Naked Capitalism helps our understanding of how well-funded propagandists can commandeer the national conversation via comment trolling
And blogs have eroded the control of the officialdom over discourse, and also provide independent analysis. Matt Stoller, in his days as a Congressional staffer, said blogs helped undermine the monopoly of lobbyists and government officials on information about the financial services industry.
One of the ways the powers that be push back against independent voices is via attacks in the comment section, either to undermine the credibility of the argument made of of the author. Readers have no doubt seen in happen here in post on unions and on libertarians (particularly when the Koch name is mentioned). There are too many comments early in the thread by first time commenters who are unnaturally persistent for this to be organic.
I saw a lot of this during Weinergate. Much of the hostile commentary was no doubt legit. Still, my suspicions were raised by the "concern trolls" who claimed to be distressed long-time readers wanting only the best for me -- despite their demonstrated unfamiliarity with my work. They often presumed me to be a supporter of Barack Obama or a fanatical acolyte of Hillary Clinton or a die-hard fan of Anthony Weiner. They presumed that I had financial ambitions for this blog. A real
long-time reader would have known that none of those notions were true.
When that shit happens, you know that a machine is in operation.
Here's the part that Yves doesn't mention: This machinery is not a new phenomenon. The trolls created the Barack Obama movement in 2008.