A: Well, yes, I'm sure he too has admired the Hudson while he's dustin', but more to the point, he also knows what it's like to have wanna-be hacks ridin' on the jock of a true innovator. To wit, from today's Washington Post: The e-mail landed in Danielle Allen's queue one winter morning as she was studying in her office at the Institute for Advanced Study, the renowned haven for some of the nation's most brilliant minds. The missive began: "THIS DEFINITELY WARRANTS LOOKING INTO." Laid out before Allen, a razor-sharp, 36-year-old political theorist, was what purported to be a biographical sketch of Barack Obama that has become one of the most effective -- and baseless -- Internet attacks of the 2008 presidential season. The anonymous chain e-mail makes the false claim that Obama is concealing a radical Islamic background. By the time it reached Allen on Jan. 11, 2008, it had spread with viral efficiency for more than a year. … Allen set her sights on dissecting the modern version of a whisper campaign, even though experts told her it would be impossible to trace the chain e-mail to its origin. Along the way, even as her hunt grew cold, she gained valuable insight into the way political information circulates, mutates and sometimes devastates in the digital age. It would've saved everybody a lot of time (and a superfluous WaPo feature) if, in January, someone had handed Dr. Allen a two month-old copy of the Nov. 11, 2007 issue of The Nation.
Brian Cook was an editor at In These Times from 2003 to 2009. He now works on the editorial staff of Playboy magazine.