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On Combatting Trolls

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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 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 ones that look sus, and they came early in the thread, were people (and there were a good half dozen) who’ve never commented here before, make PR-type points, and didn’t respond to rebuttals. The reason this is suspicious is I see this sort of thing happening only on certain types of posts, for instance, ones that go after libertarians (particularly the Kochs, although the ones that annoy libertarians on a broader basis tend to have a higher ratio of True Believers to the people running PR tropes) or ones that defend unions. Mind you, that does not mean these comments were paid for; they could be from people who are loyal to certain causes and know PR tricks doing this on their own initiative. But the results are pretty much the same.

I’m not the only one to experience this. Barry wrote me to tell me that the comments on the post he put up pointing to the McArdle post were “insane” and he had had to ban 5 people. When I told him of the sort of comments I was getting, he said:

Commenting is a privilege, not a right

I don’t allow that garbage on my site

Barry did let through what he regarded as “absurd comments” with correction, for instance:

Now the NC commentariat typically does a fine job of putting people like that through a buzz saw, so I hate to spoil their fun. At the same time, I don’t like having them have to waste their energy on this sort of thing too often, particularly since readers get understandably frustrated, and that can lead to an escalation of vitriol as opposed to dialogue.

Interestingly, eXiled apparently no longer gets these troll infestations since they’ve instituted the AEC, which is the Almighty eXiled Censor. Rather than trying to argue reasonably with trolls, it edits their comments (which BTW Ritholtz also does, as he indicates in his comments policy). An example (click to enlarge):

Now I’m not about to do anything like this on a regular basis. My top priority is drafting new posts, so as much as weeding the comments section is important, I don’t want it to divert me from the main order of business. Plus I think readers enjoy honing their argumentation skills in the NC comments section.

But on S.H.A.M.E. posts, and perhaps on a few few others, I might invite the AEC to help, provided they’ll agree and also adhere to some parameters (as in the NC audience has more delicate sensibilities than the eXiled crowd, so dial down the crudeness, and kneecap only first time commentors that act like trolls). If this leads to a marked decline in trollish behavior on other posts, it will prove that trolling didn’t just look orchestrated, it probably was orchestrated.

PS: Don’t try the arguing “censorship” nonsense in comments. I’m far less interventionist than most operators of high traffic blogs. As Ritholtz says:

This may be a free country, but The Big Picture is my personal fiefdom. I rule over all as benevolent dictator. I will ban anyone whom I choose from posting comments — usually, for a damned good reason, but on rare occasions, for the exact same reason God created the platypus: because I feel like it.

I suggest you read his comment policy in its entirety. I regard it as web standard.

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143 comments

  1. Zog

    Can’t wait. The AEC is actually one of the best things about the Exiled. I go there just to see him do his Almighty work!

    1. RanDomino

      They’re way too aggressive in ‘improving’ criticism from people who are sympathetic but critical. Such as the post pasted in this article. It’s a perfectly valid opinion to speculate that a union would sell out its members in a way that lets them say they won. The corporate-style ‘Business Unions’ have been going down this road for ~40 years at least… that’s not saying that unions are bad, just that we need to change something about them; how could anyone think otherwise, given the incredible collapse in union density since the ’70s? Or should we just blindly push on ahead and mock anyone who points this out, in the name of the Popular Front?

  2. Jane Doe

    Well, thanks for this. I often find it very funny that blogs such as Daily Kos pretend they are not being trolled by PR/marketing/lobbying firms. I have a friend who works in traditional media. If they are under assault by the spin machine, its hard for me to imagine that you aren’t. So, your willingness to admit that this is a problem is good. Especially when you consider companies like Google, as I remember, even admit openly to do this in court, don’t they?

    1. banger

      There is trolling and there is control. Daily Kos is largely controlled by PR firms working for the Democratic Party–it’s still has a lot of good posts but discussions cannot color outside the Party lines. This should be fairly obvious.

      1. blurtman

        Daily Kos is the drecks. If you post a response challenging a Democrat, you get attacked as a reactionary Republican. When Patty Murray was running for re-election, I complained about her for voting for the TARP, and for voting against the more stringent audit the Fed bill and hypocritcally claiming she was tough on the Fed. While what I posted was factual, the blasting I received from the party line goons was unbelievable. No attempt to engage in debate, just name calling and false pigeonholing. And I am not a Republican. What a trash blog.

        1. Art Eclectic

          I have to agree. I used to comment there years ago and you simply were not allowed to step outside of the standard party platform. You find this on major partisan sites for both sides. Opposing opinion is no more welcome on Red State than it is on Kos. No dissent will be tolerated. That’s why I stick to centrist blogs and financial news blogs that skirt partisanship and actually focus on policy.

        2. RanDomino

          I stirred shit up there for a while about a year ago blatantly posting as an Anarchist with the thin justification that voting for Democrats, although not sufficient, gives us more time to organize because they are not psycho-fascists who will send us off a cliff immediately. I was never banned, which I attribute to the fact that I never directly suggested not voting or advocated illegal acts (although I did explain/justify/apologize for quite a few).

      2. phil martin

        I was an early user on Kos, and dared to disagree with some orthodoxy from time. Didn’t make me wildly popular, but was never taken to task, much less banned. Stopped visiting the comments on Kos after the 2008 election, and the few time since then that I have scrolled through the comments, found them amazingly bland. I’m not really interested in reading commentary by people I am inclined to agree with.

        What is the proof that PR firms are involved in Daily Kos? Are there similar orgs involved in conservative blogs?

        1. Jane Doe

          One example: When there was speculation with the health care bill that many industry shills were posting on the site (many of whom have since vanished by the way) Kos made a rule that no one could speculate that comments seemed like talking points from industry shills. Its not a smoking gun, but its the kind of thing that raises flags when someone says something along the lines that we know people here may be inclusive of those advocating for this or that pol or this or that lobby, but it doesn’t matter. The people to be questioned are those who raise questions about such shilling. He made have done that for financial reasons to keep traffic, but it certainly left me with the impression he’s also well aware of industry shilling at his site, but doesn’t care.

        2. Nathanael

          Kos is now operating at a higher level of political psychology — the level where he manipulates a loyal cult of sheep-like followers.

          This is arguably not a bad thing if he’s on your side. But it is a bit scary and means a certain level of necessary dishonesty.

          Woodrow Wilson is perhaps the extreme example of doing this.

    2. Cugel

      About time. The entire point of reading this blog is to learn what’s going on at a sophisticated level of reporting regarding economic policy in the U.S. and Europe.

      There’s ZERO point in allowing idiot sock puppets to ruin the comments section, which is usually the best part of the articles, since many commenters provide further useful information.

      Who needs to read through endless drivel? It’s bad enough if written by useful idiots. It’s intolerable if written by some corporate whore.

  3. vernon

    I, for one appreciate your open, nonrestrictive comment policy. I only comment on sites without registration requirements. Best wishes.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I don’t intend to require registration, just make life more miserable for people who look to be abusing that privilege for the benefit of the overwhelming majority of thoughtful commentors.

      1. Expat

        Thank you. Your policy makes your site even more valuable for people like me who value freedom of expression in a highly moral context.

      2. Bill

        Yves, I’m glad you’re attentive to this. I”vew been reading your blog since it began, have no econ/finance education, and have heretofore learned at least as much from commenters as your excellent posts.

        But lately I’ve seen the comments section go from “very dense with knowledge” posts, to many many purely opinionated and political argurments.

        I’m also very aware of how the ZeroHedge comments section (which actually used to be worth reading) go downhill into “everybody has an opinion and they all stink” type area.

        Thanks for the new housecleaning regime.

        1. Art Eclectic

          Oh, geez, yes. I used to be a regular Zero Hedge reader and I’ve not wasted my brain cells there in close to a year now. I read Bruce Krastings blog outside of ZH but otherwise I don’t care to have my time wasted by illiterate trolls who have nothing other than partisan polical sniping to contribute.

          1. dirtbagger

            Amen to that. ZH postings are now so inane and mostly PR drek, one must assume ZH has become a pay to post site. Lots of taxes and governments are evil posting themes, the founder must now be part of the 1% and has gone over to the “Dark Side”.

