Ask Him Anything: President Obama Is Doing a Reddit AMA

By Megan Garber

A ratification of Reddit as "the front page of the Internet"

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At 4:30 today East Coast time, the president of the United States -- the Commander in Chief, the the leader of the free world -- will answer your questions as part of a Reddit "Ask Me Anything."

And it's not a hoax! "Hi, I'm Barack Obama, President of the United States," the president typed. "Ask me anything." Which was greeted a moment later with the confirmation:

"The moderators have confirmed this thread; this is actually President Obama."

Which was followed up -- pics or it didn't happen! -- with apparent photographic evidence of the AMA as the asks were being asked. 

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First: whoa. This is a big moment for Reddit. The site, sure, has already hosted AMAs for such luminaries as Neil deGrasse Tyson and The Atlantic's own Ta-Nehisi Coates and James Fallows. But the president is a luminary of a different variety. To have him on Reddit, even for half an hour, is a kind of ratification of Reddit as a media outlet. 

The timing, of course, is telling, with the Republican National Convention in full swing. This isn't President Obama giving an AMA so much as it's Candidate Obama giving one. From that perspective, it'll be interesting to see which questions the president chooses to answer. Because, as novel as Reddit is as a platform -- and as much attention as the Internet is paying the AMA session because of that novelty -- the Q&A also represents one of the oldest things in the world: a politician making a media appearance. 

And the requisite mix of seriousness and silliness has accompanied that appearance. Many of the queries posted by Redditors so far have been of earnest political import:

"A lot of us are worried about copyright law. Sopa, Acta, TPP... And the actions against Megaupload. Mainly because these laws are excessive and limit rights. What is your stance on that?"

And:

"If you had the ability to automatically enact or repeal only one law without congressional approval, what would you choose and why?"

And:

"Do you feel the USA should work to change its rules on gun ownership in light of the recent shootings? How do you feel the USA is perceived around the world for its stance on this issue?"

And:

"As a former constitutional law professor, can you explain how it is legal to kill an American citizen with a Predator drone without due process?"

Others were cheekier:

"If you could fight any historical figure, who would it be?"

"What's the recipe for the White House's beer?"

"Toilet paper - facing out, or facing in?"

Others were more personal:

"What has been your favorite moment of your presidency? The saddest?"

And others were slightly, and appropriately, more Reddit-centric.

"What made you come to reddit for an AMA?"

One of the most telling questions, however, was directed at Reddit founder Alexis Ohanion. Asked TheAtomicPlayboy: "How the hell did you guys pull this one off?"

"This is reddit," Ohanion replied. "You all pulled this off by becoming the front page of the internet."

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/08/ask-him-anything-president-obama-is-doing-a-reddit-ama/261749/