I've often wondered how much astroturfing goes on at Slashdot.
Certain news stories come up, and people make the most twisted arguments imaginable to deflect, downplay, or show shades of grey. Sometimes it's from long-term users with varied post histories - are these well-crafted astroturfers, carefully building up a false history to deflect suspicion?
My last remembered example was the one about home solar installations: The panels give unused power to the grid during the day, and the users take power from the grid at night.
The home-solar owner is using the grid as offline storage and not paying for it... and that's not fair.
This is straight from Robert Cialdini's book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion(*). "I'd like to get solar panels for my house, but oh! if I'm being unfair, then the answer's obvious! I can't be unfair now... can I?"
It's a well-crafted argument that halts rational thought by activating an automatic response on the part of the reader... by presenting a point of view that's not particularly obvious, and not something that is actually important to the issue.
(Consider: Do you really care about being unfair to the huge corporate energy conglomerate? And do you think that they would be fair to you in return? And looking forward 50 years, is the world populated by distributed home solar installations *better* than the world relying on monolithic energy production? And if so, won't "being unfair" now help to bring that about?)
This is only one example, I've noticed many sketchy arguments presented here - the Uber controversy seems to be particularly inflated.
We know that big corporate interests will astroturf politicians and regulators by faking letters of support &c (viz: the outpouring of support of the Comcast/TimeWarner merger).
We're a nexus (probably the biggest one) of smart people on the internet. Are there teams of astroturfers trying to shape public opinion?
Has anyone else noticed any particularly suspicious arguments?
(*) Chapter 3, "Commitment and Consistency"