      3. Patrick

        Yves,
        Like Bill, I’ve also learned a lot from the commenters on this site. Trolls are a nuisance that get in the way of what otherwise is productive discussion…

  4. Brian

    Ritholz’s Big Picture blog is a great resource as is yours, perhaps more collaboration in the future?

    I’m shocked (SHOCKED!!) that speaking truth to power has caused you inconvenience.

  5. pws

    Some other sites have creative approaches to trolls. For example, Slashdot uses a moderation system. However, Astroturfers of whatever sort do what they can to avoid triggering moderation. The best way to figure them out is usually if you get a bunch of posters you never saw before. If they are disrupting or overwhelming the responses, they are probably trolls.

    The important thing to realize about trolls, and the reason why they are worth censoring, is that they lie. It’s the most important fact about the word “troll” which didn’t originate as a reference to Scandinavian mythology, but rather as a way to “fish” for upset responses ( the verb to troll describes a fishing technique of slowly dragging a lure or baited hook from a moving boat ). The troll makes comments to control the responses. This can be anything from thread hijacking to having people leave the blog in disgust.

    The worst part, though, is the lying. The troll knows the truth, but has an agenda. So he’ll lead people into circular, non-falsifiable arguments as a way to dominate threads. We get enough of that from Murdoch.

    1. Kokuanani

      To me the most offensive feature of trolls is the thread hijacking, and that’s why I’m delighted to see them culled/banned.

      A troll will come in to a thread and make an incendiary comment designed to get other readers/commenters to react, and off everyone will go, chasing the troll on his/her merry path into absurdity.

      For some reason those who “reply” to trolls seem to think they can “win them over” with their brilliantly crafted arguments, and are delighted to spend time and space attempting to do so. Of course there is not a chance that this will happen, and the resulting filling of comment space with this ridiculous back-and-forth just discourages the rest of us who are looking for substance but have to wade through crap.

      So ban and cull away, Yves. I, for one, appreciate it.

      1. pws (@pws4)

        A really sophisticated troll will even set up points that he plans to concede later, in order to convince people that they can make progress with him and to keep the thread hijacking going. A lot of the most successful hackers are trolls in the classic sense, they use social engineering to glean useful information from people that they can then use against them. Mitnick used to call businesses under false names to see how long he could string their employees along while pumping them for information.

        Often the troll will have a hidden agenda and won’t have any deep commitment to the fight he has picked. This makes it easy to move goalposts or to switch to an entirely different equally incendiary argument. The forum troll’s goal is to generate responses to his nonsense, and in doing so generate more heat than light in a forum discussion.

  6. Sholto

    I think bloggers should think of themselves a dinner party hosts. Keep the conversation flowing and blow out any guests who misbehave, talk too lewdly or loudly, are rude. We are guests and while we may have strong, usually uninformed, viewpoints, we should behave! Excuse me could you pass me the salt you damn libertarian, coke smoking commie SOB…

  7. jake chase

    Of course, you and Barry can do whatever you want to do and justify it however you can. Believe it or not there are people who are not libertarians, are not being paid by anybody, have no particular program of economic or social nostrums to recommend, and no expectation that our problems are likely to be solved (either by you or those you favor or anyone else), and who simply wish now and then to point out where this or that post has gone overboard in an effort to demonstrate or prove points of doubtful legitimacy, or to raise the prospect of unintended adverse consequences (generally affecting persons entirely blameless and utterly lacking in political clout) attending to what are advertised as cures. Incidentally, your recently enhanced policies of ‘moderation’ are not limited to trolls. Just about everything I send in response to Lambert’s posts is sidelined to moderation until he feels like posting it.

    In general, I think you do an excellent job on this blog and would profit by being less defensive about criticism. Troll comments are transparently idiotic and you might just try responding with a single word, like ‘horseshit’ or some decorous alternative.

    1. YankeeFrank

      jake,

      there is no reason to get hurt feelings about this. you are a regular here and have been for, like, a long time. the problem with trolls is they can leave a less informed reader disgusted and/or extremely confused in very short order, and this can turn away new readers and, as I say, the less informed. You may think such comments are easy to spot and ignore, but that’s because you know what you are talking about. Also, the emotional defensiveness they try to trigger is not always easy for people to ignore.

      There is also another problem with trolls that I don’t think was mentioned. There are those who might wish to comment but feel intimidated or are otherwise dissuaded from doing so if there are blocks of comments that are clearly aggressive and/or pushing a line that may go against their own views. It leave the comments section a more hostile and unfriendly place and can turn away those with interesting and important things to say.

      These are real problems, and I myself saw it on the McArdle post. Now I have my own beef against that lying p.o.s. Megan McShitbird and when I saw all of these comments it made my blood boil — nothing personal, she just really rubs me the wrong way. But it took several hours out of my day to argue against the trollish comments (and the others that were defensive of her and weren’t trolls) and it was exhausting.

      I didn’t have any idea Yves was going to do something like this but I do feel that its appropriate to flag comments from questionable sources that hit all the “right” trollish methods. As Yves points out, comments from regulars, or ones that make actual points, are not of concern here and I’m sure we will get to argue our points as usual.

      One idea, and perhaps the AEC already uses it, but in the bittorrent world there are lists of IP addresses that float around of suspect bittorrent nodes that are likely industry plants to snoop out suspected illegal downloads and make trouble for people who are often completely innocent. Perhaps such a list of IP addresses for obvious and suspected trolls can be used to more readily identify where these posts are coming from. I bet there are a small number that hit a lot of sites, and it might make for easy pickings given the world of paid internet trolldom is probably quite small. I wonder if Yves or the AEC know anything about such a list…?

      -YF

      P.S. I like that the word “trolldom” does not ping the spell-checker in my browser :).

      1. jake chase

        YF,

        Just the other day I spent 15 minutes on a one paragraph comment about the Simon Johnson post which Lambert consigned to moderation oblivion and never restored. This not only pisses me off but discourages me from continued responses, often induces me to dillute criticism. The points you make are good ones but I think the cure of moderation is probably worse than the troll disease. Does it really matter if the commenter believes what he is saying or not? If you hope to educate people on a blog you need to help them distinguish fact and romantic fiction. Diverse view are extremely helpful. Nonstop trashing of Ayn Rand and Fredrich Hayek by people who have not read them may not be. Both were writing about a different world and said a good many true and sensible things about it. Of course Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan were charlatans. It isn’t always easy to tell the difference. But it is probably useful to try.

        1. YankeeFrank

          Jake,

          I have had comments “moderated” before here. From what I’ve seen they are ones that contain certain keywords (profanities, etc.). If Lambert is screening and discarding comments that are disagreeable to him or that have arguments he dislikes that is not appropriate.

          1. Synopticist

            Really?
            I swear all the f*cking time on NC, and i’ve never been moderated. Lambert must know i’m super-handsome. And modest too.

            Anyway, i’m broadly in favour of censoring trollish, thread diverting comments. The thread on Mcardle was actually really good, with a few regulars tearing trolling libertarians new backsides, but theres nothing wrong with a little AEC style bahaviour once in a while.
            Waitng politelly until the idiot shuts up and goes away doesn’t really work on the internet.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          Jack,

          You don’t understand how moderation works and you are therefore taking it way too personally when a comment gets moderated.

          There are ONLY 2 ways this works.

          1. All comments are moderated. Nothing gets through unless it is explicitly approved. NC does NOT do that.

          2. There are moderation tripwires. Certain words, # of links, etc. get you put in moderation. I may also put certain individuals in moderation (as opposed to blacklisting them) either to tell them to shape up or they are newbies who have a sufficiently low ratio so far of inappropriate comments to good ones that I need to see more to see if they just had a bad day or are more trouble than they are worth.

          No one can “decide” to put you in moderation on a single comment. It just does not work that way. Moderation parameters are set BEFORE a comment goes up, you either hit them or not.

      2. Ozinator

        Hey folks,

        My first comment here and unfortunately it’s to tell YF that he stole my idea from Barry’s site (an idea -like YF said- may already be in use by the Exiled). You did flesh it out better than I did but I expect to be paid all the virtual money you make off my brilliant idea!

