Being able to control the flow of information is much more powerful than being able to buy bots. When information was monopolized by a few outlets, those outlets had tremendous power and they did abuse it. Infamously, the New York Times denied the widespread famine in the USSR during the 30s and mass starvation of Ukrainians, now considered an act of genocide by many countries (most estimates ranging from 3-5 million Ukrainians starved). This sort of thing cannot happen in today's connected world. If millions of people are starving, YouTube video after YouTube video of dead people littering the streets would be posted to call out the deniers on their falsehood (provided the victims had internet access). But the 1930s was before the internet, and the world just had to take the word of reporters. The NYT author that denied the starvation won the Pulitzer prize for his false reporting.
> The implicit (and arguable unjustified) trust in the mainstream media has simply been replaced by an implicit (and equally unjustified) trust in alternative media, resulting in greater obfuscation, deeper manipulation and more lies, rather than more truth.
I don't think there's much basis for this claim. I think that the internet makes stupid people that believe in falsehoods much more prominent and and easier to find. Florida's reputation for being a crazy state is analogous to this. Florida police are required by law to publish all arrest reports, which makes crazy stories easy to find and publish. The internet essentially does that for the ignorant and stupid. I'm willing to bet that despite increased anxiety over people being led to falsehood, actual belief in falsehood is either the same or declining.
I think you're also misrepresenting the situation when you say that trust in mainstream media is being replaced by trust in alternative media. Do you earnest think that people trust the average YouTube video more than mainstream media outlets? I think that's an important factor at play here: much of the alternative media is well aware of the fact that can't rely on trust to get people to listen to believe them, and so they have to back up their claims with solid evidence if they want to be trusted. Those YouTube channels I consider reputable are very cautious about only making claims that they can back up with evidence.