Recent history shows that this is occurring frequently on major social sites, and I see this infiltration happening more and more on smaller sites and communities.
It's an incredibly difficult problem to tackle. How do you create a hammer of justice without it crushing the freedom of discussion itself?
Virtually every societal problem in America can be traced back to our sub-par and falling public education.
It's a hard problem to fix - deep reforms take decades to reflect in society, and the vast majority of voters will always be ones that went through older (broken?) versions of the education system... but fixing it is the only path forward. We can't regulate or police away bad ideas. This is a problem where we need to manage demand - the answer to flat-earth theorists, Nazis, and anti-democratic propaganda is to make sure the general public is equipped to dismiss those concepts.
One would need to have automatic classifiers and lines of discussion that can travel across hyperplanes.
Most societal problems are NP or contain NP sub-problems.
The solution is to do reputation on a pairwise basis. Recursively Expand the network of people you trust.
As a result we get frontiers like the Internet, but those frontiers always close if they turn out to be valuable. You can either except that, you can try and open and exploit new frontiers, try to change the way we operate as a species, or just give up.
Putin is not the only actor here. The Clinton campaign publicly employed crowdturfing, and I would be extremely surprised if conservative forces aren't doing the same. Not to mention corporate policy astroturfing (eg climate change).
America's foundation has been crumbling for decades... and I predict we're going to keep sliding downwards for a couple decades at minimum.
Effective democracy requires an educated electorate that can publicly manage law, economics, and culture. We're failing because the public is literally no longer equipped with the skills to govern themselves anymore. Our public education system is stuck in the 1900's, the world has gotten more complicated while our standards fell to the lowest common denominator - turning K-12 into a degree-mill crossed with a day-care for minors.
It was common to drop out in 8th grade when my grandparents were kids. In their parents time dropping out at 5th grade was common. Do you think farming better prepares you to elect competent candidates than public education?
Average performance on IQ tests has steadily increased since we've measured it.
There is no objective measurement that would lead to the conclusion that we are less educated today.
In some ways, yes. Running a farming business or working in a coal mine or steel mill teaches you a lot about hard work, no-BS, and the farm business teaches you math and economics. I believe that leaves the electorate less susceptible to magical thinking, less lazy, and less inclined to expect the government to fix their lives and less willing to have the government run their lives.
(Most of the modern ag-business giveaways came about after the time period in question.)
>I believe that leaves the electorate less susceptible to magical thinking, less lazy
This part is just romanticizing the past and fetishizing hard labor. You really think our current electorate is more prone to magical thinking than it was 100 years ago? Chain gang convicts from a century ago should be fantastic at picking leaders right?
>and less inclined to expect the government to fix their lives and less willing to have the government run their lives.
And this part is just demonstrably wrong. The New Deal was very popular among farmers and coal miners--they were most definitely calling for the government to fix their lives in a way we haven't seen in decades.
Socrates even complained about writing.
Scientific American published a screed against the negative effects of chess in the 1850s.
The devices and distractions of every new generation are the harbingers of the apocalypse for the previous one.