55 Voices for Democracy: Mohamed Amjahid on the Antiquated Atlanticists

February 16, 2022   •   By Mohamed Amjahid

“55 Voices for Democracy” is inspired by the 55 BBC radio addresses Thomas Mann delivered from his home in California to thousands of listeners in Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, and the occupied Netherlands and Czechoslovakia between October 1940 and November 1945. In his monthly addresses Mann spoke out strongly against fascism, becoming the most significant German defender of democracy in exile. Building on that legacy, “55 Voices” brings together internationally esteemed intellectuals, scientists, and artists to present ideas for the renewal of democracy in our own troubled times. The series is presented by the Thomas Mann House in partnership with the Los Angeles Review of BooksSüddeutsche Zeitung, and Deutschlandfunk.


Mohamed Amjahid calls for more emancipatory voices  in transatlantic networks. He opposes derailed liberalism and emphasizes the need to show backbone and to stand in solidarity with vulnerable minorities. This effort, he says, is necessary for inclusive democracies to survive. Mohamed Amjahid is a political journalist, author of the bestsellers Among Whites and Whitewash, and a moderator. He was an editor at ZEITmagazin and has received, among other awards, the Alexander Rhomberg Prize and the Henri Nannen Prize. Amjahid is a 2022 Fellow at the Thomas Mann House in Los Angeles.

The video of Mohamed Amjahid’s talk can be viewed below.



Trigger Warning: Some old white men might feel offended by what I have to say. However, I am pretty sure everybody will survive this episode of “55 Voices,” delivered from Thomas Mann’s desk in Pacific Palisades, where the rich, famous, and powerful reside.

When the violent mob — better known as Trump supporters — stormed the Capitol in Washington, DC, just over a year ago, a conspicuous group of liberals escorted them. Not necessarily on the streets, rather cheering from the sidelines for years and years.

How the fork did we get here? And what has it to do of all things with Germany?

Stakeholders from politics, media, society, and business, who act in the tradition of a long-established German–US friendship, gather under the keyword “Atlanticists.” They are the often-described old white men in positions of power who become sentimental at the famous sayings of US–American leaders from times long past: “Ich bin ein Berliner!” or “Tear down this wall!”

In this interdependent relationship between the Federal Republic and the United States, a dangerous understanding of liberalism was born. It threatens many vulnerable communities. Liberalism is in itself a positive term, don’t get me wrong, because there is also something good about it: the self-determination and unhindered blossoming of each subject. But what is meant here is a liberalism that fetishizes freedom beyond all limits and elevates the individual sphere at the expense of the well-being of minorities and of society as a whole.

This exclusive understanding of individual freedom is central to simplistic liberalism. The underlying concept of freedom is defined in a fatal way: in a laissez-faire policy towards rightwing extremists and their friends, in exploitative capitalism and the preservation of old, discriminating structures. Unfortunately, many Atlanticists embody this derailed liberalism.

In the spirit of limitless freedom of speech, they say: Say what you want! And so Donald Trump said what he wanted: he reproduced hate speech against women, Black people, refugees, queer people. Millions of voters liked it so much, they made him president. Donald Trump was able to reach a huge audience through many mainstream and social media platforms, build a base, normalize his misanthropic views, alternative facts, and clownish behavior. Meanwhile, in Germany, the extremist AfD is being established as a legitimate political force in a deep-seated liberal belief. Even though they are no better than what Thomas Mann was fighting against from exactly this desk.

More than half a year after the storming of the Capitol in Washington, right-wing extremists tried to occupy the Reichstag in Berlin in August 2021. Armed with Nazi-symbols they got onto the stairs of the Federal German Parliament building. These events show that both US and German societies are threatened by the interaction between right-wing nationalist movements and hyper-liberal tolerance for them. Before the storms began on both sides of the Atlantic the radicalized views of the stormers were normalized by hyper-liberalism. That should be a warning for all our political decision makers. We can’t let history repeat itself.