German press review: Guttenberg′s ′smug nonchalance′ rightly punished | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 06.05.2011
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German press review: Guttenberg's 'smug nonchalance' rightly punished

Media outlets in Germany were virtually unanimous that Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg got his just deserts for plagiarizing his dissertation. They were divided, however, over the political future of the beleaguered baron.


The plagiarism scandal surrounding former defense minister Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg floored the career of Germany's most popular politician, a strong future candidate for the chancellor's post.

"Unfortunately, the young man from the noble house has not just damaged himself," the Tagesspiegel newspaper lamented. "A scientific institute is also tainted, after giving out top marks for mediocre work. Politics is tainted too, because its top representative [Chancellor Angela Merkel] tried to draw a line between the politician and the scientists."

Tagesspiegel also assigned some blame to the people who supported the populist defense minister, for letting their hopes for Guttenberg blind them from reality.

The Leipziger Volkszeitung chose to discuss the issue in absolutes, describing the University of Bayreuth's verdict as "unmistakable," Guttenberg's plagiarism as a "serious crime" and the Guttenberg scandal itself as "at an end."

Cover-up trumps the deed

The Leipzig-based paper also mentioned perhaps the biggest mystery in the entire case, namely Guttenberg's attempts to play down the scope of his misdeeds - first saying the charges were rubbish, and then saying that he did not intentionally deceive but rather neglected to attribute his sources.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

The scandal threatened to impact Merkel's popularity

"Why did he stick so fiercely to this line of defense, when he must have known that the entire deception would soon be revealed?"

The Kölner Stadtanzeiger was equally bemused by Guttenberg's decision not to come clean, saying that he could have told the truth and hoped for mercy. "That was how a once proud man frittered away his last, weak card."

The Stuttgarter Zeitung, however, said that any open questions remaining from this case should be leveled at the University of Bayreuth.

"Why didn't his supervisors notice? And how was his top grade [note: summa cum laude] justified, when it is usually so rarely awarded?"

Vociferous Bild falls silent

Throughout the plagiarism scandal, Guttenberg could only really rely on one ally in the press. But it was as powerful an ally as any German politician could wish for; the mass-circulation Bild tabloid.

The paper had passionately positioned itself in Gutenberg's corner as the minister fought for his post – once running the headline "We are standing behind Guttenberg," referring to the results of a readers' poll on the then-defense minister.

As of Friday evening, however, Bild had only published an uncharacteristically dry account of the University of Bayreuth's decision, concluding: "Now it's quasi-official - Guttenberg did copy.

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg

Many pundits predict Guttenberg's eventual return to politics

With Saturday's and Sunday's hard copies of Bild yet to hit the stands, however, there's still time for the publishing powerhouse to respond.

Can Guttenberg come back?

The Frankfurter Rundschau was perhaps the most critical of all, accusing the smooth-talking, wise-cracking Guttenberg of "smug nonchalance," first in his attempts to deceive academia, and then in his bid to hide the deception from the public.

The paper mentions the looming possibility of lawsuits, with intentional plagiarism counting as an abuse of Intellectual Property rights in some cases. Concluding that resignation was the correct political outcome, the paper also suggests that this should mark a lengthy timeout in Guttenberg's political career.

"[Germany] admittedly cannot demand that it's governed by infallible politicians, but it can demand respectable ones. A return to politics should therefore be out of the question even in the long term."

To the north and east, however, the Braunschweiger Zeitung was extremely confident that Guttenberg would find a way to rise from the ashes, and fast.

"You can bet on this," the paper prophesied, "[this scandal] has only briefly interrupted his political career."

Author: Mark Hallam
Editor: Darren Mara

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