Ben, discussing the political phenomenon known as "astro-turf" (the creation of a false impression of "grassroots support" for an idea or policy via corporate front groups) brushes up against a central concern of my current "summer of the big novels" novel, Gravity's Rainbow. Namely the difficulty of discerning truth from falsehood, causality from coincidence, genuine from simulacra, perception from paranoia in a (post)modern world where we live more and more mediated lives. That is, lives more and more dependant on sources of information our senses cannot directly verify.
Slothrop, the novel's (sort of) protagonist, wanders across a ruined post WWII Germany, looking for traces of a strange mystery involving the V2 rocket. We stumble through the internet, a similarly chaotic space, trying to hunt down truth both personal and political based on facts we can rarely check for ourselves, and sources we will never meet personally.
So what do we do? Damned if I know. Often, like the Shamen and Scientists that pioneered the art of dealing with the world beyond our senses long ago, we find ourselves relying on strange resonances, complicated harmonies of thought and fact. This may trouble us, as we have all too many examples of the manifold dangers of blind faith readily available in the current discourse.
Let me suggest this. What seperates the wise from the foolish here is not some perfect method, some calculus of reason that will derive ahead of time the wheat from the chaff, the real patterns from the Virgin Mary's in the toast, but rather the ability to look at our connections and schemes, evaluate them in the light of changing conditions and evidence and say: "Yeah, about that idea... as it turns out..."