Tonight, the German cultural TV program aspekte showed a good report about the German plagiarism hunters including an interview with Debora Weber-Wulff, a German informatics professor and plagiarism hunter. Debora Weber-Wulff also writes the English language plagiarism blog Copy, Shake and Paste.
Talking of plagiarism blogs (and how sad is it that we need dedicated plagiarism blogs), here is another interesting plagiarism blog, this time in German: De Plagio.
Meanwhile, the good people of VroniPlag already have further German politicians in their sights, namely Margarita Mathiopoulos, another FDP politician and professor of international security at the University of Potsdam, Uwe Brinkmann, a local politician from Hamburg and finally a Social Democratic plagiarist, albeit a rightwing Social Democrat, Bijan Djir-Sarai, an Iranian refugee who came to Germany as a child and is yet another member of the liberal party FDP.
Margarita Mathiopoulos (What is it with Greek-German FDP politicians and plagiarism?) was already suspected of plagiarism back in the late 1980s (here is a Spiegel article about the case from 1989) and VroniPlag is now using current technology and crowdsourcing to examine her dissertation yet again.
The leftwing newspaper TAZ also has an article on the Uwe Brinkmann case.
Finally, here is an article about the Bijan Djir-Sarai case from the Neue Grevenbroicher Zeitung, Djir-Sarai’s hometown paper.
So far all suspected and proven political plagiarists have been right of center, namely members of the conservative parties CDU/CSU and the liberal party FDP (“liberal” in the European sense, the US equivalent would be “liberterian”). So far, members of the Social Democractic, Green and Left parties have not been caught plagiarizing. This has given rise to the claim – mostly from the affected parties – that the plagiarism hunters are specifically targeting right of center politicians.
So it’s notable that we now have the first plagiarism case involving a Social Democratic politician. Two, if you include Margarita Mathiopoulos who was affiliated with the Social Democratic Party in the 1980s before joining the liberal party. Interestingly, both Brinkmann (and Mathiopoulos if you want to include her) belong/used to belong to the centrist/right wing of the SPD.
Why do the plagiarists seem to be concentrated on one side of the political spectrum? I am not sure, but I suspect that those on the right side of the political spectrum tend to be more likely to pursue a doctorate mainly for the career boost. And purely career oriented doctoral candidates are perhaps more likely to be unwilling (or unable, since they have demanding careers in addition to their studies) to put in the necessary work and therefore resort to shortcuts such as plagiarism.
By the way, there actually are still people who defend plagiarists. Today I chanced to talk to someone about the Althusmann case (see my write-up here) with whom I also talked shortly after the Guttenberg case broke. Back then, this person refused to believe that Guttenberg might be guilty (because he’s such a – quote – “wonderful person”), now he refuses to believe that Althusmann might be guilty. And anyway, he doesn’t see what the big fuss about a few footnotes is anyway and we should not judge those poor plagiarists, because judging is wrong. Coincidentally, this person is very conservative, very law and order oriented and considers a neighbour’s untidy garden is a personal affront to himself and has threatened to take legal action against said neighbour for not keeping the garden tidy. He also complained loudly that everybody gets to paint their house as they please, thus destroying the orderly appearance of the street. I muttered under my breath about “bloody German garden fascism”* and got ugly looks from everyone at the table, because upsetting someone’s party is worse than sueing your neighbours for not conforming to your stupid order fetish.
So not mowing your lawn is a worse offense in this person’s eyes than cheating on your doctoral dissertation. And while it is okay to judge people for not keeping their garden tidy, it is absolutely not okay to judge them for plagiarizing. Honestly, I wonder what sort of world this person lives in. It’s a scary place, that much is for sure.
On the other hand, he might also be in denial about his political heroes – and it’s pretty obvious that he votes on that side of the political spectrum – falling like dominoes.
*Garden fascism is the insistence that a garden must meet some arbitrarily set standards of orderliness and that failing to meet those standards is somehow a terrible crime. Hating garden work and daring to say so is another hanging offense in the eyes of the common garden fascist. Garden fascism does not care about beauty – in fact, the gardens of garden fascists are often stunningly ugly – it only cares about order. The condition is sadly widespread in Germany, particularly in rural and suburban areas.