Obama on Reddit: A Truly Unscreened Town Hall
Remember when George W. Bush led “Town Hall” meetings in which the entire town just so happened to adore him? That was the era of audience screening, where the cost of entry was a promised vote.
Contrast that with Obama’s hosting an AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) Q&A session on Reddit. AMAs are a popular feature on Reddit that allow anyone with an account to, yes, ask the person anything. People are free to hide behind anonymous usernames.
What’s cool is Reddit didn’t change modify this particular AMA to sanitize the experience or protect the President. The same old upvote/downvote system ruled which content was highlighted and buried.
The result was an exchange that was typical for Reddit: a mix of smart, stupid, funny, and offensive. By receiving no special treatment, Obama achieved that ultimate cliche: his presence on Reddit was “authentic.”
For example, he made a minor syntactical error when answering a question about the space program, prompting a scuffle between Grammar Nazis. Later, the most popular response to Obama’s comments on internet freedom was, “Do you like cats?”
I’ve been waiting for FoxNews, NewsMax, or TownHall to use the off-color comments, or the fact that Reddit hosts a lot of NSFW content, to skewer Obama. It hasn’t happened yet.
It’s another baby step towards a more direct dialogue between leaders and constituents. Not bad.