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Guttenberg more popular despite plagiarism flap
Photo: DPA

Guttenberg more popular despite plagiarism flap

Published: 23 Feb 2011 19:01 GMT+01:00
Updated: 23 Feb 2011 20:31 GMT+01:00

German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has grown more popular despite a plagiarism scandal, according to a new poll. His alma mater stripped him of his doctorate Wednesday, as he offered a mea culpa in parliament.

According to the survey, by the Infratest dimap polling institute for ARD television, 73 percent of people are happy with Guttenberg's political work, compared to 68 percent before accusations he copied large chunks of this doctoral dissertation emerged.

A similar number (72 percent) said his decision to give up his doctorate title was sufficient to allow him to stay minister. Only 24 percent of those surveyed said he should step down.

The survey came as zu Guttenberg confessed to "serious mistakes" in his 2006 legal thesis amid rowdy scenes in the German parliament.

Although he had made errors, the minister stressed: "I have made clear in all my statements that I neither deliberately nor knowingly cheated."

Internet sleuths have set up a collaborative website, or Wiki, to comb through the 475 pages of zu Guttenberg's work, concluding there was evidence of unattributed copying on 270 of them. When the 14 pages of content and 65 pages of footnotes are taken into account, this amounts to more than two-thirds of the dissertation.

"I am a human being, who has weakness and who makes mistakes," said the suave and popular 39-year-old aristocrat, who has been dubbed "Baron Cut-And-Paste" and "Zu Googleberg" by a the media.

In a letter to his alma mater, the University of Bayreuth, he asked to relinquish his doctoral title, saying there were "serious technical faults which contravened proper academic standards."

Guttenberg received his wish on Wednesday evening, as the university committee investigating the allegations decided to strip him of his doctorate.

"The committee is unanimously convinced Herr Baron zu Guttenberg seriously violated scientific duties," said University President Rüdiger Bormann at a press conference.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has thus far backed the minister, saying she appointed him as defence minister, not as an academic researcher. But opposition politicians in parliament on Wednesday accused him of lying and cheating and demanded he step down.

"You've lost your grip," Thomas Oppermann, the parliamentary whip of the centre-left Social Democrats, told Guttenberg. "The chancellor has made a terrible mistake. You've sacrificed the truth for power, but you'll not get away with this."

Media commentators on Wednesday were divided on whether the minister should step down.

The leftist Tageszeitung wrote: "How can one go on believing such a man in the future, when he testifies on critical events, for example regarding the German army? This is where the chancellor comes in."

"The fact that she is prepared to keep a liar in the cabinet in order to preserve her balance of power isn't just unworthy of her office. It is a scandal," added the paper.

The Berliner Zeitung, also on the left of the political spectrum, said: "Merkel has placed political opportunism above political decency and ethics."

The right-wing sensationalist daily Bild, which has broadly backed him so far, withheld judgement, asking its readers on the front page to give their opinion.

But the centre-left Süddeutsche Zeitung, while saying zu Guttenberg should be "ashamed" of his actions, nevertheless said it could work in his favour.

"Could the plagiarism affair even clear the path to the chancellery for

him?" asked the respected daily.

"'Look, says the baron to the people, I'm one of you. 'A person who has weaknesses and who makes mistakes'"

AFP/DAPD/The Local/mry

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

19:59 February 23, 2011 by lordkorner
whataloadaofbolloks
20:10 February 23, 2011 by anupsherchan
how were the polls taken?

who were the test subjects?

as lordkorner said its a bunchofbollocks.
21:57 February 23, 2011 by chicagolive
Germans are in desparate need of a politician to rally behind somebody who they want to love, even though so many present political people say that is how Hitler came about it was actually the opposite in a simple since he came because they had nobody else willing to step up.

Germany is hitting that phase again, unless a normal so what decent human being steps forward. The same thing will happen again with a anti-immigrate anti-anybody who does not look German rises up and makes himself known the german youth want a leader and they do not remember the world wars or the sins of their forefathers
22:12 February 23, 2011 by frankiep
@ chicagolive

Where in the world did you come up with that. Talk about a bunchofbollocks....
22:32 February 23, 2011 by BR549
The continued rhetoric over this topic is a farce. There are so many REAL stories and issues of greater importance to report and discuss that are not being addressed....
01:50 February 24, 2011 by hanskarl
Unless the University can prove he intentionally plagiarised his thesis why wouldn't the people like him? As I mentioned earlier, he did his thesis over a period of 6 to 7 years while raising a family and working. It is totally possible that he overlooked or didn't see certain sections being in a hurry to hand it in. He is like many in Germany and other countries, purchasing assistance in researching and writing the thesis. This is wrong as well. But because he has come across as honest and humble, he appears as a breath of fresh air in Germany.
03:04 February 24, 2011 by pepsionice
For those who want to take this topic serious....then the Bundestag needs to round up every member with a master's degree and examine each thesis written. Since people think there are issues here....lets see who else has problems. I'm personally guessing that a dozen members of the SPD really don't want this matter to go further because it will consume them as well.

