I really like these opening paragraphs of a blog post written by Naked Capitalism's Yves Smith:
Long-standing readers have noticed an increase in the amount of trolling in the comments section. It shouldn’t come as a surprise. As traditional broadcast media are becoming less important, both advertisers and PR firms are seeking to influence opinion and popular tastes through social media and blogs. Since I prefer to take a more hands-off approach to the comments section that other bloggers do, it puts me in a bit of a quandary. But the increase in orchestrated efforts to attack certain posts leaves me with no choice but to intervene more heavily.
The post last week from Project S.H.A.M.E. on Megan McArdle [note: large page load but worth it --tm] is an illustration. As readers pointed out, many of the critical comments hewed closely to well honed approaches used by PR firms to discredit critics: “you should be ashamed,” “this is a hit job/I don’t like the tone,” “everyone knows this already,” (ahem, Barry Ritholtz didn’t and he’s pretty media savvy) and “why aren’t you attacking people on the left” when this blog does that with far more regularity than it goes after people on the right.
Now it may sound a paranoid to suggest that some of the critics might have been paid-for operatives and I honestly don’t know and can’t prove it. A few (from what I can tell, three) of the unhappy commentors were established NC readers who are libertarians. Three additional ones were first time commmentors but looked to be motivated by either loyalty to McArdle (readers recognized one) or the libertarian cause, and kept coming back when the regulars had a go with them. But these at least argue like normal people, with egos; they defend their positions when challenged. (I also had a venomous personal attack that got caught on the moderation tripwire accusing me of being in the employ of Soros, which is amusing, since I’d be living much better if I had a rich sponsor, and inaccurate).
I also have to note, that despite all the food fighting in comments on the McArdle post, no one laid a glove on its substance.
The fuss started over Project S.H.A.M.E's documentation of McArdle's extensive ties to the Koch brothers -- revealing her as a propagandist when she is supposed to be an objective journalist (writing for The Atlantic and other established publications). The Kochs heap untold wealth on political causes that are actually disguised attacks on attempts to regulate their polluting and carbon-belching businesses. The supposedly populist Tea Party is one of their creations.