"Allen was ideally suited to embark on such a difficult hunt. She boasts two doctorates, one in classics from Cambridge University and the other in government from Harvard University, and won a $500,000 MacArthur "genius" award at the age of 29. Last year she joined the faculty of the institute, the only African American and one of a handful of women at the elite research center, where she works alongside groundbreaking physicists, mathematicians and social scientists. They don't have to teach, and they face no quotas on what they publish. Their only mandate is to work in the tradition of Einstein, wrestling with the most vexing problems in the universe."Ok, phew. And what is this vexing quandary that requires two PhDs, a MacArthur grant, and an appointment at IAS to solve? Turns out, it's that age-old dilemma: who started that "Obama is a Muslim" email chain?
But, don't cry! This potentially earth-shattering inquiry was not a totally lost cause. She did gain some valuable insights from her journey to almost-enlightenment that she'd like to share with us:
"What I've come to realize is, the labor of generating an e-mail smear is divided and distributed amongst parties whose identities are secret even to each other," she says. A first group of people published articles that created the basis for the attack. A second group recirculated the claims from those articles without ever having been asked to do so. "No one coordinates the roles," Allen said.Wait, you mean spammy chain mail is not a highly coordinated plot by a hierarchical terrorist cell organized around the single aim of undermining Obama's campaign? It's just paranoiacs in their pajamas sending out crap?
Academia is so much more awesome than I imagined.