it's certainly the case right now. Now we have yet another reinforcing factor ...
How can we know anything when the sources of information (the media) have become instruments of propaganda? If we don't know the real facts, how can rationality really help us?
So: introduce some new variables ...
Radically decentralized communications (the internet, yes, but that's only one example: there are cameras on cellphones, for heavens sakes) make it possible to access information that isn't controlled by others. But the people providing it may be biased (or co-opted); and how to go from anecdotal information to real conclusions?