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Our animal natures are in a constant state of tension between the personal and the communal. We have instincts which drive us to gratify ourselves, to dominate for food, status and mates. And then we have the pull towards the good of the tribe, pack or troop and the protection and support it offers.
As the huge media coverage of internet abuse has made clear (not least the appalling targeting of women on Twitter and other social media platforms), when public conversation is debased, we all suffer - though those at the sharp end suffer most.
On BBC1's important, topical television 'morality and beliefs' show, The Big Questions, next due to air at 12.05pm on Sunday 26 May 2013, a major focus of discussion will be the horrific Woolwich killing and its aftermath.
Social media has significantly altered many aspects of the balance of power. It has given a voice to ordinary people and made it more difficult for power to hide that which it finds inconvenient or embarrassing.