The latest political plagiarism scandal

In the aftermath of the German general election last weekend, we have been seeing heads rolling (metaphorically of course – no one is guillotining politicians) on a scale unseen since the French revolution. Victims so far include Philipp Rösler and Rainer Brüderle of the liberal party FDP, Peer Steinbrück of the Social Democratic Party SPD and Jürgen Trittin, Claudia Roth and Renate Künast of the Green Party (but not Katrin Göring-Eckardt, unfortunately).

So several major German political parties (I’m still including the FDP, even though they got kicked out of parliament) are already suffering from a leadership crisis. This is about the worst possible time for another political plagiarism scandal (just click on the “plagiarism” tag for discussions of earlier scandals). And yet it seems we’re in for another, because Frank Walter Steinmeier, one third of the leadership trio of the Social Democratic Party (the other two thirds are/were Peer Steinbrück who already resigned and Siegmar Gabriel), has been accused of plagiarising his doctoral thesis. Of course, we don’t know whether the accusations are justified and I haven’t seen any side by side comparisons yet. Still, this is bad news for a man who might well have been Germany’s next foreign secretary, a post he already held from 2005 to 2009.

I was quite shocked by this, because unlike previous political plagiarists Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg (still ranting in the New York Times, which obviously has no issues with plagiarists) or Silvana Koch Merin, Steinmeier never struck me as the type to do this.

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2 Responses to The latest political plagiarism scandal

  1. Quixote says:

    It is not surprising to learn that Guttenberg is “Distinguished Statesman” at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in Washington. As I indicated in a comment on an earlier post of yours, American universities honor alleged plagiarists with all kinds of distinguished posts. For an indication of how far they are willing to go to suppress allegations of plagiarism instead of investigating them, see the documentation of a criminal trial in New York:

    • Cora says:

      I must confess I was stunned that a supposedly academic institution would give Guttenberg a post and a title after what he did (I think over 80 percent of his thesis was found to be plagiarized) and that the New York Times would give such a man space in their op-ed column. But then Guttenberg still has plenty of defenders in Germany as well, though academics unanimously hate him. Nonetheless, the professor who first exposed Guttenberg, a law professor at my local university, got hate mail and even death threats over that.

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