        An interesting thing Eve pointed out here is the difference between the true believers and the paid shills. The True Believers don’t deserve much slack either because there is no such thing as different truths once definitions are agreed upon. It’s also a lot of fun to watch them keep coming back after they get their posts “improved” by the AEC.

        1. YankeeFrank

          Hey Oz,

          Welcome to NC. I guess the idea you are talking about is the IP filtering. I stole it from bittorrent which uses it heavily so that users can avoid the copyright thugs. But the principle is the same and I wonder if whatever back end Yves uses for comments here allows for filtering out comments from known troll IP addresses.

    2. ambrit

      Dear jake;
      Don’t worry too much about it. You are a recognized commenter here, and moderation sometimes takes on , ahem, how shall we say this, irregular forms. Advocacy is no crime, trolldom is no virtue. Besides, monolithic regimes tend to have short lifespans in our ‘Modern’ world. Diversity is the way to strength.

    3. Jane Doe

      Jake

      What rule is going to be perfect?

      Would you suggest a rule where the site pretends it is not being trolled at all?

      Read the various comments about what has happened at other sites where trolling and shilling has come to dominate the discussion.

      I have been at sites like that. They are crap. The entire point is to lie or manipulate rather than engage in earnest discourse with facts and analysis.

      I just attempted, until I cut it off, a conversation yesterday with someone who claimed that Big Pharma is not reducing its research into new drugs and research itself does not come significantly from universities.

      You may say engage such shilling. I say sites should start requiring that people back up their arguments.

      If you make a comment, you should be able to back it up. When I was in college, that was one of the big things that my professors instilled in me. Its fine to have an opinion like you are in a bar, but what matters for discourse is facts and reason.

      If you are using those, and one of the moderators here doesn’t get that, that’s their problem then, rather than yours.

      But, I do see a need to try to push people towards reason based analysis rather than turning this into a spin zone.

  8. Clive

    My two cent’s worth is that it might be unwise to assume that just because a comment’er doesn’t respond to a follow-on comment rebuking their original point then they’re a PR or some other paid mouthpiece.

    If I make a comment and someone then chimes in to disagree, I tent not to take it personally, keep my ego in check and let them have their right of reply usually without any (what can sometimes seem like) tit-for-tat he-says-she-says comment war.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean tat those posters you refer to Yves *weren’t* hired guns…

    1. chris

      This is my only concern as well. I rarely respond after leaving a comment – mostly because I rarely stay around to see if it generates any responses. Of course, the accusation of “troll” is a long established tradition in the blogosphere used to shut someone down and I imagine it existed well before the professional trolls started doing their damage. I was called a “troll” – more specifically, a “concern troll” or a “purity troll” – for many years over at dkos before I was actually banned (for advocating third party voting). My “trolling” there was nothing but criticism of the Democrats (from the left) and I took the often hurled epithet as desperate emotional rejoinders from a Stepford Dem cult confronted with inconvenient truths about their beloved Democrat leaders and their slavish, lock-step allegiance to them. (note: I’d have been called out for using “Democrat” rather than “Democratic” for obvious reasons, although I think the left should indeed reclaim the latter from the party that is destroying democracy all over the world).

      I don’t suspect I’ve generated any concern here, but just in case some might wonder – I am no troll.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      The reason this is suspicious is these are not only first time commentors, they NEVER come back (even on later posts), they typically come only early in the thread AND they run predictable talking points.

      They fit into an identifiable pattern and I see an outbreak of this sort only on certain political hot topics, never, say, on the outlook for China or whether the OMT is gonna work or not.

  9. bulfinch

    Probably a good idea. Save your juices for sawing the really big bastards off at the pockets and leave the onesy-twosy stuff from the pilot fish to a filter, be it AEC or some other Noise Reduction System. In the meantime, I try to do my small part to keep the park the clean for everyone.

  10. JGordon

    Damn, this is a really sick world where the corporate state apparatchiks have even turned something as entertaining as good old classic internet trolling into the same old bland corporate pablum fed to the public by the rest the rest of the spineless corporate media.

    One thing that makes me really look forward to the collapse of society is that most of these “people” will be among the first to do everyone a favor and get rid of themselves. Anyway, not so long to wait now.

    1. Christophe

      JGordon,
      Amen. Does this virtual nightmare that is relentlessly promoted to us as an improvement on the inconvenience of reality know no bounds? We are already sitting in front of glowing screens reading and posting comments — is that not virtual enough? Must we read virtual commentary to boot. As you point out, they will be the first to go when the spoils of finanace capitalism (which are their primary motivation) disintigrate into their constituent delusions and fantasies. And we breathe a collective sigh of relief.

  11. burnside

    I’ll observe with interest, Yves. Other thoughtful comments sections have descended into triviality on similar grounds, and other techniques failed to halt the descent. So, am delighted to see you take this up.

  12. Hugo Stiglitz

    I am curious if anyone has ever made a serious attempt to quantify how much PR/public opinion influencing/lobbying etc. activity is actually done, including paid trolls and similarly misleading stuff, astroturf groups etc. All these people who apparently have some sort of talent, creativity, etc. engaged in what amounts to a form of swindling. IMHO, in addition to the harmful political consequences, this is yet another mechanism to draw talent that could be otherwise productively active, into parasitic pursuits. Like scientist and engineers developing weapons that have little or no value outside the intended purpose, or physics/mathematics majors working as quants on Wall Street devising ever more clever ways to game the system and pull wealth and income out of the pockets of the few suckers er, I mean, small investors, that continue to play in the rigged game. With all the unmet needs in the US, it seems to be a rather alarming symptom that so many people are getting paid to flimflam others.

    The other question I have, is does trolling actually work? If so, how would we know?

    1. sd

      An argument can be made that the persons who presented themselves as ‘concerned citizens’ during what is now known as the Brooks Brothers Riot that shut down the Gore v Bush recount were trolls.

    2. banger

      I worked for a PR firm famous for astroturfing–my job was strictly technical and the money was good and the techncal issues were challenging and interesting and I was curious about the scene there and learned a lot. Smart twenty-somethings with big student loans and who have an affection for partying spend a lot of time blogging the party-line of clients. There’s an unlimited amount of very clever people who need the money and blogging is a way to shape opinion. I think it goes beyond the usual caricature of abusive bloggers but includes, as another commenter pointed out, circular thinking and various forms of sophistry. These kinds of bloggers should not be banned because you could be shutting out voices that offer outside-the-box thinking. But the usual “you are stupid” kind of remarks should be removed.

      1. phil martin

        Fascinating! How and where do these firms recruit trolls? Is there training? Quality control? Productivity quotas and bonuses? I’m not being snarky, my questions are sincere. I’d like to hear more about this occupation. Reminds me of a series on NC a few weekends ago about a fellow who was a bill collector.

      2. Hugo Stiglitz

        banger, thank you for your insight. It is sad to think that there are, as you say “unlimited amount of very clever people who need the money” that cannot find more useful and productive endeavors. It really boggles my mind that so many people in the US can pursue these lines of work, there is so much money around for this nonsense. All that talent, all that money, essentially thrown down a rat hole in order to maintain the current unsustainable, horrifically destructive, status quo, I suppose so that a relative handful of people can keep their positions in the American aristocracy.
        I’d say the country is ripe for revolution. I would say that, but we are after all talking about the US, a nation of sheep, nincompoops and chiselers for the most part, except of course for the commentors on NC ;) I’ve been reading this blog for years and find it has some of the best, most informative, well argued, diverse set of comments on the net. Love the comments almost as much as Yves extraordinary posts. Thank you all.

    3. ohmyheck

      OY! I thought I saved a link to an awesome article written about trolling and paid trolls. So far, I cannot find it. If/when I do, I’ll will post it. It would fit perfectly with this topic!

    4. Warren Celli

      Hugo Stiglitz said; “With all the unmet needs in the US, it seems to be a rather alarming symptom that so many people are getting paid to flimflam others.”

      We are all getting paid to flim flam others. It is called Forced Complicity Crimeunism. Play the game that is owned, controlled, and orchestrated by the wealthy Xtrevilist self anointed aberrant global elite criminals and keep your mouth shut or you will either lose your crumb supply or take an outcast position. The American Constitutional alliance has now become the Scamerican corporate owned and controlled alliance. “We The Stockholder” has superceded “We The People.” Scamericans are no longer self directed, they are now fear driven actors in debt chains reading scripts written for them by those who have hijacked their government and governments around the world and who promote a cultural meme of ‘Greed and Evil’ are good and wealth adoration is the highest value. Suck corporate butt or die!

