It seems that in Germany one can lie, cheat, plagiarize, (ab)use taxpayer money for private gain, and still get to keep one’s job. The country that likes to call itself “The Country of Poets and Thinkers” (Das Land der Dichter und Denker) has a man as minister of defense who not only plagiarized his dissertation (if he did anything other than write the ridiculously pretentious preface himself), but lied to cover it up, lied to the public, lied to the press, and lied to parliament. Having brought the University of Bayreuth and academia in Germany in serious disrepute, this same man is now cracking jokes about academic titles at his appearances, where, apparently, he is still regaled as some sort of latter day messiah. Obama, they call him, charismatic, someone who gets people interested in politics, a man who says it like it is, our hero. The truly disturbing part of the entire affair is not his unrepentant arrogance and haughty sense of entitlement, not his lying and deceiving, not even the gall to turn in a dissertation in which on over 270 pages plagiarized passages have been found; no, the truly disturbing thing is that this might just make him become even more popular. More popular with whom, one might ask? Not with the press, the majority of which feel insulted by him and recognize the dangerous dynamic at play; not with those who have worked hard for their academic degrees which have suddenly become much less valuable; and not with those who think that a man who is willing to go to these lengths to dishonestly advance his career, who does not think that the rules apply to him, who until recently presumed to be a doctor of jurisprudence even though the work he turned in was for the most part the work of other authors, that such a man is not to be trusted with the armed forces of the largest European country; no, he is not popular with them, but he is popular with the masses. And it pains me to use this term, but there is no getting around it. He is popular with those who do not value the academy, those who do not see the irony in them harboring anti-”elitist” sentiments against the intelligentsia while proclaiming as savior a Baron who is married to Bismarck’s great, great granddaughter. And while at first glance there might not be much similarity between zu Guttenberg and Sarah Palin, at second glance, one does discern certain anti-intellectual, new know-nothing tendencies in their supporters that make one afraid for the fabric of our democratic societies on both sides of the Atlantic.