Hontz's reference to social networks as "the real town halls" leads to me to believe the root of this general silliness in the media lies in a popular, and fundamental, misunderstanding of the nature of democratic politics. Much animosity and general frustration generated by the healthcare debate would be ameliorated if we just dispensed with the myth that American democracy is somehow deliberative. Over 50 years ago, Joseph Schumpeter conceived of democracy as a marketplace in which political entrepreneurs compete for customers in the form of voters in elections. Democracy is not a process by which reasonable people come together to discuss differences and arrive at a common good, which becomes policy. Politicians make policy, or don't, because of their calculations about what will win them elections, not by getting together in the Senate chamber and changing each others' minds about what serves the best interests of society.
Viewed in this sense, the healthcare debate looks less passionate and more rational. The idea that town halls are deliberative is silly. Elected representatives in opposition are in the privileged position of not having to make policy. Instead the opposition just does what it does best- oppose. Not with specific alternatives or reasoned debate, but with misinformation, name calling, and general populist rhetoric. Of course they have no incentive to reign in this type of rhetoric at town halls, because town halls are primarily a mechanism for the transmission of voters' intentions, not for deliberation.
Analogously, there are two mechanisms by which online social networks might affect policy. The first is that they facilitate deliberation, which Hontz argues is occurring on healthcare, a proposition for which there is absolutely no evidence. Second, networks may facilitate the transmission voter intentions. This mechanism is certainly more plausible, but the evidence that representatives respond to these intentions is thus far scant. As Hontz rightfully notes, updating your Facebook status is cheap talk, and may not be a credible signal of your intention to support. In any case, a more careful consideration of the democratic process, and more accumulation of serious evidence is necessary before we start declaring that "Facebook Revolts" are shaping policy making.