As expected, there was a great deal of (legitimate) pushback toward investigating football fandom via neurobiology. You can see some of it in comments, but there's more in my inbox. Message received. We will not be pursuing that line of questioning.
As an aside, one of the unfortunate things about solutionist journalism overtaking the best-seller list, is that people get the impression that that is what journalism and writing must be, that those of us who are not scientists\historians\anthropologists\political scientists\ philosophers are in the business of boiling the world down to a few bullet points, easy answers, and essential fables. Ambiguity is our avowed enemy. Simplicity our God. And ultimately we want the world rendered as "Insert Tab A into Slot B" or some such. I can't really fault academics for thinking this. When I see a Malcolm Gladwell blurbing the work of a Jonah Lehrer by claiming
that Lehrer "knows more about science than a lot of scientists" I recoil a bit. And given subsequent events, I can't imagine how an actual scientist must feel.
All I can say is this--journalism and writing, in general, are tools. I would ask that they not be judged by their flashiest employers. The fact that some people make a cottage industry out of selling unambiguous simplifications is a statement on their work, not the limits of the craft. Even in this time, there's no rule that says "journalism must give easily digestible answers." If there were I'd give up the field.
I'm going to keep asking for help as I go along. I hope you'll keep answering. That is really all journalism is.
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is a national correspondent for The Atlantic
, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of The Beautiful Struggle
, Between the World and Me,
and We Were Eight Years in Power