Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 24, 2011

Guttenberg's E Pluribus Unum

"E Pluribus Unum", those are the very first three words in the dissertation of Karl Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jacob Philipp Franz Joseph Sylvester von und zu Guttenberg (yes, those are all his names). K.T. zu Guttenberg is the current conservative German Minister of Defense. 

It is still unknown if the use of those three words were meant as a hidden joke by the ghostwriter, or if Guttenberg himself plagiarized them. Whatever. They and the first two paragraphs of the introduction to the dissertation, the part an author usually writes very carefully and without quoting anyone else, were copied from a piece by another author in a German conservative newspaper without being marked as a citation, an academical no-no.

Copied were also most of the other 408 pages in the dissertation, which was supposed to be a comparison of the American and European constitution forming process. The cooperative project I was involved in over the last week, GuttenPlag (in German), has now found not-attributed quotes on some 80% of its 408 pages. In total some 40-50% (we are still counting) of all lines are from not-attributed sources. If one adds the correctly attributed sources in the paper to that, there is little left the author or his ghostwriter wrote himself.

The current scandal started after a law professor was asked by a professional journal to write a review of Guttenberg's published dissertation. He immediately found five not-attributed quotes and last Wednesday went public with it. The same day a collaborative investigative internet project was born as a Google docs project by some current doctoral candidates. When the finds increased, the crowd sourcing moved to a wiki-format. Within four days a hundred or so people found hundreds of wrongly or not attributed quotes. The media jumped to the ever increasing results GuttenPlag published.

Guttenberg, after first calling the allegations of plagiarism "absurd", was forced to retreat further and further.

Yesterday the University of Bayreuth, his alma mater, revoked Guttenberg's Ph.D. qualification and he lost his academic title. (Over the last years the University had received about a million from Guttenberg family owned companies.) A debate in the Bundestag called for his resignation. He admitted to have "unconsciencly" also used four copyrighted papers from the Bundestag Research Service in his dissertation. An hour later two addition BRS papers were found to have been used by him word by word, unattributed of course. He is obviously still lying.

But as Guttenberg is the only really popular conservative politician, Chancellor Merkel is still backing him. Today he is still Minister of Defense though and we need to keep the pressure up to get him kicked out of office.

Why is that important you might ask.

Guttenberg, age 38, is the candidate of the U.S. neo-conservatives in Germany. He is a member of the U.S. Council of Foreign Relations and the Kissinger affiliated Atlantic-Bridge. Guttenberg was born into a rich family with a big name and centuries of history. Part of a blue-blood bavarian nobility some people still look up to. There are also a pretty wife and children, the now revoked Ph.D., summa cum laude of course, and very good relations with the equivalent of Rupert Murdoch in Germany, the Springer family and its daily "Bild" - the tabloid with the biggest readership in Europe.

Guttenberg is a very good public orator, probably even better than the young Tony Blair. His public strategy is comparable to Sarah Palin's. He is playing the nice anti-elite guy from next door, a mother-in-law's dream. "I am happy I do not have be in that ghastly political Berlin today, but can be here with you in your beautiful whatever town," is his opening line when out to stump. He speaks of truthfulness, honesty and conservative values.

At the same time he has no real political principles. In all of the four major decisions he made as defense minister, he changed his public stated opinion by 180 degree within weeks or days and in one case within hours. Whenever there was a problem, he found some scapegoats to fire.

But the people still like him. Even with all newspapers left to right, except Springer's Bild, and all commentators pressing for his resignation over the dissertation plagiarism and the related lies, recent polls still show him as still having majority support.

Guttenberg is a dangerous man.

People in the states may be used to such politicians and their tactics, Germans are not. Guttenberg is bringing in a populist style which the country and its politicians purposefully avoided for the last several decades. History teaches that Germans falling for a lying populist con man does not end well. Neither for Germany nor for any neighboring country.

So please excuse me for being off for another few days. The German population still has to learn how bad the guy really is - a slow process. We are now working on a conclusive report which will have all the reviewed numbers and graphs the press likes to spread about this issue. The current target date for publishing that is Monday. Until then I'll drop in once a while but will likely do little posting. 

Posted by b on February 24, 2011 at 18:51 UTC | Permalink


Go get 'em, Bernhard!

Posted by: jonku | Feb 24 2011 18:59 utc | 1

I'm sure you are doing god's work. Let us know if we can help. Some of us can chip in at least a few dollars if you think it would help and doesn't violate any German law.

Posted by: Lysander | Feb 24 2011 19:35 utc | 2

you start with a Guttenberg, you end up with a Bush jr., or a Sarkozy, or a Tony Blair - or a Berlusconi

Posted by: claudio | Feb 24 2011 20:53 utc | 3

or Ghaddafi's son

oh my it is catching on ... democratic control of doctoral theses ....


Posted by: somebody | Feb 24 2011 20:59 utc | 4


It is important to teach all politicians that they need to obey the laws. It is important to destroy the careers of as many as possible if they are not above board.

Keep up the good work.

Posted by: Joseph | Feb 24 2011 23:34 utc | 5

b, Guttenberg is a stuffed shirt, you don't make that many enemies in your own constituency, if you are half way compentent. He is form without content and it is always interesting to see how far you can get with that and how little you can achieve the other way round, however, there are limits.

Guttenberg was picked for the deeply undemocratic task to transform the German citizen's conscript army to a professional, mercenary military. I find it interesting that to do that, a member of the pre 1945 military class was picked. The Bundeswehr in the 1960's was very consciously modelled to be completely different. That applies to everybody, officers, generals ... They are now the people born after 1968 and that will have affected them in some or the other way also. Germany's demographic being what it is, and considering the political makeup of today's Europe, to remilitarize Germany is a fool's errand anyway.Not with ACDC.