      Trolling works as it deflects from the particular substance at hand which itself can many times be a deflection. But the real substance is that the rich have been screwing the masses for generations and each new generation becomes more controlled and abused as evolution unfolds. The beauty of the system from the viewpoint of the aberrant Xtrevilist controllers is that people born into the ever each day more exploitive system accept its abuses as easily as children born into dysfunctional families where they are bullied, struck repeatedly, molested and maimed. Watch the tube, become a boob! Focus on the distraction, never take action!

      Yes Hugo, the pity, the shame, the loss, is in the great potential never realized from the contribution of each human spirit, had they, and could they now, be able to follow their own joy.

      The “serious attempt to quantify how much PR/public opinion influencing/lobbying etc. activity is actually done, including paid trolls and similarly misleading stuff, astroturf groups etc.” is not as important as making a serious attempt to quantify and name the FEW aberrant Xtrevilist controllers.

      The scum on the pond is banker green,
      Thicker now than ever before seen,
      It blocks the light to those below,
      The death of their spirits is controlled and slow…

      Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

      1. JEHR

        Now see, I would have read your full comment but as soon as I came to the Xtr… word, I shut down and turned off.

        1. citalopam

          Yeah, he should just use words in the dictionary instead of making them up. His writing would be so much better.

        2. Warren Celli

          JEHR said; “Now see, I would have read your full comment but as soon as I came to the Xtr… word, I shut down and turned off.”

          Hmmmmmm… shutting down and turning off at the sight of the word Xtrevilism… sounds very serious… you might have Xtrevilismphobia; fear of words that expose pond scum garbage bankers as sociopathic, aberrant, extremely evil self anointed elite over controlling sickos that depend on the Noble Lie and the corporate structure for their deceptions.

          Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

          1. Mark P.

            ‘…you might have Xtrevilismphobia; fear of words that expose pond scum garbage etc….’

            Or you might consider the possibility that — however unlikely it may seem to you — many of us genuinely think it sounds like childish drivel and we read no further?

            Thank you.

    5. ohmyheck

      Hi Hugo, I found the link, but my comment is in moderation. Anyway, the subject has been well-researched, and the link will answer your question, if it should be accepted.

    6. Art Eclectic

      Trolling does indeed work. It wastes the time of intelligent commenters who might be spilling the beans on tactics, flaws in policy, behind the scenes public manipulation. It makes what used to be informative commentary unreadable and dissuades people from discussion.

      PR trolling also tends to focus on the first several comments of a given post. They know people won’t read too much further down a long list of flame commentary, so if you can divert them off before they get that post by someone “in the know” it limits the number of readers who might put two and two together.

      The other thing at play is that every PR and marketing company has read “Influence” by Robert Cialdini and they understand that people are heavily influenced by what is called “social proof.” The more you are exposed to a particular concept as being The Norm – such as XXX is bad, or XXX is good – the more likely you are to adopt that same opinion because you assume that the popular opinion is the right one. People generally tend to follow the herd, and if the herd is shown to believe XXX they will follow. It’s a very easy tactic to recongnize once you are aware of it.

      Expect it to get worse, studies are showing that social connections are the strongest way to change public opinion, which means that Facebook is the number one target for those looking to establish Social Proof that their message is the right one.

  13. NoPast

    You forgot Enviromentalism

    From my experience ,if you want to see hordes and hordes of “new users” trolling your site with o blatantly dishonest comments,fake stats and data,(il)logica fallacies and all kind of rhetorical tricks(like argumentum ad populum.accusation of strawman and adhominem) there is nothing better than a discussion about AGW

  14. OMF

    There are a few approaches you can take to comment management, both positive and negative, and they don’t nessessarily involve censorship.

    For obscene/offensive comments, one of the best strategies is “disemvowling”. It’s a very creative method to take the string out of cruel posts.

    For “headbanger” type comments, you can set the page CSS to hide the comment, or you can shift the comment to the bottom.

    The converse of this is that you can “promote” comments higher in the chain, reducing the tendancy of “first posters”. And “editors choice” comments section if you will.

    There’s definitely blog software out there to suit your needs and tastes, and it would be well worth taking the time to looking into your comment management options. However, always be aware that ultimately, manageing comments is akin to herding cats.

    1. OMF

      Because my spell checker has failed, I will also add that you can demote comments for atrocious spelling as well, if one were so inclined.

  15. rjs

    my comment complaint; i’ve had some rather long, well thought out comments disappear on hitting the submit button; some without links, so it wasnt that…happpens at thoma’s too…as my time is tight, it tends to discourage me; there’ve been times i gave up trying for days…

    1. Bill

      rjs, I’ve taken to writing longer comments in notepad first, then copy/paste here. If it’s lost, I rinse and repeat. You could also keep a folder of all your comments if so inclined.

  16. Chris Rogers

    Yves,

    I’m against censorship and most readers of these boards are more than competent of ‘smelling a industry rat’ by posters who are not whom they profess to be.

    So good luck on them I say – having destroyed much of the tangible print media and terrestrial broadcasts, they seem to think they can influence those who are fully aware of the power of PR spin and propaganda – in this instance it will not work – still they have to earn their dirty 13 pieces of coin and I’m sure no one on these boards wishes them a ‘pink slip’ – a bit of honesty though would be appropriate, but many are too far gone for such considerations to sink in.

  17. Eclair

    I am an assiduous reader of NC, although a very infrequent commenter. This is , perhaps the only blog on which I read all the comments; I often learn as much from commenters as fron the main post, and there are certain regular commenters, who shall be nameless but you know who you are, whose nom de plume sets my little heart to beating faster, as I know I am in for a great read.

    I have noticed the recent increase in PR-type coments, designed to lead the reader astray, but, much to my delight, this minor inconvenience is more than compensated for by the absolute glee with which their specious arguments are pounced upon, tossed into the air, and snapped into oblivion by regular commenters. All acting with perfect civility, their charming smiles being the last to fade away.

    You are doing something right, Yves and crew.

    1. Doug Terpstra

      I agree. Trolls do more good than harm here. They bring out the best in commenters like Yves herself, Hugh, Lambert, Psychohistorian, Rogers, Celli, Walter, jsmith, TaoJonesing and many others. A small echochamber can be far too boring, and strains of discordant ambient noise can bring out the best chords in an choir. I think NC shines in debunking propaganda because it isn’t afraid of it. Censorship can be stultifying if it becomes centralized and heavy-handed.

  18. JTFaraday

    “But on S.H.A.M.E. posts, and perhaps on a few few others, I might invite the AEC (Almighty eXiled Censor) to help” …censor Naked Capitalism comments.

    I don’t know. That kind of implies that the eXiled is itself immune from criticism. That’s not a principle I would endorse.

    1. Warren Celli

      Agree, they too get snookered and also have axes to grind.

      You are what you’ve been through, but now and the future are up to you!

      Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

      1. JTFaraday

        I don’t pay too much attention to them, because they’re increasingly a one-note orchestra I don’t have time for, but someone should find out if they’re being paid by the D-Party to do oppo research on the Koch-heads and Glenn Greenwald.

        The Koch-heads because the O-bots go liberal-tard insane at the mere sound of the word– Vote D and Save Your Soul!!!

        And Glenn Greenwald because the O-bots now have a handy excuse to neutralize one of the only well informed and consistent critics of Obama’s foreign and domestic police state policy, with an even remotely “mainstream” media platform. He’s a civil libertarian and not a liberal, you know. Oh I know, *gasp*!

        Heck, if I had any time for the eXiled’s tabloid schtick before, I have no time for it now.

        1. bhikshuni

          Glenn has refuted these assertions already once in his writing since joining the Guardian; unfortunately I don’t have the time to search for them. He was addressing his long ago CATO work which a commentor construed into a comments-section campaign about Glenn working as a Koch-bros.

          It may be all that superpac $$$ flooding not only NC!

