Baron Cut’n’paste and zu Googleberg

Erlebt es die englischsprachige Presse anders, was in Deutschland seit dem 16. Februar als Plagiats-Affäre Akademiker empört und alle anderen angeblich kalt lässt? Ja und nein. Generell ist eine größere Distanz in der Betrachtung festzustellen, daher lohnt sich ein Blick übers Meer und zurück.

Erste Analysen aus den USA, England und Irland

Das Wall Street Journal (WSJ) berichtete am 18. Februar: German Defense Minister Drops Doctoral Title. Bereits zu diesem frühen Zeitpunkt („vorübergehend, ich betone, vorübergehend auf das Führen des Titels verzichten“) fragte die Zeitung nach möglichen mittelfristigen politischen Auswirkungen: „If the allegations prove true, the damage to the conservatives‘ most dynamic politician could pose a major headache for Ms. Merkel ahead of several key elections this spring.“ Die vom WSJ ausgemachten Hauptverteidigungslinien der Union wurden seitdem allerdings pulverisiert: „Conservative colleagues have defended him, with some rejecting the allegations of plagiarism as a smear campaign, while others said critics should wait for the outcome of the university’s probe.“

Bereits am Vortag hatte The Economist unter dem Titel Heavy lifting? die verschwörungstheoretische Abwehrstrategie der Guttenberg-Freunde beschrieben und für hoffnungslos erklärt:

„But now Mr zu Guttenberg is embroiled in a scandal that he may not be able to blame on anyone else. […] Mr zu Guttenberg calls the charges of plagiarism ‚fanciful‘; any lapses in scholarly propriety will be corrected in the next edition, he says. His allies suggest he is the victim of a left-wing plot: Andreas Fischer-Lescano, a law professor who uncovered the apparent plagiarism while writing a review of the published thesis, is a founding member of a think tank positioned well to the left of centre.

That seems desperate. Mr zu Guttenberg has a better chance of spinning the copycat passages as trivial examples of carelessness, unrelated to his job as defence minister. So far, the opposition is not demanding his resignation. The University of Bayreuth, which awarded the thesis top honours, could withdraw Mr zu Guttenberg’s doctorate if it finds he has seriously breached the norms of scholarship. His political future will depend on whether the affair so damages his credibility that he can no longer continue in office.“

Die vom Economist vorgeschlagene Taktik, jeden Zusammenhang zwischen Plagiat und Ministertätigkeit zu leugnen, griff die Union gerne auf.

Englischsprachige Medien müssen stets auch einen Kontext schildern, in den ihre Leser die Vorgänge im fernen Deutschland einordnen können. Bei der BBC fungierte am 18. Februar ein klassisches Deutschlandbild wie zur Zeit des Deutschen Kaiserreichs als Folie, durch die die aktuellen Vorgänge interpretiert wurden: Eine hierarchische Ständegesellschaft, in der Adel, Abstammung und Amt zählen. Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg: Baron without a title versetzt den Leser 100 Jahre in die Vergangenheit:

„Names and titles matter in Germany. For the moment, Defence Minister Dr zu Guttenberg will be plain Mr or Minister – or maybe Baron – and that will be painful. […] His writings mirror word for word the writings of the earlier articles. The allegations have great force because Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg is a dream of a politician: rich, good-looking with a beautiful wife, the very model of a German aristocrat. His full name reveals his aristocratic background: Karl-Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jakob Philipp Franz Joseph Sylvester Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg. The ‚von und zu‘ reveals his lineage, while Freiherr means ‚baron‘.“

Doch es kommt noch schlimmer. Die BBC malt Vergangenheiten an die Wand, die bis ins finstere Mittelalter reichen:

„His home is a castle in Bavaria which has been in the family since 1482; he is good-looking; his wife is a glamorous chat-show host and a great-great-granddaughter of ‚Iron Chancellor‘ Otto von Bismarck.“

Für die Irish Times vom 19. Februar machen zwei Aspekte die Angelegenheit zu mehr als einem Sturm im Wasserglas. Beide spielen auf ein ähnliches Deutschlandbild wie das der BBC an und führen zum Scheitern von Guttenbergs Krisenmanagement: Minister’s response to allegations of plagiarism fails to calm political storm.