I am really enjoying this "accidential" find of doctoral fraud a lot. Surprise, surprise there will be a "critical" biography of Guttenberg, coming out Monday by two FAZ reporters, who will find it easy to promote their book now. Welt is a conservative paper, too, and I am sure that Seehofer had never planned to introduce a "critical" biography of Guttenberg.

Posted by: somebody | Feb 25 2011 6:00 utc | 6

Professional ghost writers avoid those kinds of tricks like the plague, for the obvious reasons. They may plagiarize a lot, but they are very careful and skirt around the various rules cleverly.

A colleague or friend in the field would only exaggerate with the subvert intention of sabotage, unlikely, as it would also be very dangerous for them.

A student, however, aged around 25 or less, might do it, uncaringly, when paid to ‘produce’. I’ve seen cases like that. A wife, brother, as well. The last case I saw, it was a mother, of a young woman aged 24, contributing to her daughters’ ‘master’s thesis.’

I don’t know the text or context etc. but am surprised the committee did not say halt. I am presuming that it flew because he was already ‘important’ - isn’t is so that the thesis is relatively recent?

So my *guess*, he did it himself, out of arrogance and feelings of impunity. I mean, stupid rules don’t apply to exceptional ppl, right?

Posted by: Noirette | Feb 25 2011 14:07 utc | 7

you rock b. go get em!

Posted by: annie | Feb 25 2011 23:34 utc | 8

Some international papers pick up:
FT: Plagiarism row shortens aristocrat’s title
LAT (Reuters) Support for Merkel ally down amid plagiarism row
As usual the best - Economist: The Teflon minister

Posted by: b | Feb 26 2011 8:50 utc | 9

Speculating ... if G had taken a job under false pretenses, like for example he needed a ph.d to qualify then he could be fired simply for being unqualified. QED. Elected, that may be a different story.

Elsewise maybe he has committed a crime and there is an applicable law that criminals cannot be in government. Or cabinet, or some such.

Is there a precedent or general rule that one must be forced to resign by bringing dishonor on the department, electorate, government or office. If so that may apply as well.

In my area we have similar problems in government and I am interested in finding successful means to embrace and extend those individuals and leaders.

Posted by: jonku | Feb 26 2011 9:58 utc | 10

Well, rules are different on lower levels:

Posted by: Karin | Feb 26 2011 10:40 utc | 11

Ph.D. students are mobilizing with an open letter to Dr. Merkel:

Posted by: Karin | Feb 26 2011 11:06 utc | 12

I don't read German -- what is the RP Online article saying, it seems detailed. You said something interesting about rules on different levels.


Posted by: jonku | Feb 26 2011 11:42 utc | 13

jonku -

In most places, plagiarism of the ‘contemporary’ or ‘recent’ written word (that is a matter that does not involve intellectual property, patents, other copyrights, etc.) is very much in the eyes of the beholder. That is, different bodies will withdraw works, not publish, trash publication runs, remove passages; withdraw honors, degrees, prizes, etc. under their own steam - conventions, rules, internal directives, public opinion, etc. Generally, the only ones to sue - mostly the only ones who can sue - are the plagiarized and they do so for ‘damages’, loss of income, honor, publicity, etc. (Self plagiarism is OK.) The very concept of copyright of the written word (as in published works, scientific articles, etc.) is rather recent. It used to be the case that anything written was part of the ‘commons’ and taking it over just meant adopting the facts and opinions, etc. As we see on the internet today.

Here is another case from the past few weeks:

Patrick Poivre d’Avror (French media person, in cahoots with the Gvmt. since forever, chock full or journalistic, media, humanistic, literary pretension) was caught out with a cobbled together, copy-paste job, biography of ....Hemingway!

Totally pathetic. Hemingway is very popular in F, how he could have imagined he could get away with it is hallucinating. Link shows pop. mag that lists original and copy side by side. (Fr.)

In most cases, shaming the plagiariser is all that can be done. The plagiarized usually don’t sue, it is expensive and time consuming, and often the affair is seen as a quasi - compliment. It augments sales in the case of books, gets ppl on TV, etc.

Posted by: Noirette | Feb 26 2011 12:26 utc | 14

Jonku -

The rp article refers to another politician of the CDU political party, who was caught with plagiarism in his doctoral thesis, and who had to pay a fine of 9,000 Euro in addition to promptly loosing his regional governmental job.

Posted by: Karin | Feb 26 2011 17:37 utc | 15

ok, Guttenberg, Bildzeitung lost, a leading jurist from his university describes him as "impostor", a biography is coming out, carnival has started, I received a Guttenberg brand copy and paste hair gel photoshop via e-mail, so there are incountable ways to keep this in the news.

Angela Merkel has a bigger problem now.

The economy picks up, it is strike season, and social democrats tend to win elections. The academic community are furious as Merkel seems to consider a doctoral thesis insignificant.

I have decided to enjoy myself.

Posted by: ok Guttenberg is toast | Feb 27 2011 7:49 utc | 16

... if some of you want to sign the open letter to Ms. Merkel as well!

Posted by: Karin | Feb 27 2011 21:23 utc | 17

Congratulations b. I'm reading that Guttenberg has resigned.

Posted by: ThePaper | Mar 1 2011 10:30 utc | 18

yeah, congrats, b. he's out !
(according to the BBC: German defence minister Guttenberg resigns)

Posted by: Philippe | Mar 1 2011 12:01 utc | 19

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