Well...it's a functional strategy, but you're basing it on a false analogy. Lions gotta eat. The choice for a lion is, eat this gazelle or eat that gazelle, or starve. Teenagers don't gotta punch someone unconscious. Their choices in life, no matter how bleak, simply aren't limited to which person they punch.
Joking aside, it sounds like you can appreciate the trauma delivered by our counselors as they empowered us to, in fact, determine which of our peers would become more attractive for this particular cruelty by making ourselves less attractive. I guess that is why, 20 years after the sweaty palms, broken voices, and bad prom outfits, this still resonates with me.
In responses to your other comment, there are experts in gang violence that would suggest that members in a gang often are in a precarious situation of constantly being pressured to demonstrate their social place within the hierarchy of a gang. This activity is one of those outlets in which a gang member may assert their position. In other words, your are either [re]establishing your social position or declining; so from that perspective, many members of gangs do feel they "have" to do something to stay respected. While I have not read anything on the current trend, I would be interested to see if their was a correlated perspective among teens under similar peer stress.