Plenty of people have tried to start nonpartisan political discussion sites over the years, but most have dried up and blown away for reasons covered on e.politics before. But this election cycle has seen something new — now that many news organization websites have blogs that allow comments, they’re becoming a true public forum for the exchange of ideas and (often) insults.
The Ron Paul army was particularly active on The Caucus and The Trail before the wind finally went out of their sails, for instance, and these sites have also seen heated discussion among supporters and opponents of Obama, Clinton and McCain. At the Politics Online Conference last week, Patrick Hynes also mentioned some of their less positive uses, for instance as a medium for the distribution of rumors and innuendo. And, tons of folks are also taking advantage of news story discussion boards for blatant self-promotion, dropping links to their own articles into their comments. Yet another example of the internet as a disintermediator: political activists use the comments sections as a way to reach the news organizations’ readers directly, generally bypassing the editorial approval process as long as they don’t use dirty words or otherwise get rude.