Glenn Reynolds has some good commentary on the role of blogs as a sort of modern form of tar-and-feather resistance against government arrogance. First, the historical backdrop:
The thinking was that government officials couldn’t always be checked via law, because they controlled the law and its administration — thus the need for citizens to (in the words of the Tennessee Supreme Court) “keep in awe those who are in power.” The out-of-doors activity wasn’t necessarily violent: generally, property was targeted first (think Boston Tea Party), and efforts against officials were generally designed to be embarrassing or humiliating rather than seriously dangerous.
Then, the modern equivalent:
The Internet takes on part of this role, with humorous photoshops and YouTube parodies — along with the ability to simply repeatedly criticize government officials by name (think Mike Nifong) undercutting the usual bureaucratic diffusion of responsibility — taking the place of some of the older techniques. The response to that, of course, might be efforts to shut down Internet criticism. But that might simply encourage a return to older techniques. . . .