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Sunday, July 3, 2022

Columns

Pandering to America’s youth


President Barack Obama took to the popular website Reddit Thursday afternoon to answer questions in the site’s “AMA” or “Ask Me Anything” threads.

In these threads, people allow other Reddit users to ask any question they want. For half an hour, users could ask Obama anything. Unfortunately, the president’s answers seemed to pander to the youth vote and  was very typical campaign rhetoric.

The mere nine questions Obama answered that day included such gems as his beer recipe and favorite basketball player — not really the kind of important information that creates a well-informed electorate.

Whatever serious questioning could have been given to Obama on Thursday was sidelined by the short run  of the AMA — which can often last for hours — and the trivial nature of most of the questions he answered.

Despite the event being nothing but a scheduled publicity stunt, Obama did end up giving a glimpse into what the Internet should be doing — allowing a direct debate between the elected and the public.

The Internet provides a monumental opportunity where people across the country, or even across the world, could instantly interact with their political leaders. It could be like the televised town hall meetings in 2008, except on an international level.

Unfortunately, many American politicians seem not to understand how to use the Internet because of their age. Or if they do use it, they use Twitter or Facebook, which run more like public relations outlets than legitimate forums for debate.

With discussion on the Internet, people have a plethora of first-hand resources and facts to call out the politicians on any contradictory statements as opposed to the very controlled, soft-ball questions Obama answered on Thursday.

Many Reddit responders were impressed simply because Obama would even attempt such an interview, which helps to reinforce his image of being more connected to the youth demographic than Mitt Romney.

However true that may be, it’s discomforting to know that any number of voters could be won over by the simple quoting of an Internet meme.

The feeling of uneasiness that the pure publicity of the AMA sparked spread even to the “Redditors” themselves. People within the AMA thread made accusations that some of the users asking questions were plants from within Obama’s own office.

Whether or not that’s true, it’s still an indicator that the questions were too easy and the answers too copy-and-pasted from his campaign page.

The AMA with Obama proved exactly what the Internet shouldn’t be used for in a political debate: needless pandering to the youth crowd. Rather, it should be used as a public forum, no different than the town hall meetings or the presidential debates of 2008, where the electorate can directly question their nominees and call them out on any discrepancies.

Patrick Larose is a creative writing sophomore and may be reached at [email protected]

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