Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Reddit AMA was a failure. It isn’t clear whether arrogance, incompetence or a combination of both produced this result.
Last Tuesday, Kathleen Wynne made herself available to answer questions on Reddit, an Internet aggregator and comment board. Reddit often plays host to “Ask Me Anything” threads (AMAs), where celebrities, experts and politicians field questions from Reddit users.
Wynne and her staff should have foreseen that only answering ten questions in the space of less than an hour and ignoring all but the least critical queries wouldn’t be well received. In the past, those who used an AMA to self-promote were treated mercilessly by the Reddit community.
It’s possible that Wynne and her backers were simply arrogant enough to believe that there would be no backlash against her actions. If this is the case, then it’s good that their condescending mentality collided full force with the unregulated and anonymous politicos of the internet.
In general, people know when they are being marketed to or otherwise used for the purposes of a political stunt. This, in combination with Reddit’s famed “hive mind” mentality, resulted in a huge backlash against Wynne.
While it’s true that no one who does an AMA is required to answer critical questions, and Wynne couldn’t have satisfied many of her critics even if she had answered, taking this route effectively renders an AMA pointless as there’s nothing that differentiates it from an email to supporters.
While our standards for politicians and political campaigning have lowered over time, politics should be more than simply public relations and marketing. This is what makes Reddit’s backlash so positive — it proves there are still places that politicians will be held to a higher intellectual standard.
Wynne and her team failed to factor in common sense and account for historical precedent when they undertook a Reddit AMA. This entire situation is symbolic of the large divide between the unregulated debate of the Internet and the carefully orchestrated theatre of party politics.
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