          1. JTFaraday

            Well if anti-Greenwald money is flooding anywhere, it must have originally flooded the eXiled.

            http://exiledonline.com/glenn-greenwald-of-the-libertarian-cato-institute-posts-his-defense-of-joshua-foust-the-exiled-responds-to-greenwald/

            I also read that defense in the Guardian this past summer, which must mean that the eXiled instigated Holy War amongst an all too eager patch of already Koch-ed up O-Bots has dragged on all year.

            I guess find Greenwald’s self defense, that he does NOT advocate economic libertarian positions, reasonable– against the greater wisdom of the All-Knowing Exiled Censor– because it squares with what I’ve seen Greenwald say in the past, as opposed to the “guilt by association” line that everyone else is reduced to promoting.

            I regard a lot media types with skepticism, as they seem to morph their positions as convenient, but at this point this looks like an attempt to shut up an inconvenient critic of the Administration and its foreign and domestic police state policy by utilizing a progressive economic– and economics uber alles– purity test.

            Now, I do understand the attempt to “rally the party” under the progressive economics banner. But it doesn’t look to me that Greenwald wildly fails that test. The test he wildly fails is not being a D-Party and Obama loyalist.

          2. Synopticist

            I guess that commentor was me, Bhikshuni.

            I don’t buy Greenwalds shtick. Mainly, I guess, because the first thing I read about him was the above link to the Exiled’s take down. Who’s this guy who worked for Buchanan, who supported Bush, who’s taken big bucks from Koch, who never writes about income inequality, unions or taxes, and who now devotes his career to persuading leftists that theres no difference between Reps and Dems? Thats my thinking.

            The most striking thing for me about the whole Megan Mcardle thing was a minor detail of the Kochs work, the “Angry Renter” astro-turf. Trying to get lower income, younger renters furious about helping homeowners. Hoping to diffuse the resentment of generation Ys and millenials away from where it belonged in Wall Street and the plutocrats, and onto a group of semi-victims the government was thinking about helping out. It was a fiendishly clever plan.

            It leaked and petered out, but by then it didn’t matter because the whole Tea party thing had kicked off and prevented the government from paying off underwater mortgages, which wasn’t in big moneys interest, obviously. If you recall, that was what whatshis name, Santorellis? big rant that fired off the Tea party was about, paying off “losers” mortgages.

            Those Koch guys, and their friends, are highly sophisticated manipulators, who play a loooong game. So yeah, i’m deeply suspicious of people who owe their original prominence and financial security to them.

        2. Megan von Rothbard

          @JTFaraday — you’re very, very convincing that The eXiled isn’t bothering you a lick, no sirree! Whenever we see your comments we say, “There goes a commenter who isn’t at all bothered by The eXiled!” And it’s a good thing, because imagine if The eXiled did get under your craw, just imagine how many comments you’d have to post then proving to the world you’re not bothered or hurt a single doggone bit.

          1. JTFaraday

            Well, I have occasionally read the eXiled tabloid press, as I indicated in my original comment, but no longer go out of my way to do so because they/you lost a lot of credibility with me.

            But your comment is interesting in itself. A commenter up thread noted that the “Almighty Exiled Censor” has a way of shutting up more nuanced critical perspectives by imputing libertardian motives to every conceivable critic–as you’ve done here with me, by calling yourself “Megan von Rothbard.”

            This may work over at your tard-hole, but it doesn’t necessarily work everywhere:

            “RanDomino says:
            September 23, 2012 at 2:18 pm

            They’re way too aggressive in ‘improving’ criticism from people who are sympathetic but critical. Such as the post pasted in this article. It’s a perfectly valid opinion to speculate that a union would sell out its members in a way that lets them say they won. The corporate-style ‘Business Unions’ have been going down this road for ~40 years at least… that’s not saying that unions are bad, just that we need to change something about them; how could anyone think otherwise, given the incredible collapse in union density since the ’70s? Or should we just blindly push on ahead and mock anyone who points this out, in the name of the Popular Front?”

          2. JTFaraday

            And now I really am done playing internets for the day, so when you come back with some equally tard-ian zinger, you’ll be preaching to the converted.

  19. Jay

    Yves says:

    “The ones that look sus, and they came early in the thread, were people . . . ”

    Early thread posters tend to derail a comment section’s reaction to an article or blog posting, thereby blunting the intent of the article. The presence of several early thread posters indicates not only coordination, but also anticipation of the contents of the article. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if megazillionaires could, and would, hire sophisticated ex-military psych ops hacker types to game the propaganda system. They already fund university grants to control the faculty, legislators to control the laws, the elections of judges to control the adjudication of those laws, and magazines and TV stations to control the coverage–or lack thereof–in order to cover their tracks. They’ve got as much coin to monitor their “enemies lists” as they have paranoia about any refutation of their program in any information stream and they will not tolerate criticism. Will. Not. Tolerate. It.

    1. Bill

      I agree Jay, I think Yves is probably already under surveillence by these types as she has become more popular and thus powerful.

      I have no doubt they can already see what she is typing, as she types it, as they could with any of us.

      Call me crazy…….;)

  20. Scylla

    Yves,

    This will be my first comment. I would just like to say that I greatly enjoy what you do here. I know of no other place where you can conveniently find the information that you and Lambert post. I know that you put alot of effort into this site, and you should know that many of us appreciate what you do. I am a long time reader and you have my trust. Do what you feel you need to do.

  21. Eureka Springs

    Funny thing is the second comment used as an example in the post rings true to me. Unless its context was so far off track in terms of the post/conversation, I really can’t understand taking the time to moderate it in any manner.

    In fact I would hope many Americans, NCers especially, are considering the abject failure of big labor along the lines mentioned.

  22. Ms G

    Previously posted under “Links” (in error) though intended for this thread (evidemment)!

    One of the highlights of NC (and it’s hands off policy to comments) is that Organized Troll Offensives are both visible, obvious and pitiful — and usually given short shrift by NC regulars in more or less effective ways.

    My favorite by far, to date, was Lambert’s in the recent Affaire McArdle:

    “Thank you for sharing your concerns. Your comment is very important to me. Please do not hesitate to comment again.”

    Brilliant.

    That said, I fully understand (and will not be visiting NC any less) if Yves resorts to brining in EXILED’s effective Troll Patrol. These people really do just specialize in sucking oxygen out of honest debate and thought. Enough is enough!

  23. Norman

    Glad you addressed this issue in length Yves, for it sure has brought out the back & forth today, not to say that you haven’t noted in the past, which you have, as regular readers can attest. What a wonderful way to start the Fall season.

  24. Jonathan Dean

    Yves, I was one that commented critically on the S.H.A.M.E. McArdle post.

    During the fund-raising efforts (Nov 2011), you wrote “Over the past few years, and especially over the past week, you have showed me that we are actually a community, a group of people who believe together in justice.”

    In reply to my post, I was called a “wanker”, told to “fuck off” and accused of paedophilia. Responses you seem to condone as “regulars had a go with them”.

    How do you view the health of the NC community at this point?

    1. Paul Tioxon

      Mr. Dean,
      It is only fair that you do battle with Golden Horde of Naked Capitalism as an armed man. Here, brush up on your gerunds and gerundives. You’ll need them.

      http://www.class.uidaho.edu/luschnig/Latin%20Grammar/10.htm

      While you are studying, here is a great song by Bob Dylan:

      Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues [Live at the Philarmonic Hall]

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vrGOvgYdtg

      I hope this makes you feel more welcome and humanely treated.

      Sincerely,
      Paul Tioxon

      1. Jonathan Dean

        Ha! Fair point, Paul. I apologise for my previous snarky comment to you and consider this my comeuppance (sp?). Maybe we can declare an honourable grammatical draw and move forward as friends?

    2. Ben Johannson

      Look, if you’re wanking, fucking off and being a pedophile then I don’t see how you can blame anyone else. Take some responsibility.

    3. ohmyheck

      What I found was that every single one of the McArdle defenders never once came up with any objective facts proving that McArdle is NOT a Koch-funded pundit. Why was there not one comment, with supporting evidence, that McArdle has ever put forth her opinion on policy or issues that was balanced, or even liberal?

      Because there isn’t any?

      That said, I was disappointed to read the comments deteriorate as the day went on. Fortunately, that is a rare occurence here.

