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[liberationtech] Fwd: Twitter [weak ties] and the resignation of Germany's minister of defense

Michael H. Goldhaber michael at
Thu Mar 3 16:09:48 PST 2011

This seems of interest in light of the discussion about the efficacy of weak ties


Begin forwarded message:

> Hi,
> not that that would be a truly liberating step, but it's interesting
> nonetheless:
> Germanys extremely popular minister of defense Karl Theodor zu
> Guttenberg resigned from office yesterday. There are two or three
> interesting aspects which make this resignation different from others.
> The starting point was an article about his doctoral thesis (law)
> containing a number of plagiarisms, published maybe three weeks ago.
> This led to a vast wiki-based online collaboration of many people
> looking for pieces in the thesis that were in fact copied from
> elsewhere. Within days it turned out that approx. 70% of the 400+ pages
> didn't have the necessary footnotes. The collaboration on this was
> started on Google docs but was moved to a proper wiki shortly after:
> Guttenberg and his political allies - including the chancellor - tried
> to belittle the whole affair as irrelevant to his being minister of
> defense. Alongside wild public debates an open letter was set up by
> doctoral students protesting against the belittlement of their academic
> work. Within days 30.000 signatures were collected online and handed
> over to the chancellor. Almost - the students were refused at the
> entrance of the Office of the Federal Chancellor and told that because
> of terrorism dangers the signatures couldn't be accepted.. (not sure if
> this is really true but it could be). They were all over the news anyways.
> Lastly Berlin's first demonstration took place last saturday that was
> organised solely through Twitter and social networks. Some 500 people
> gathered in Berlin's commercial center and marched to the ministry of
> defence holding up shoes - a reminiscence to the Arab shoes. This got
> attention in virtually all of Germany's news, major tv news included.
> I've never participated in a demonstration that small - there wasn't
> even music - that got this much national attention. (Some pictures here
> Another Twitter revolt, style: western industrialised country? I don't
> think so. Both tv and big printed papers played the decisive role. But
> what's interesting is how public attention is moving 'our' way. Why
> would less than 500 people protesting against a corrupt defense minister
> play any role at all? Because 'the net people started it', via Twitter.
> The fact that the amount of plagiarism in the dissertation was detected
> so fast by using a wiki played a role. It was noted widely that online
> collaboration can be very different and very effective in campaigning
> against politicians who didn't have to fear this kind of attack so far.
> Both the plagiarism detectives and the doctoral students wouldn't have
> been able to get together, do something and go public this waybefore.
> We've had Twitter, wikis, open letters online for a while. What's new is
> the way this is being discussed. And the resignation of the most popular
> politician Germany's had for years.
> Best
> Anna
> ---
> #  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
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