“Gutmensch Klamroth”: The Journalist Prodigy Who Speaks Like a Politician
LOUIS HAS INTERVIEWED THE LEADERS of almost all of Germany’s parties, including the Bundespräsident, and he says that Angela Merkel was the funniest host of a dinner party he has ever been to. As “Germany’s youngest talk show host,” he is certainly shaking up the German media landscape. His show Klamroth’s Konter, is widely regarded as fresh and influential, and in 2018 received the Promotional Award for German Television, the Deutscher Fernsehpreis.
Recently listed as one of the top 30 journalists under 30 in Germany, Louis has swiftly made his way into the spheres of influence and public discourse in the most powerful country on the European continent. Despite his accelerating success, Louis is still approachable, and exudes a mix of confidence, drive and idealism. Back in 2017, someone commented “Klamroth=Gutmensch” on a Facebook video of his interview with CDU politician Jens Spahn. Meaning “good person” (or someone with good intentions), it’s often used as sarcastic criticism—perhaps most like the term “politically correct”—but Louis embraced it, printing out an image of the comment and framing it on his fridge.
Louis is also one of the driving forces behind the non-profit initiative Diskutier Mit Mir, or “Discuss With Me,” a digital discussion platform aimed at bursting through opinion bubbles (those dreaded filter bubbles) and creating space for political dialogue between the diametrically opposed. A political speed-dating app, in other words. Since its launch just before the general German elections in 2017, the platform has hosted over 20,000 conversations between individual users from opposite ends of the political spectrum.
Discuss With Me is planning to launch Talking Europe, which will enable Europeans to talk to people from other countries and other parts of the political spectrum in their own languages because of an integrated translation application.
“It’s gonna be sick,” Louis says.
He’s positive that Discuss With Me will be a valuable space for conversation, even in an age where online debate tends to descend into flame wars. Perhaps part of that is because in Germany, political discourse is, he says, “polarized and fragmented, but still years away from the toxic public debate climate in the US.”
Klamroth’s Konter is filmed in an old East German bunker—in fact, the same building as Tresor, Berlin’s techno-Valhalla—which is where Louis has hosted the likes of Jörg Meuthen of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), the chairman of the Christian Democratic Union, (Merkel’s party), former Bundespräsident Christian Wulff, and a long list of actors and activists. He is a direct, bold and bright interviewer, who never claims to have expertise that he doesn’t. The show’s slogan is “Konfrontativ, kritisch, kurzweilig,” or “Confrontational, critical, and entertaining,” and it certainly is all three.
When I asked him who else is moving and shaking Germany, Louis pointed to Luisa Neubauer, 22, who he describes as a “German Greta Thunberg [read our profile of Greta Thunberg here]” Though Neubauer is young, like Thunberg, Louis forcefully rebuked the idea that bringing about social change is somehow a generation-dependent game. He also pushed back against the idea that true change comes from civil society and not politics. “Juxtaposing these two views is wrong [and] frames the issue just as right-wing populists do,” he says. Rather than being a provocateur or a sensationalist, Louis sees himself as a connector—something rare on television these days. In fact, he argues that my questions could just as easily have been asked by a PEGIDA (a German(ic) far-right nationalist movement) activist.
“The question also implies," he continues, “that change cannot come from politics, which I think is ludicrous. Change only comes when civil society, activists, media and politicians interact and find compromises.”
In a way, Louis speaks just like all the politicians he has interviewed and grilled fiercely on their specific policy choices. And maybe that’s a good thing.
This article appears in Are We Europe #4: This Is Not An Elections Issue