Thus, I can say "George Bush is an illiterate moron" without social consequences, but I cannot say "Fred Bloggs is an illiterate moron", without at least some negative effects. In large part this is due to the AntiAuthoritarian contingent - so much mud has been thrown at Bush that a query about his reading age on some random internet site is swamped amongst still harsher words.
Those who've been in power (of some sort) a long time get used to this. However, in a cyptocracy, power (and perceived power) can fluctuate quite quickly, and folks with no experience of being on the receiving end of this phenomenon can suddenly end up with a lot of effective power and a lot of criticism. Also, company structures can suddenly give individuals lots of visible power, as in the case of a coder who is annointed GodKing. Naturally folks in this position can start to get highly defensive about their use of power, but this is really bad: see LynchMob for one possible consequence of clamping down on criticism.
I'm not sure that those in power can't be highly critical when it suits them. Think of some of the hinted threats from DonaldRumsfeld? et al. The phenomenon you're talking about ... being overtly critical is bad publicity, is only true when there's a working democratic process that can throw you out, and a working media which can call attention to your behaviour. This might be a very special and rare case -- PhilJones