Former President Barack Obama with young Obama Foundation leaders in Berlin. "These young people are putting in the work to strengthen our communities and move democracy forward," he said/Photo: Barack Obama/Facebook

Obama in Berlin, lists main dangers to democracy in the world

For Barack Obama, yes men are the greatest danger to democracy. The former US president spoke in Berlin on Wednesday in front of around ten thousand listeners in the Mercedes-Benz Arena.

The most important lesson Ex-President Barack Obama brought to Berlin for tomorrow’s leaders: stay away from sycophants. “Otherwise you’re surrounded by people who say yes to you all the time and laugh at your jokes, even if they’re not funny,” said the former president at the event tagged “An Evening with Barack Obama”.

What happens then is the total isolation of the powerful and a “tremendous danger” to democracy, Obama said. “That’s why someone like Putin can throw missiles at a children’s hospital. Because there’s nobody there [to tell him the truth]. They’re isolated talking to themselves and they think anything they can do is justified.”

The media, aided with technological developments such as artificial intelligence, plays a crucial role in the polarisation of Western societies, Obama said. He lashed out at the US broadcaster Fox News, which had spread the lies of Obama’s successor in office, Donald Trump, as a business model.

“Social media has created a system where the business model has been to make people as angry and resentful as possible,” Obama said, warning: “I think that’s one of the biggest threats to democracy.” He had been shown films in which he was seen saying things he had never said, Obama narrated.

“It’s getting very difficult to tell the difference” between what he is really saying and what is arriving on people’s smartphones, the former US president said. These ever-advancing technological developments are not only a threat to democracy, he said, but a threat to the whole world that could result in great social unrest.

Obama’s message to the young people in the Mercedes-Benz Arena is not to believe everything they see on TikTok.

The former US president also spoke about the importance of diversity. “I don’t just mean diversity in terms of race or gender, but also in terms of perspective and philosophy and life experience,” he made it clear.

“An Evening with Barack Obama” in Berlin was organised in collaboration with the Obama Foundation by the Berlin-based Streetlife International GmbH, which also stages the AFROBEATS Festival, whose second edition will take place in the German capital city in July.

The former American leader had also been on stage in Zurich and Amsterdam before coming to the German capital. The aim of these appearances, titled “An Evening with Barack Obama”, is to raise money for his charitable organisation, the Obama Foundation. During his appearances, the ex-president discusses “the great challenges and opportunities of our time” with the audience.

Femi Awoniyi

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