, an Obama supporter who is currently at the Institute for Advanced Study, is the subject of this Washington Post
article (you can also click on a four minute interview with her). Allen is looking into the question of those anonymous and false chain e-mail claiming that Obama is concealing a radical Islamic background because "Allen studies the way voters in a democracy gather their information and act on what they learn." Allen thinks that the anonymity of such statements is the problem: "Citizens and political scientists must face the fact that the Internet has enabled a new form of political organization that is just as influential on local and national elections as unions and political action committees. This kind of misinformation campaign short-circuits judgment. It also aggressively disregards the fundamental principle of free societies that one be able to debate one's accusers." In some way she reveals more about her purposes in studying this issue in the short WaPo interview than in the article itself. I also think that this is interesting, although I would suggest to the WaPo (and Allen) that Hillary's not so anonymous response to a question on whether or not Obama is a Christian, "As far as I know," is also in the category of misleading and may explain this WaPo fact: "polls show the number of voters who mistakenly believe Obama is a Muslim rose -- from 8 percent to 13 percent between November 2007 and March 2008. And some cited this religious mis-affiliation when explaining their primary votes against him."
Allen is the author of Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship since Brown v. Board of Education. She spoke on the theme of the book at the Ashbrook Center in 2005.