One might want to stand back and examine this entire desire in the public now for higher education....and whether it's really a necessary thing to carry out your life's dreams. Half the people walking around with a master's degree...probably don't have anything to really show for the vast amount of time and effort put into the degree.
04:20 February 24, 2011 by Alofat
@pepsionice: That Masters and Bachelor BS is fairly new in Germany. so I would be surprised if you would find more than 10 MdBs who have one.
06:09 February 24, 2011 by Kayak
"'Look, says the baron to the people, I'm one of you. 'A person who has weaknesses and who makes mistakes'" [We're all German and we lie and deceive each other all the time with our insincere formalities and we are united by out shame!]

Way to go SZ!!!
06:57 February 24, 2011 by Talonx
@ hanskarl

Proof of plagiarism is damning enough, one needs to be either a.) an idiot or b.) a liar.

Neither of those prospects says something good about the guilty party.

@ pepsionice

Dissertations and Theses are constantly scrrutinized in Germany, that's why Universities have wholly separate examination offices here ('Prufungsamt'). So the situation you call for, already exists.
08:13 February 24, 2011 by marimay
The same people still supporting this guy are the same people who still support the child molesting catholic church. I am not surprised. They have no sense of right and wrong.
08:14 February 24, 2011 by proclusian
KTzG mag beliebt sein -- ein Vorbild ist er in k e i n e m Fall. Pfui!
08:23 February 24, 2011 by storymann
Talonx.. go to the Prufungsamt and wake em up,,will ya.
10:32 February 24, 2011 by smaky
@hanskarl

No, that is not possible. No sane person can overlook not writing even the introduction of his own PhD thesis.

Anyway, what is so humble and honest in admitting one's mistake if one has no other choice?
10:48 February 24, 2011 by Beca
GUTTENBEG: DR.JACKEL OR MR. HIDE?

Is Mr. Guttenberg playing to be Dr.Jackel or he is in reality Mr. Hide....???? that is something I am wondering. But you have to admit... What a skills !!!!!! what a talent to change the reality and manipulated the medias.. that´s what impressed me more... But Mr. Hide.... the audience is not stupid.... the news says that the Stadistics shows a mayority of support Mr. Googleberg and that sentence make me laugh...

EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT STADICTICS CAN BE MANIPULATED BUT THE PUBLIC OPINION DOESNT CHANGE.... and that´s for sure... Mr. Hide is a Liar, and he weakness of character to recognize it is another point to not believe in an improvised reseults of an invented survey with the only porpuse to save his job, and get some back credibility.

What a waist, and in this effort the Governement of Merket instead to recover the image of a solid goverment ,SHE PROTECT HIM... putting all medias strategies in terms to manipulate the opinion. I am so IMPRESSED for the cinism of the Merkel to make a blind fold vision of the weakness of character of Googleberg, and What Googleberg made is unexcusable... what kind of german he is... !!!!! What kind of message he is ginving to the ones are following this politics carreer... that like machiavello: All means are allowed to get the goal????

Whit all people I have spoken , they all are pretty much upset because Googleberg has prooved to be cinic, liar, un-truthworthy and somone where YOU CAN NOT TRUST...!!!!!!

Mr. Hide has done very much good work to keep his position.

Mr. Guttenberg now is excusing himself , like he has been a character behaviing like a bipolar personage of a terror book , I thought that they were part of the fantasy of a writer, but the reallity can be more disgusting that the fantasy. He is Mr.Hide....

And now this lines are for you Mr. Guttenberg,

My father tought me that The character of a person must to be inmaculated, because from that comes the respect and we become what we think and what we make. Have you heard about values like: trust + character + dignity + honesty + intelligence+ reliance, Well , I dont think so, because you have prooved failed in all of them. I am really upset because you have built your complete carreer based on a lie. Applying to all those positions you got based on a lie... and now as a minister YOU BECOME THE LIE....