      I have found that once the comments deteriorate to name-calling, etc., you lose. Period. I believe this is just one tactic that trolls use to win an argument. And now, quelle suprise!, we have Jonathan back here pointing this out, don’t we?

      1. Jonathan Dean

        ohmyheck…I think you make very sensible points here, although I would appreciate any guidance on how I can remove my assigned “troll” status…It really shouldn’t be a label for a regular reader who only posts occasionally and sometimes in disagreement with the OP.

    4. TK21

      There is no place for personal comments like that, and I hope people will refrain from using such. Maybe the volume of critical comments got people’s hackles up and led to some overheated statements.

    5. YankeeFrank

      Your first comment was to whine about the McArdle piece and tell us all your monthly donation would no longer be made to NC. So apparently you feel it is necessary to push your (admittedly small) weight around to censor pieces Yves feels strong enough about to publish. NC is Yves. Its her spot, and I, for one, implicitly trust her to make good judgments.

      I myself have complained about a piece or two in the past, don’t get me wrong. But its my right not to read pieces I don’t like, and I certainly wouldn’t cut off my donations (admittedly small) because of one, or even a whole bevy of pieces, that I don’t like, since I feel that Yves is a wonderful writer and is extremely insightful, and her work is very important as a bulwark against the mass of lies that get spewed every day in the media.

      I don’t often get aggressive in comments, but that piece hit me strongly because I really dislike people like Megan McArdle. And then we had one commenter after another taking a lofty tone, looking down their noses as if the fault lies with SHAME or NC for printing such downright irresponsible FACTS.

      We clearly disagree on “libertarians” in general, and McArdle specifically. I do hope you didn’t take too much offense. I am not one who thinks there are magic words that are more offensive than others. Profanity has a strong and beloved place in my life, and I find ignorant and repulsive ideas way more insulting than profanity, which is why I don’t hesitate to use it when I encounter such ideas.

      If you like NC enough to give a monthly donation then I don’t think its appropriate for you to cut if off over one piece you didn’t like. Especially one that is really just a collection of facts about a fake journalist. Facts don’t lie. If there are countervailing facts that need to be aired there is ample space in comments to do so. Despite scouring the thread I did not see one contradictory fact mentioned by any and all negative commenters, including yours. I saw arguments that rested on pure emotion, and ad hominem attack, but no actual facts. If you are going to comment, especially in a negative way, about a piece, you better have your facts ready.

      -YF

      1. Jonathan Dean

        Yankee Frank…I think this is all pretty fair and makes sense. The small points I would differ on don’t seem significant enough to make this thread even longer (another time, maybe). Peace.

    6. Yves Smith Post author

      Jonathan,

      You write as if you were the only one who objected, and as if you were the type of commentor I’m concerned about. Neither is accurate.

      With all due respect, you don’t appear to have read the post carefully. There were about a dozen people who objected. 6 were newbie one time commentors, most early in the thread. There were IIRC 3 who were established commentors who were unhappy, and three who were newbies but acted like real people. So you and they would not have been up for having your comments edited or removed.

      1. Jonathan Dean

        Yves…I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to respond. I have great respect for your intelligence and commitment, as well as love for this site and what it represents.

        My suggested discussion area is not who’s right/wrong on “trolls” and their perceived conspiracy tactics. Instead, maybe you can put your management consultant hat back on and help define what our community’s goals are and how, specifically, do we plan to accomplish them?

        Love will win the fight picked against injustice, not hatred, and the mechanics of that victory will (I feel) need to include expanding this community and deepening relationships, especially with regular, but typically passive, readers

        (p.s. IMO, the best “troll patrol” solution would be starting Disqus)

  25. kevinearick

    It’s a market. the troll wants you to cut off the leading edge by giving you a target in the trailing edge. not a big fan of the example proferred, but you’ll have that. addressing the problem in intervals works best. (Feedback)

    Platforms exist on other platforms…

  26. Herman Sniffles

    “Trolling” is dragging a baited hook or lure through the water. “Trawling” is dragging a net through the water. I suggest this new NC policy be designated “Trawling for Trollers.”

    1. infrequest commenter faithful reader

      Terminology clarification.

      Trolling is a method of fishing which by design targets certain types of deireable fish. It does this by both the bait selection and the bait presentation methods used.

      Trawling is an indescriminate method of harvesting everything larger than the mesh of the net used. Whilebopth methods may be used to harvest more than a sustainable catch, because of this, trawing is typically mush more destructive to both the prey and the habitat than trolling.

      Integrated Pest Managment (IPM) offers a better framework for analysis than does than trawling. After all, what is intended to be targeted by troll control methods is the cockroach,or the malarial mosquito, and not the salmon.

  27. Jonathan Deane

    Now, I’m a staunch rock-ribbed liberal, and I know perfectly well that the Koch boys would be in jail now for stealing oil from Indians except that Bob Dole got on the horn with Clinton and tugged his heartstrings, and his pursestrings, but these vituperative attacks on Ms. McArdle are not up to the standards of your usual work and I am disappointed and sorrowful in the extreme about your failings. Your scurrilous claims made Mrs. Koch’s face crumple up in tears, which takes some doing, I can tell you, since she has the collagen from three-four corpses stuffed in there, so the old thief can do his flaccid best with his prostate all nuked to hell like it is. Have you no decency?

  28. jsmith

    Regarding trolls:

    Wanna understand just how dedicated to shaping our reality TPTB are?

    Why, let’s revisit the past shall we?

    Hmmm, isn’t it weird that NO ONE knows off the top of their head that Jim Morrsion’s – yes, THAT Jim Morrison – father was the commander of U.S. Naval forces during the Gulf of Tonkin incident that basically started the Vietnam War and that he actually commanded THE ship involved in said incident?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Stephen_Morrison

    “In 1963, Morrison took command of the Essex-class aircraft carrier Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31), flagship of a 3rd Fleet Carrier Division in the Pacific,and based at Naval Air Station, Alameda, California. Morrison was in command of the Carrier Division during the controversial Gulf of Tonkin Incident in 1964, which resulted in a dramatic escalation of the Vietnam War.”

    Just a coincidence, right?

    How about the fact that Frank Zappa’s father was a chemical weapons engineer for the U.S government?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Zappa

    “The family moved often because his father, a chemist and mathematician, worked in the defense industry. After a time in Florida in the 1940s, the family returned to Maryland, where Zappa’s father worked at the Edgewood Arsenal chemical warfare facility of the Aberdeen Proving Ground.”

    That in fact many, many of the American “counter-culture” stars had really interesting ties to the MIC and American political elite?

    Why is this important?

    Because to remind everyone that given enough time, TPTB will seek to co-opt every cultural medium and make it dance to their tune or at least mollify any dissent.

    TPTB may have been behind the curve as concerns the Internet and blogging but you needn’t worry that they’ve already developed very sophisticated ways to temper public opinion.

    I leave you with this quote from Kos of Daily Kos fame a the Commonwealth Club in June of 2006:

    MARKOS’ ANSWER: You know . . . coughs . . . I think a lot of the people that didhave problems with the CIA, I mean it was a very vocal minority. I think most people really didn’t think about it all that much. Right? It wasn’t really on their radar screens, ah, in the way that now it is, because now we are in this huge war, and it was the CIA that was warning the Administration against invading because, there were no weapons of mass destruction.

    Here’s a little secret I don’t think I’ve ever written about: But in 2001, I was unemployed, underemployed, unemployed. You know I was in that . . You all have been there “dot com” people? Kinda like, in between jobs, doin’ a little contract work and . . . kinda. So, you know. That’s where I was: in this really horrible netherworld of ‘will I make rent next month’ and . . .

    So, I applied to the CIA and I went all the way to the end, I mean it was to the point where I was going to sign papers to become Clandestine Services. And it was at that point that the Howard Dean campaign took off and I had to make a decision whether I was gonna kinda join the Howard Dean campaign, that whole process, or was I was going to become a spy. (Laughter in the audience.) It was going to be a tough decision at first, but then the CIA insisted that if, if I joined that, they’d want me to do the first duty assignment in Washington, DC, and I hate Washington, DC. Six years in Washington, DC [inaudible] that makes the decision a lot easier.

