On August 29, at about 4:30PM EST, President Obama answered questions from various users on the social news website reddit, during an AMA (ask me anything). Although the Barack Obama appearance caused the website to become inaccessible to most users for over an hour, the President was able to answer ten questions in the half hour he allotted.
The questions ranged from the White House’s beer recipe to what kind of support small businesses can expect come 2013 and 2014, and the President answered the questions with typical political care. Questions about controversial topics such as the detainment of Bradley Manning and the war on drugs went unanswered and quickly fell to the bottom of the pile.
President Obama’s AMA is the first post in the seven year history of reddit in which an individual post received more traffic than the actual front page. While this event served to demonstrate the President’s Internet savvy, it also served as a reminder that it’s still a careful game that’s being played.
One of the Q/As went as follows:
Q: “We know how Republicans feel about protecting Internet Freedom. Is Internet Freedom an issue you’d push to add to the Democratic Party’s 2012 platform?”
A: “Internet freedom is something I know you all care passionately about; I do too. We will fight hard to make sure that the internet remains the open forum for everybody — from those who are expressing an idea to those to want to start a business. And although there will be occasional disagreements on the details of various legislative proposals, I won’t stray from that principle — and it will be reflected in the platform.”
This exchange demonstrates a significant lack of honesty on the President’s part. Never mind the fact that this person attempts to paint the question in a partisan manner with his comment about Republicans – the issue of Internet freedom is far from partisan as both the Administration and Congress have behaved in the same manner regarding the Internet since 2000. The very idea that the President can say he cares passionately about Internet freedom while chasing after WikiLeaks and allowing the ISPs to play copyright police for the RIAA and MPAA is both laughable and embarrassing.
In the end, the AMA was a success and a failure at the same time. It served to bolster the Obama campaign among disillusioned supporters who needed a new reason to care about Hope™ and Change™. At the same time, it didn’t accomplish anything that a normal debate or town hall wouldn’t have. The questions answered were all softball questions – the President (intentionally or otherwise) avoided sticky topics and kept to the notion of the “message of the campaign”, which lends itself well to “24-hour news cycle” sound bytes, but not so well to actual intellectual discourse.
(White House photo)