Keep lying and hidding yourself Dr. Jackel, or should I say , Mr. Hide ???...
11:14 February 24, 2011 by moistvelvet
His mistake was being caught, he cheated, he lied therefore cannot be trusted, should not be in position of authority, simple.
11:15 February 24, 2011 by sunsolar
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
11:23 February 24, 2011 by Surferjoe
right on moistvelvet
12:16 February 24, 2011 by sunsolar
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
12:50 February 24, 2011 by Surferjoe
What nonsense sunsolar. Guttenberg's dishonesty regarding his doctoral thesis has everything to do with his job performance. If he was willing to cheat then he has proved himself untrustworthy about anything. Anyone, politician or otherwise, who has forfeited public trust is unsuitable for any public office, never mind one so important as a ministerial position. The fact that he has not stepped down as of yet speaks volumes to the argument that he should step down immediately.
13:11 February 24, 2011 by Talonx
@ sunsolar

It's actually not 'a big if', he has admitted being a plagiarist, which is a form of cheating.
13:22 February 24, 2011 by Krim
About the survey:

What would you expect from these brains shaped over years by Bild Zeitung?

The first time when he was asked about plagiarism. he said: this is non sense.

In my opinion. he did not know about the details in the thesis.

I assume if was really behind all these copy/pasted parts and they are many he would have been more careful in his statement.

The moral of the story........a Ghostwriter needs to be identified.
13:33 February 24, 2011 by Surferjoe
Of course. Either he knew what he did or he hired of ghostwriter. Both possibilities make him unfit for any kind of office. The longer he holds on the more disgrace he brings upon himself and his government.

Is the ruling class now so insulated that they think no one is paying attention?
14:36 February 24, 2011 by Salomon
To those defending the baron and former doctor von und zu Guttenberg,

This is not about long forgotten footnotes. Guttenberg did not just write a "sloppy doctorate"; nor has he, in contrast to what he claims, admitted any guilt. The charge against him is plagiarism, of stealing the intellectual property of others. He denies this and his attempt to present himself as a penitent sinner, despite admitting nothing but that which has been long proven, shows how morally bankrupt he is. He lied in the past and he continues to lie.

That he committed deliberate plagiarism with the intent to deceive can be clearly seen in his introduction to his doctorate. Here he takes a passage almost word for word form a newspaper article, but changing the time reference (from "200 years ago" to "215 years ago") to indicate that he is the real author. That is not a just a mistake as he claims.

It is a disgrace that he lied in the past and lies now; it is adding insult to injury that he presents himself as an example to others due to his supposed willingness to admit his failings (when he has done nothing of the sort). It is a scandal that the middle-class parties have abandoned any concept of middle-class values in order to defend him, and in doing so attack a central pillar of formal education, namely competitive examination. It is frightening that education has such a low value in German society that nearly three quarters of the population cannot see what the problem is.
14:42 February 24, 2011 by smaky
@sunsolar

"But what this guy's thesis has anything to do with his job?"

As was already said yesterday in Bundestag, can he drive drunken? In your logic it is an criminal matter and it should be dealt with in an criminal way, not political way, because it has nothing to do with his performance on his job as a cabinet minister.

BTW: As far as the meaning of life is concerned, the answer is 42.
14:47 February 24, 2011 by freechoice
you reckon this zu Googleberg issue will bring the downfall of CDU this coming election, despite strong economic indicators for Germany?
15:34 February 24, 2011 by Krim
According to the same Bild Zeitung but this time online survey

Bild.de

55% say, he should resign.

Is there any control over these surveys?
18:01 February 24, 2011 by avserb
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
18:05 February 24, 2011 by frankiep
@sunsolar

"But what this guy's thesis has anything to do with his job? if he has cheated(and it's always remain a big if) then it is an academic matter and it should be dealt with in an academic way, not political way, because it has nothing to do with his performance on his job, period! "

Absolutely wrong. Politicians hold a position of public trust. Once a politician violates that trust by not only lying to the public, but continuing to lie even against all evidence to the contrary, he ceases to have credibility. What else is he lying about? If he is willing to lie about something "small" then why should anyone think that he won't give a second thougt about lying about something much bigger?

But you are righ about one thing. The public is by and large stupid, easily distracted, and easily manipulated. This will be mostly forgotten and people will like him even more for being a liar and a cheat, as evidenced by the survey showing that he is even more popular now than he was before. Just like in the case with Bill Clinton where he was proven to have committed perjury, Guttenberg will emerge from this as popular as ever thanks to a public easily impressed by hype and glamour.
00:38 February 25, 2011 by hanskarl
@smaky, I was not aware of this, thank you. And on your second point I totally agree!!
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