Frank Rich at the premiere of HBO’s “Veep”(TPM)
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Frank Rich Visits Reddit

The former Butcher of Broadway submitted to one of the site’s AMAs

Jacob Silverman
August 30, 2012
Frank Rich at the premiere of HBO's "Veep"(TPM)

Reddit has been drawing some heavy-hitters for its AMA, or Ask Me Anything, segments, where a public figure submits to a round of questioning from the site’s users. Just yesterday, President Obama took a spin through the AMA machine. “I am Barack Obama, President of the United States”—so went his introduction. Dude, we know.

For the uninitiated: Reddit is the world’s largest message board and a veritable meme factory. In the words of Tablet Magazine contributor Matthew Shaer, the site is now “a web power broker nonpareil.” A link on the front page of Reddit can draw millions of hits; the site is the agent zero of any number of viral stories; and its millions of users often come together for causes good (raising funds for a bus driver victimized by her passengers) and ill (harassing victims of sexual assault). In short, it’s a crazy place, one of those quasi-libertarian Internet outposts that, in a single visit, can both repel and entrance.

Frank Rich is of particular interest to Tableteers because he remains one of the most prominent—and to many, among the most thoughtful—Jewish political commentators in the U.S. He’s reinvented himself a couple times, having started out as a feared theater critic, later taking on a column for the New York Times, and in a surprise move, absconding to New York magazine last year, where he writes monthly columns on politics and culture. He’s also done some work for HBO.

Redditors asked some good questions, and Rich offered much to chew over. Here he is on Nora Ephron:

I wasn’t planning to write about Nora. Indeed I was working on another piece for my monthly essay at New York. I didn’t like most of the pieces written after her death and didn’t want to add another. But then I went on vacation and just could not stop thinking about her, a friend for nearly 40 years, and the shock of her death and the mystery surrounding her secretiveness about her illness. So when I returned home from my break I felt I just had to do it, and the structure flowed naturally from the story I was compelled to report and then to tell.

Rich also expressed concern about the use of voter fraud allegations as a cover for voter suppression; the difficulty in overturning lies told by politicians (he cited Paul Ryan’s RNC speech in particular); and the likelihood of continued legislative gridlock. About everyone’s most/least favorite Jewish-Russian-American cult leader objectivist philosopher, Rich wrote:

I think the resurgence of Ayn Rand is as remarkable as it is disturbing. Though Paul Ryan tries to soft-peddle it now, he is on record as being a Rand true believer. Amazing that he possibly could be a heartbeat away from you know what…

There’s plenty more here, including a Drake reference (!). In sum: it’s heartening to see someone like Rich giving this a shot; curiosity is a pundit’s best defense against mental atrophy.

Jacob Silverman is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and book critic. He is also a contributing editor for the Virginia Quarterly Review.