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Review Tausend Zeilen Luege

Tausend Zeilen Lüge” is the new book by Juan Moreno about the causa “Class Relotius”, a German journalist who fabricated most of stories and by that won several awards. The manuscript informs and entertains (edutainment is the favourite after all). With the right amount of humour, Moreno manages to provide tense insights into his life as a reporter, the German magazine SPIEGEL, and the scandal surrounding Relotius. Respect for uncovering the truth about the scandal. The book is definitely a well written piece that is entertaining and easy to read.

Moreno criticises the structures of journalism. However, some of his insights can be applied to other disciplines such as science, or sales. For example, the formula of a successful manuscript is: relevance + plausbility + storytelling. Moreno claims these three ingredients to be crucial for success and popularity over truth and rigour.

Bizarre is the recurring self-portrayal Moreno’s as the fallible hero, which comically reminds me of an ironic poem by Wilhelm Busch called “To criticize yourself is smart”. The fable of the ill Relotius is quite unbelievable, and lenghty, yet vague. Moreno’s criticism of storytelling is not convincing, for Moreno himself makes plenty use of it, as he writes in a narrative way, including suspenses and dramaturgy. Where is the “abwägen” or “herantasten” (weighing up arguments, 39)?

Despite the outlined shortcomings in his argumentation, the book and story are worth reading. It has quite a few memorable quotes (spoiler alert):

“legastheniker würde daraus einen guten Text machen” (51)
“für Claas lege ich meine Hand ins Feuer” (155) :-(
“Offenbar meine Hinrichtung” (167)
“es ist schlimmer als jeder albtraum” (234)
“ich glaube, wir machen das nochmal” (235)
“Tay Wiles hat geheiratet. Was für ein Glück für sie und den Spiegel.” (235)
“ich habe beisetzungen mit besserer Stimmung erlebt” (237)
“na ja, wir haben ihn Lord Voldemort genannt” (237)
“Transparenz versprechen und dann Milchglas” (243)
“ohne Vertrauen nicht zu machen” (246) ist zentral bei Reportagen, man muss glauben
“Hauptsache die Geschichte ist spannend. Wahrheit? Egal!”

The main point is an exciting story. Truth? Doesn’t matter!

Addendum

Wilhelm Busch’s (1832 – 1908) “Die Selbstkritik hat viel für sich” (translated by Walter A. Aue)

To criticize yourself is smart.
Say, I would scold myself to start:
this brings me, first, the real gain
that I’m a very modest man;
for, second, who would not agree
that I am full of honesty;
besides, and third, I snatch the prey
away from what the critics say;
and, fourth, I hope the crowd presents
some forceful counterarguments.
So, in the end, my little rap
makes me the most admired chap!