„First, like no other, Mr Guttenberg has courted the media in his three-year rise from regional Bavarian politician to cabinet minister. The Guttenbergs – his wife Stefanie is the great-great-granddaughter of Otto von Bismarck – are the darlings of the gossip columns, bringing a touch of glamour to Germany’s drab society pages. Under the tutelage of the editor of the Bild tabloid, the young baron has staged himself in the media as a dutiful, modest and honest broker in the political snakepit. Now his critics suggest that lifting entire chunks from other people’s work does not fit with the image Germany’s most popular politician fashioned for himself.

Which leads to the second problem: Germany is a country where doctor and professor titles open the doors to high society, political office and supervisory boards. Cut-and-pasting your way to a title is almost as bad as buying one on the internet; wrongful use of an academic title in Germany is a criminal offence. Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared to deliver the political kiss of death yesterday, saying the young minister enjoyed her ‚full confidence‘.“

Rückblicke nach einer Skandal-Woche

Auf den ersten Aspekt kommt auch The Economist zu sprechen, als er nach einer Woche Plagiatsaffäre am 24. Februar über The Teflon minister schreibt:

„He is married to a Bismarck, wears bespoke suits and pays photogenic visits to the troops in Afghanistan. He even held a doctorate.“

Die Zeitung überblickt das Ausmaß des Plagiats zwar nicht, wenn sie schreibt „More than a fifth of the text was plagiarised, according to GuttenPlag Wiki“, geht aber auf Guttenbergs neue Spitznamen ein, und spricht ihm übernatürliche Überlebenskraft zu, zugleich an historische (Bismarck, Hitler, Adenauer, Kohl) wie mythische (Siegfried, Barbarossa und viele andere) Vorbilder gemahnend. Denn noch sei er nicht gefallen: „Voters encourage the pretence that the plagiarism does not matter. According to a poll, nearly three-quarters want Mr zu Guttenberg to stay in office.“ Die anschließende Sachanalyse der Bundeswehrreform sprüht vor Kritik und sieht eine Herkulesaufgabe auf den Verteidigungsminister zukommen. Dass er diese womöglich noch umsetzen könne, schulde er der verwunderlichen deutschen Bereitschaft, für ihn beide Augen zuzudrücken:

„It is above all Mr zu Guttenberg’s rhetoric, which feels uplifting and bracingly candid, that has endeared him to German voters. He has the trick of appearing to speak truth to power while being riveted to power himself. You might expect the sin of plagiarism to be fatal for the zu Guttenberg brand. Not yet, apparently. Thanks to Germans‘ willingness to overlook it, Mr zu Guttenberg may yet have a chance to turn his own words into deeds.“

The Guardian fasste am selben Tag zusammen: German defence minister stripped of doctorate for plagiarism.

„He said he had been overwhelmed by writing the work while starting a family and launching his political career and that he had been ‚arrogant‘ to believe he could juggle it all at the same time. ‚I did not deliberately cheat, but made serious errors,‘ said Guttenberg to loud jeers in the chamber. […] Guttenberg, now dubbed Googleberg, initially tried to ride out the storm after the scandal came to light last week, dismissing the allegations of plagiarism as ‚fanciful‘.“

Weiter in die Zukunft blickte am Vortag Time, das Germany’s ‚Super-Election Year‘ Starts with a Whimper titelte:

„Merkel’s government has recently been rocked by growing speculation that Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, the charismatic media darling and Merkel’s likely successor as Chancellor, may be considering quitting his post amid allegations that he plagiarized parts of his doctoral thesis. The scandal has escalated in recent days – on Monday evening, zu Guttenberg announced he was going to renounce his doctoral title for good in an attempt to defuse the controversy. While Merkel has thrown her support behind her popular cabinet minister, the affair has damaged the image of her government. Coming on top of her party’s electoral rout in Hamburg on Sunday, Merkel faces a torrent of negative headlines in the next few weeks that she might find difficult to reverse.“

Eine solche Verknüpfung von Guttenbergs politischem Schicksal mit dem der Regierung Merkel wagt in Deutschland nur die Opposition.

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Eine Antwort zu “Baron Cut’n’paste and zu Googleberg

  1. Pingback: Vier Farcen und eine Tragödie | Erbloggtes

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