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Reddit Users Discussed 'Mic Checking' Obama Days Before It Happened

BY Nick Judd | Tuesday, November 22 2011

President Barack Obama was mic checked today during an appearance in New Hampshire, televised by C-SPAN. Per CNN, protesters from the Occupy movement based in the Granite State were calling Obama's attention to recent allegations of excessive police use of force against Occupy protesters in New York and in UC Davis, Berkeley and Oakland in California.

Occupy New Hampshire has issued a press release that includes the entire message they had been planning to recite. But days before the event, users of the link-sharing online community Reddit had been planning just such an action, too.

When I wrote last week that the "mic check," adapted from an Occupy Wall Street behavior for communicating in groups, was becoming a commonly used tool to disrupt public events, I apparently didn't know the half of it.

Of protesters at Obama's New Hampshire appearance today, CNN reported:

“Mic check,” one called, and then a handful of people in the audience chanted in response. According to one man who took part in the chant, the group wanted Obama to “stop the assault” on peaceful protesters who had been arrested as part of the OWS movement.

The activists’ words were difficult to hear in the school gymnasium, and after several moments of confusion, students in the audience began to chant “Obama” to drown out the protesters.

Obama listened to the shouts and then responded to the disruption.

“I appreciate you guys making your point. Let me go ahead and make mine,” he said. “I’ll listen to you, you listen to me.”

On Reddit, four days ago, someone proposed four simple words and three exclamation points to the Occupy Wall Street Reddit: "MIC CHECK THE PRESIDENT!!!"

It's not immediately clear if this person was involved in the disruption of Obama's event. But over a period of days, Redditors on the Occupy Wall Street section of the popular link-sharing site engaged in a prolonged discussion about everything from tactics to message to whether or not it was even the right idea, and argued both sides.

At around the same time, on Nov. 17, the general assembly of an occupation in Manchester discussed taking just such a move.

At a general assembly that also included information about a social media training from a member of AFL-CIO, according to meeting minutes posted — open government! — online, the Manchester occupiers discussed an impending Obama appearance "in the next few weeks."

Obama was disrupted during a speech at Manchester Central High School.

Perhaps this is one of those cases where multiple people independently arrive at the same conclusion. Maybe one of the New Hampshire folks is an active Reddit user. Either way, the Reddit discussion carries a robust discussion of pros and cons — and, because this is Reddit we're talking about, a healthy dose of obscenity and Internet humor, invoking both feces and Nazis.

Users Argo2292 and rmxz proposed, days before Obama's interruption today, that protesters confront the president over the issue of the alleged mistreatment of Occupy Wall Street protesters by police across the country.

"You condemn brutal actions overseas," Argo2292 suggested the mic check include, among other things. "But at home.... You look the other way.... When your citizens are being brutalized..... What kind of president are you"

Reddit user rmxz dug up a quote from Obama already being used on Reddit as part of images that suggest the president has been hypocritical in his silence on police actions towards occupiers while decrying violence against protesters overseas.

"This Obama quote would be an awesome message," this user suggested.

A user named TheAustinKnight offered guidance on time and place:

He's wrapped up his Pacific summit, yes? So he should be touring around the country on a "not-really-a-campaign"-campaign fairly shortly.

Get dates, figure out which location would work best (a city with a heavy Occupy presence), and go in there with Obama signs and such as if you were normal Obama supporters. Wait until an opportune moment in the speech and unleash the people's microphone.

But user JamesArget suggested that this was a bad idea:

There is a difference between calling out for change, and showing a complete disrespect for an entire institution. I'm uncomfortable enough with people calling mic check on high level, partisan politicians. If you start shouting at the President, you're breaking yourself away from the entire country.

You can vehemently oppose the person, or what they practice, but to do that would be an astounding disrespect for the institution of the Presidency, which has countless times served for the good of the 99%.

After the protesters had quieted, Obama delivered remarks pertaining to his jobs plan — but he also acknowledged them again.

"Families like yours, young people like the ones here today, including the ones who were just chanting at me, you’re the reason I ran for office in the first place," he said.

There are multiple petitions on the White House's "We the People" petition site pertaining to use of force against Occupy Wall Street protesters, including this one, and this one, and this one, but even taken in aggregate they do not meet the signature threshhold at which the White House has pledged to issue a response.

This post has been updated with new information.