    [ . . .] This is a very liberal institution. And in a lot of ways, it really does attract people who want to make a better, you know, want to make the world a better place . . . Of course, they’ve got their Dirty Ops and this and that, right but as an institution itself the CIA is really interested in stable world. That’s what they’re interested in. And stable worlds aren’t created by destabilizing regimes and creating wars. Their done so by other means. Assassination labor leaders . . . I’m kidding!

    [ . . . ] I don’t think it’s a very partisan thing to want a stable world. And even if you’re protecting American interests, I mean that can get ugly at times, but generally speaking I think their hearts in the right place. As an organization their heart is in the right place. I’ve never had any problem with the CIA. I’d have no problem working for them . .

      1. RanDomino

        The fact that it’s so popular shows that the problem goes deeper into society. Surely you’re not suggesting that Democratic Party apparatchiks with exactly that attitude don’t exist. Maybe they’re given a little nudge by the CIA, but such a thing would exist without their help.

        1. jsmith

          Certainly not and a nudge is often all that is needed – a vehicle by which feelings and sentiment can be better steered an harnessed.

          You see, once the vehicle is created and the unwittingly dupes – e.g., Kossacks – jump on board THEN the real value of said vehicle – be it CIA inspired or not – comes into play.

          Now you have a – captive? – audience by which the dissemination of other – shall we say, talking points? – becomes that much easier to accomplish.

          No need to really control anything overtly, it just has to exist for when it is really needed like – hmm, let’s say – ginning up support for unpopular wars and fascist economic policies.

          People have to think of these outlets of propaganda as “sleeper” cells if you will: they carry on doing routine “business” for most of their existence but when the time comes they are tapped to assist in the “effort”, nudge wink.

          The recent revelations about the CIA being heavily involved in the New York School of painters and the Paris Review are similar phenomenon. Not every one needs be in on it but just think of the propagandistic/espionage possibilities with those “vehicles”, right?

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abstract_expressionism

          Since the mid 1970s it has been argued by revisionist historians that the style attracted the attention, in the early 1950s, of the CIA, who saw it as representative of the USA as a haven of free thought and free markets, as well as a challenge to both the socialist realist styles prevalent in communist nations and the dominance of the European art markets.[30] The book by Frances Stonor Saunders,[31] The Cultural Cold War—The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters,[32] published in the UK as Who Paid the Piper?: CIA and the Cultural Cold War, details how the CIA financed and organized the promotion of American abstract expressionists as part of cultural imperialism via the Congress for Cultural Freedom from 1950 to 1967.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Paris_Review

          In 2007, an article published by The New York Times supported the claim that founding editor Matthiessen was in the CIA but stated that the magazine was used as a cover, rather than a collaborator, for his spying activities.[4] In a May 27, 2008 interview with Charlie Rose, Matthiessen stated that he “invented The Paris Review as cover” for his CIA activities.[5]

          1. SR6719

            jsmith,

            The French Marxist theorist Guy Debord appears to have caught on to this CIA backing of the arts and literature as early as the 1950s. No one was more paranoiac than Debord, and yet it turns out that he was absolutely right. Against the art of the spectacle, Debord’s Situationists responded: “Get out, art critics, partial imbeciles, critics of bit parts, you have nothing more to say.”

            And they violently expelled from their midst any artist tempted to participate in the bourgeois comedy of creation.

            By this account, Debord and his followers would have to fire *everybody* in the present art world, whatever their professed ideology.

          2. jsmith

            Yes, Debord caught onto it and I guarantee it goes on to this day in America.

            I’m sure that the participants if called on it would rattle off any number of rationalizations – e.g., art has always had ‘patrons’, art has always been a political arm of the state, etc – but as an American when you really just stop and think about it – I mean really just stop and think on it all – it’s really quite sad/enraging.

            Just as the Soviet dissident was still condemned to wear “Commie” clothes no matter how much he despised the state, the average American is nearly helpless in regards to the full-bore propaganda being shoveled into their minds in all flavors under the sun: low brow, high brow and everything in between.

            From the WWE to the NYT, they’ve got you covered.

            Nice.

          3. Warren Celli

            jsmith; good post!

            Abstract art — a pet peeve of mine…

            Abstract expressionism is most notable for its chickensh!t apolitical say nothing stance — for what it ignores — for its lies of omission about the social struggles of the times. It blossomed in Scamerica in the McCarthy era and was a hijacking of and intentional destruction of the art of social realism. It is reminiscent of, and some what similar to, Monsanto buying up and destroying natural seed banks and replacing them with dangerous and artificial products that lack real nourishment. It is a narcissistic navel gazing say nothing gullible persons or coward’s art, celebrated, promoted, and purchased by the Xtrevilist elite, with high counterfeit prices that made this phony baloney art its own fiat currency. It is sometimes referred to — by those who see clearly through the deceptive dynamic — as ‘wallpaper for the Nazis’. That it is accepted and revered to the degree that it is today is not a tribute to the power and substance of the art itself, but rather it is a tribute to the power of Xtrevilist propaganda and its ability to turn otherwise rationale people into gullible, babbling, parroting idiots of adoration of skewed values and scams.

            Its greatest damage was to dumb down the skill levels and aspirations of generations of artists and divert their attention from the rape and pillage of the aberrant Xtrevilist controllers that spoon fed and sold them the whole deceptive shebang in the first place! So many millions of artistic spirits; deflected, diminished, and dampened, that might have otherwise enlightened and empowered the human spirit with a more meaningful realist art and changed the course of history. And yes, it goes on to this day in Scamerica,

            You are what you have been through, but now and the future are up to you.

            Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

    1. different clue

      Did the so-called “Tonkin Gulf Incident” ever even really happen? Or was it basically lied-about-into-existence after the fact by President Johnson as a lifesize replica of a reason to have a war? And if so, what difference does it make what Jim Morrison’s father commanded or didn’t command?

  29. Beppo

    Do what you have to do. I really enjoy this site, and most posts have at least one or two illuminating/really chuckley comments. It would be a shame if the comments section was always mucked up with brain dead pr trolls.

  30. bhikshuni

    “readers get understandably frustrated, and that can lead to an escalation of vitriol as opposed to dialogue.”

    Thanks for your attention to this, Ms. Yves!

    It also appears that too many readers, trolling or otherwise, when frustrated bring a lot of misogynist metaphor and profanity into their posts.

    Aside from the high standard of financial & economics literacy and intelligence many commentors bring to NC comments, it is the standard of etiquette and banter without vulgarity that I appreciate the most about the NC comment section.

  31. John Yard

    I think it is reasonable to moderate comments. Ppart of the reason to read a blog is the comments , which can be quite interesting, but it does not mean you have to surrender to
    crazies or the uniformed ( that’s never me!).

    Keep up the good work.

  32. david j michel jr

    I read econo Monitor and its easy to see the political bias among contributors,I want information not a campaign commercial.when I read brad delong its easy to see he only supports obama . I get angry and say insensitive things like ,brads lipps are velcrowed to obamas butt. sorry he pushes my buttons.

    1. Synopticist

      Economic reality has a Keynesian bias during a depression. Delong and krugman are both arguing against a worldview held by Freshwater, supply side types which helps prop up the delusional, rightwing, pro-rich, pro-austerity policies of Obama’s opponents on the right.
      He may be highly partisan, but his opinions are based on whats actually happenning, rather than on what Milton Freidman’s books say should happen.

      1. fgbouman

        Depressions do have a Keynesian bias, I’ll agree, however even he would be flummoxed by the situation we’ve gotten ourselves into. Even if Congress gets its act together and we get a long overdue proper stimulus, there are so many negatives working against us and against the world as a whole that the prospects for the future are gloomy at best. If we are faced with several more years of Republican ideological blindness, then the future is black. Our choices now are for bad or for worse.

        1. Synopticist

          Thats true enough. The whole planet is in such a state it’s hard to see us getting back to what we’d fondly thought of as economic normality.
          But one things for sure. here in the UK we’ve had no economic growth at all since 2010, and over there you’ve at least had some. And it ain’t like our defecits have shrunk. They’re worse than they were. We’ve been following supply side, austerity policies, cutting taxes for the rich, and you mostly haven’t been.

