AMAs could be fun or profound, but they were a terrible way of wringing the truth from the powerful.
But I've come to reconsider this critique.
Mostly because at least in the AMA, there is a good-faith expectation of candor. In most media interviews these days, literally no one expects a CEO or politician to be straight with the interviewer. It is, in fact, a sign of savvy and skill to know how to not answer questions. They actively train on how to not tell the media anything we actually want to know.
With an AMA, there is nothing but the culture to shape the responses that people give. But isn't that true of press conferences and other sorts of interviews?
And the very point of AMAs is to get into someone's head or go behind closed doors, to see the backstage.
AMAs among common folk focus on dishing on what sex, disease, or jobs are really like. The celebrity versions borrow the same idea, but they serve up inside information on celebrity itself (generally speaking) or politics itself.
The AMA is supposed to expose the mechanism. The AMA is about exposing the "inside conversations." The AMA is like the crowdsourced version of those moments when Kevin Spacey turns to the camera in House of Cards and breaks things down.
And I think most politicians and celebrities would very much like to be Kevin Spacey in those moments. Which is powerful.
An Honest Question Gets an Honest Answer
Back to the two-penised guy.
You'd expect that particular Q&A to devolve into the worst kind of terribleness. I mean, it's a guy with two penises answering questions on the Internet! What could go wrong? Everything, that's what.
And yet, as if to prove that the point of the AMA is that human empathy exists, the interview was fascinating and humane, mind-expanding, and homophobia deflating (he's bisexual). It was just remarkable all around.
"In every good AMA, there's always one of those good moments that's a conversation between two people that gets spread to a wider audience," Reddit's Erik Martin told me. "I've seen similar events on Twitter/Facebook, but those moments get lost and don't get seen by as many people or don't have that person-to-person feel."
And it's that feeling of connection, down there in the stewed mess of sexual perversion, pseudonymity, lulz, doges, cats, and weirdness, that has always made the Internet feel most alive. There's a person on the other end of the line, and they are a human like me.
That it is messy and strange, hard for outsiders to decipher, and possibly taboo: Those are the ante to find genuine feeling on an Internet filled with social media gurus and SEO ninjas.
But once you're at the table, you can watch one of life genuine's pleasures: when an honest question gets an honest answer.
Q: Medical professional here with some questions. Have you had urological studies done to see how your urethra drains into both penises and if you have any other duplication of internal organs(like your prostate)? Did they offer any sort of explanation as to the embryological cause of it?
A: had one issue in my teens. the Y intersection where my urethra splits into two had some tension issues and was ballooning until the pressure was enough to force the urine up and out. So they did some minor surgery and used catheters to stretch and open up the Y some. no problems since. one prostate, but it's bigger than average and it produces more seminal fluid than most, so at least once a week or so it has to be squeezed when i orgasm to release all the fluid. as for the how? i don't know all the details, they told my mom that it could have been a lot worse and that i was rarer than boys who were on record. my mom refused a lot of tests and studies. she didn't want me feeling like a freak growing up and told me i was special since i had two and everyone else had one. ;)