I've taken to almost completely ignoring comments left on newspaper articles, youtube videos, etc. They're beyond useless. The concept is great: open up the articles for immediate and unlimited commentary. Unlike the traditional letters to the editor (which still exist of course), these comments can appear seconds after the article has been posted (and by seconds, I mean, quite literally, that many comments appear to be made without any sort of knowledge of the originating article), and you don't have to worry about column space. Additionally, in keeping with the fine internet age, we can all comment without attaching any of our real names (yes, I know, my entire blog is based on that premise...but at least I put some thought into my posts).
Essentially, these comment spaces have become nothing more than arenas for confrontation between two blandly predictable opposing camps. Very little thought is required to anticipate the content of the comments section -- far from liberating, they are in fact constricting. No one takes any sort of time to read an argument, so very few people take time to write one. Instead it's invective, sound bites garnered from talk radio, and rehashed political party talking points. Additionally, for all the complaining the right wing does about the Washington Post, and the threats that "they'll never read that rag again" or "no one reads the Post anymore" or some such bullshit, the right wing loons are clearly reading the Post.
It's my belief that right wing loons (for instance, the Freepers -- and I follow long-standing policy of not providing links to racist or fascist organizations) actually see it as their mission to patrol message boards of prominent media outlets and swamp the comment pages with their own irrational arguments and position statements. It could very well be that the left does the same, but I haven't seen it (unless the conversation has been pushed so far right that you have to define "left" with the idea that the government has the right to exist).
However, the Post isn't the best place to see this insanity at work, because it's too mainstream (not used in the bogeyman sense that critics on right and left seem to deploy it, but rather in the "general audience" sense). The best place to look for this phenomenon is on the comment pages of specialty media outlets, like The Chronicle of Higher Education. The Chronicle (which can be nefariously abbreviated to "CHE," showing off, I'm sure, its true socialist leanings) is a leader in its field, but its field is very small. You don't see back issues sitting around the dentist's office, like you might see Car and Driver or Sports Illustrated or Ladies Home Journal. The Chronicle is aimed at highly educated people (and administrators) who work at or with institutions of higher education, and its content therefore concerns such earthshaking issues as graduation rates at community colleges, bad writing and bad thinking, and a police raid on a student newspaper. Now these are important issues and they do touch at times on larger cultural hot buttons, but so also does the latest research in physics deal with important issues that have ramifications for our larger culture -- yet the pages of the Journal of Applied Physics do not overflow with fools arguing that Obama/Hitler/Stalin has threatened to eat all the children of white gun-toting patriots (OK, first I exaggerate, and second, the Journal of Applied Physics, like most scholarly journals, doesn't have a comments section).
Getting back to my point, I'm convinced that Freepers or some organization much like the Freepers trolls the CHE boards spouting off nonsense. I'm not suggesting that there's a policy decision anywhere saying, "let's assign five people to watch over Board X"; I simply think that a few members probably see it as their mission in life to bring their level of ignorance to the higher education community.
As an example, I cite "adamreed," on a comment left on Mark Bauerlein's "Brainstorm" column (for those who don't know Mark Bauerlein, he's a right-leaning professor at Emory with whom I don't agree much if at all, but who at least employs rational argumentation):