A few pointers to any budding journalists out there:
Know your audience.
Make sure they can understand you.
Make sure that, if you are trying to make a point, you actually make a point.
And do so as efficiently as possible.
I bring this up because of something received in the mail here at the paper yesterday. It was a plain, manila envelope package. Inside was a 120-page “manifesto” (I’ll give you a moment to go look that up) written completely in German. Well, almost completely. Scattered throughout the piece was “SCIENTOLOGY” – yes, in all caps. Apparently that doesn’t translate into German.
Also of note was the fact that there were no paragraph breaks in all 120 single-spaced, typed pages. For that matter, there weren’t a lot of periods, either.
No, that is not normal for German grammar.
Oh, and the cover letter was dated August 8, 2007. The “manifesto” (know what that means yet?) was addressed to the U.N. and dated 1999.
Curious, to say the least, I headed to the world’s foremost authority on virtually everything – Google.
Here’s what I found:
The package was sent from a small town southeast of Hamburg, Germany, based on the return address. The author, Karsten Sasse, was apparently noted as a “crusader” in a past issue of Scientology’s magazine.
And the exact same package has been received by other Midwest, small-town newspapers. Right down to the dates on the cover letters. Two that came up in the search were in Kentucky and one in North Dakota. There may be others that just didn’t do anything – like write a column – with them.
One paper did a Google translation on the first paragraph or two to find out that the “manifesto” (why haven’t you looked that word up yet?!) appears to be about the German government’s oppression of Scientology. I won’t even begin to get into what that’s about, but suffice to say that the German government is a little stricter on what it considers to be a “legitimate religion” than the U.S. I also won’t even begin to get into what Scientology is. If you’re interested, there is more than enough stuff online on the subject.
So, Herr Sasse took a lot of time back in 1999 to type (single spaced, mind you) 120 pages – without paragraph breaks – to let the world know that he feels the German government is being extremely unfair in how it treats Scientology, something he clearly feels strongly for.
So why send it to us? Or to other small newspapers in America’s heartland?
Yes, I did live in Germany for six wonderful months. But that was 20 years ago and I really don’t have any connections in German government. (Not to mention, my German is pretty bad now.)
Does he somehow over estimate the LaGrange Standard’s international influence?
Did he not think that no one in an office in Indiana is fluent enough in German to fully grasp his diatribe? (Yeah, I’ll wait while you go look that one up, too.)
Or, as I suspect, is this just an attempt to shore up the German postal service by constantly sending these out?
We will likely never know.
I wish there was some way to convey this to Herr Sasse, although I suspect it would make little difference. He has spent all this time, energy, and money to send us something that we won’t read and we have no real interest in as we are not in Germany nor involved with Scientology.
I suspect he will tirelessly continue to try to get his message out.
As a friend has often said about certain works of “art” – he knows the artist is trying to say something, he just wished it wasn’t being said in gibberish.
In this case, it was gibberish in German written in a “manifesto.” And boy, I hope you know what that means now.