Nothing is sacred in an Internet open forum — not even the President of the United States.
President Barack Obama dropped in on Reddit, an Internet community famous for its creation and dissemination of memes, in a surprise Wednesday appearance. Obama’s post was categorized as an “IamA,” where Redditors state a defining attribute about themselves and request their peers AMA, or “Ask Me Anything.” This informal Q&A has become a promotional tools for celebrities as of late, extending into the political world with candidates like Ron Paul.
The AMA, however, can be a double-edged sword, as Hollywood star Woody Harrelson recently learned. His post quickly became hostile as Redditors mocked his insistence to talk about “Rampart,” the film he was promoting.
Obama’s AMA went nowhere near as poorly, but, as is the nature of the Internet, the post attracted comments from trolls, detractors, mischief makers and more. While the President answered softball human interest questions and policy questions that easily set up his stronger talking points — a staple of his public engagement — the thread still contained myriad combative and silly questions. For though he was able to choose the questions he would answer, the format of Reddit makes it impossible for him to control the questions asked, and they remain visible in the very same space as his words.
At 22,000 comments and counting, the post contains a wealth of trollery to sift through. Here are some of the best questions, comments, and corrections sent by ordinary Internet users to the President of the United States.
At first, some Redditors were skeptical of the post’s legitimacy:
And others questioned the President’s motives (with a reference back to the “Rampart” debacle):
One rather astute commenter observed the timing of this unannounced Q&A might have something to do with the Republican National Convention:
Many of the irreverent questions were rather innocuous:
Users BroBroo and huzzah_for_boobies asked the big questions the mainstream media is afraid to ask:
The “fight one person from history” question got a far more specific reiteration:
Multiple users, oddly, were very concerned about the United States’ widespread use of English measurements:
Possibly the most mentioned subjects were marijuana legalization and the war on drugs:
One of the best juxtapositions on the page was a user asking why Obama doesn’t take the issue seriously — right before a question from a brony representative:
The best exchange of the entire thread came when a couple grammar sticklers got to chide the leader of the free world:
Some nostalgic soul brought back the spirit of 2007 with an attempted rickroll (bonus: Breitbart link in the next post!):
Of course, some joked about his role as Commander-in-Chief, with one user suggesting he weaponize the Reddit community in cyber attacks.
And this line of thinking, given Reddit’s affinity for Ron Paul and his rigid anti-war stance, quickly turned nasty:
Is U.S. democracy an illusion, indeed? Like any other comment forum, the AMA brought out plenty of kooks. A favorite is this screed about Obama waging a war on men.
For those who believe this was a historic use of technology to connect a world leader directly to a niche demographic and those who believe this move demeaned the presidency, one thing is certain: nothing on the Internet is safe from trolls. Future politicians beware: make one wrong move and you can become the next “Rampart” punchline.