There's a line, and on the other side of the line are all sorts of goodies. Now lots of people won't cross the line because they've been taught it's wrong to do so, but this isn't heaven on earth. The main reason even the most god-fearing never cross the line, is because common wisdom has it that if you cross the line, it'll be bad for you. The exact nature of 'bad' isn't that important, and in fact it's a cocktail of things. Jail, fines, guilt, ostracism, a truncheon to the head, whatever. It's an economic cost/benefit, regardless.
Then one day you're mucking about, you get carried away, maybe a bit of false bravado, and before you know it, you're across the line. And... nothing happens.
Then you text 100 of your closest friends and tell them that you've just crossed the line and nothing happened, and man, the goodies are looking great ("Let's get some watches, man," a BBC report yesterday caught some kid saying). Many of the assumptions about the flow of information and ability to coordinate on which the current order depends are suddenly looking a little antiquated.
So I think it comes down to consequences, or more accurately, and less politically, 'cost.' And these lines and the implied costs of crossing them are fundamental to the mechanics of society. A change in the perception of costs can't help but be followed by a change in behaviour. I think what people should really be worried about, is what's happened to the perception of cost.
Radio and news reports suggest that people now being charged are having the book thrown at them, and that many of them (including many respectably employed types, according to something I heard yesterday) have had a bit of a rude awakening. Suddenly not the brave and fearless heroes they thought they were a couple of days back. So perhaps the cost recalibration won't be that bad.
But as much as nobody's in the mood for leftie rhetoric now (yet?), the truth is lots of these kids have very little to lose by our standards. Their cost/benefit calculatons are stuffed up and mutated beyond anything 'normal' citizens can fathom. Swathes of the consequence cocktail are missing or work in reverse. And now these kids have learned that the lines they respected before, no matter how tenuously, aren't so hard to cross after all.
As the wisdom goes in Africa, what to do with the lions who've tasted human blood?