My impression is that our society has increased its tolerance for mean, nasty behavior. I think the media is partially to blame with shows like "Survivor" where people are voted off; I could never watch this show because I have bad memories of, and see no entertainment value in, rejection. I feel the same way about "American Idol" where Simon Cowell berates contestants. I also think that the political climate, and especially the Tea Partiers, have contributed to this mean climate.
Strikes me as the kind of analysis we're asking you to make -- connecting specific phenomena to larger trends in American cultural life. Do you buy these connections? Are we getting nastier? And if so, is it connected to our popular culture? (For a competing view, see this oped in the Times this morning).