          Who knows, the entire thing may go down the plughole in 2013. I can’t see us getting out of trouble without widespread debt writeoffs, and that means not paying bank bondholders. however, every step taken by the key decision makers since the crisis kicked off has been about avoiding that very thing. So i’m not overly optimistic.

      2. david j michel jr

        dude ,dont you see ronmey,obama both are tied to big business pro left wing,pro right wing its all the same.romney does not hide it,hes a business man.but obama was going to be different,then he foamed the runway with middle class homeowners so the banksters could have a easy landing.remember hope &change? now all I have is change in my pocket.

        1. Mike S.

          If Obama and Romeny are more or less the same, why does – in your opinion – DeLong bother to support only Obama?

  33. indio007

    There are more far more than 3 libertarians. Libertarian is not even harsh enough to describe my “politics”. This site shoots straight regardless of ideology . Only the crony capitalist/monopolists/kleptocrats complain about bias. Those aren’t real libertarians sticking up for this McArdle.

  34. fgbouman

    I subscribe to a fair number of newsletters and find this to be one of the most valuable. I’m an old-style leftie and I generally find it hard to find a lot of bias in the selection of articles or craziness in the commentariat. This is one of the few places around where at least quasi-rational thought is still the order of the day. If moderating is necessary to keep it that way, then I’m all for it.

  35. Fíréan

    Controlled dissidence. Society’s little overflow pipes to allow the steam to be vented off. “It/they” seem to agree with you so you keep coming back for more.

    The biggest illusion is believing that one is aware of the illusion or immune from being deluded.

    Both the military and intelligence agencies have long ago made public statements to the effect that in this modern world the most important war to win is not fought on the battle fields yet in the minds of men, the war of information. One would very be naive to not believe that there are experts in the field and they are now very active within all forms of modern media of communucation. The seemingly amateur maybe there to distract attention from the pros.

  36. Marley

    Got throw my support your way. Read your article and found it informative. Life long Liberal, though it isn’t popular now, and will never change. Takes a strong fish to swim upstream. Dead fish go with the flow.

  37. readerOfTeaLeaves

    The blog is a wonderful resource and I’ve learned a ton from posts and commenters. I think Ritholtz’s Playtpus Dictum makes a ton of sense and can be applied well in this case.

  38. JCC

    Yves,

    I must say you’ve done great so far. I have also noticed a lot of the obvious trolling lately mainy because this is one of the few sites I read regularly where I also read most of the comments, too. The discussions on the articles usually add to the original.

    Please continue to do what you think best. It’s your site and you can always change your mind and do something else if you so choose.

  39. The Gizmo51

    I am more concerned how the republinos spin the fact that President Obama had a 60 seat majority in the senate and a house majority for his first two years and still couldn’t get everything done that he wanted. How many elected officials only get to govern for half their term yet are expected to be effective for the whole term? In reality President Obama, after winning his reelection, should be allowed to serve for six more years so he could have his full two terms without republino interference.

  40. spooz

    Hmm, moderation, don’t know if original comment will survive, but wanted to say that the link is to Charles Hugh Smith’s “of two minds” blog, not automatic earth (one of your links from today, I used to read that blog, haven’t in awhile):

    Where CHS sounds too Marxist for some libertarians on a blog that will go unnamed.

    http://oftwominds.com/blog.html

  41. Palmer Eldritch

    Hi Yves,

    I had forgotten about Naked Capitalism for awhile, and I guess I assumed it must have suffered the same sad fate as any other political news digest that I used to read: slow roasted to death over coals of warm conviviality.

    I apologize for assuming that you, too, must have been overwhelmed by stupid motherfuckers congratulating and fluffing one another in 400-post comment cascades on every published item, to the point that no person with a modicum of self-awareness could possible read or participate in comments.

    Luckily I still read Exiled every day without fail. That and alicublog.

    When you began collaborating with Exilked and got on their sidebar, I remembered to check back in. From what I’ve seen, the quality and focus of NC hasn’t fallen off appreciably at all from when you first got my attention.

    It took the McArdle PR Bureau Waterloo event to get me anywhere near a blog comment in this day and age, but this and the related posts lead me to believe you might have performed a miracle.

    Can it be? It seems like maybe there may yet be a vein of cleverness and literacy running through a comments section at a website other than the Exiled?

    (Also, although I still read alicublog and follow Roy’s work, it should be said that his comments section was ground zero for the dullards’ mutual-affection activities that infects all things related to “progressive discourse”. Come on, you know it’s true.)

  42. ebear

    Don’t rule out mental illness as a motivation. There’s a lot of it these days and the internet isn’t helping, in fact you could argue that it’s a major enabler – one of the hidden consequences of the medium.

  43. KenM

    One of the more interesting astroturfing/lobbying campaigns recently was for the MEK, the cult anti-Iranian terrorist group, which has succeeded in getting them delisted in the UK, EU, & now the US.

    I get UPI news digest (“over 100 years of Journalistic Excellence”) delivered to my email inbox as a way to keep up with MSM news.

    Probably a little over 2 years ago headlined ‘articles’ started appearing, written about the terrible plight of these brave freedom-fighters, and how the UN & the US government were failing in their responsibilities to protect & provide services for these ‘brave, idealistic, individuals’…

    I immediately wrote to the editors & commentated on the article pointing out that: a) they are a listed terrorist that had killed US citizens, among many others; b) they were actually a cult of seriously deranged, dangerous fruitcakes; c) that their is plently of information available about their past exploits, lunatic ideology & listing as a terrorist group, & providing links.

    No response from the editors, & a whole array of commentators immediately started writing in their support of both the article & each others comments.

    More articles followed, & soon they were popping up everywhere that had a featured editorial/analysis section, especially at the Guardian & UPI.
    The articles themselves were bizarre, often referring in great detail to some event in Iraq/Iran which nobody had ever heard of, to show how oppressed or how good this ‘idealistic’ group was – and the reason no-one had heard of these events, was because: a) they never happened; b) happened, but had nothing to do with the MEK; or c) was some minor event in which the MEK was involved, but was twisted almost completely out of recognition.
    The writers too seemed to be coming from all over the place – hard-right military analysts/lobbyists, faux-leftist’, semi-official types involved with UN NGO advocacy, etc…

    And in every single article, legions of commentators would pop up in support of the article, often bringing up their own bizarre claims to support the article, each cheerleading the other. The people like myself that would comment pointing out how nuts this all was & that the MEK is a terrorist cult would just get buried under the deluge.

    By last year, every single UPI digest had a featured ‘Outside Commentary’ on them, & articles in support of them seemed to be everywhere.
    Anytime someone would about them in a blog, etc. soon the MEK ‘commentator’ cheerleaders would pop-up with a bunch of bizarre, complicated claims in support of them.
    Eventually I just gave up commentating myself.

    This is probably the best article I’ve come across that goes into it, & explains a lot of what happened:
    http://landdestroyer.blogspot.com.au/2012/09/us-to-delist-arm-american-killing.html

    But these campaigns obviously work, no matter how ridiculous, or even completely insane their premise is, if there is enough money & connections behind them – just bury the reader in complex bullsh*it…

  44. SH

    Hi Yves:

    I’m one of the libertarian minded people your site draws. I also troll around for fun sometimes, but I troll because I’m bored and it’s Friday night!! I don’t think I have missed a post since about 2009 so keep up the good work. That puts me at about 3000 consecutive posts. The secret to that is, that after that many posts, it just gets boring to comment. I’m just plain tired of arguing against the “we’re not going to go broke” argument and trying to defend how I don’t care about “we”, but if I make it I’m fine argument, F. Beard and all. Instead I have a different take on differing viewpoints, and your site provided that.

    I would suggest that you stick to your knitting and just wear out the trolls. It takes a lot of time to be a “reader”.

    Scott

  45. websites

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  46. Claire

    But you’re changing, acoolsha, you’re changing
    from me, I can feel. Or is it me is? I’m getting mixed.

    I could have stayed up there for always only.
    It’s something fails us. First we feel. Then we fall. And let her rain
    now if she likes. Gently or strongly as she likes. Anyway let her
    rain for my time is come. I done me best when I was let. Think-
    ing always if I go all goes. A hundred cares, a tithe of troubles and
    is there one who understands me?

    (The Joyce quote above is a test to see if WP is still eating comments)

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