Much as many would like to believe that the medium determines the message, a modern politician is never unmediated. Not in a pie shop in Pennsylvania, not at a basketball game, not while having dinner, not on the phone with NASA, not on TV, not doing a Reddit AMA. Reddit is not a mic accidentally left on during a private moment. The kind of intimacy and honesty that Redditors crave does not scale up to national politics, where no one ever lets down his or her guard. Instead of using the stiffness and formality of the MSM to drive his message home, Obama simply used the looseness and casual banter of Reddit to drive his message home. Here more than in almost anything else: Tech is not the answer to the problems of modern politics.
This is not to rain on Reddit’s parade or to deny the slickness of the Obama campaign’s surprise appearance. Nice job everyone, take a bow. But we’ll know Reddit has really arrived as a political community when he uses a visit to announce a policy change they’ve been promoting, perhaps around marijuana policy or civil liberties broadly construed. Until then, it’s all kissing babies and shaking hands, only with more LOLs.