Unbiased columnism # 2.2

Mangled material

Stockholm, January 18, 2001

[Previous installment: Poor guy versus multinational cult.] SWEDISH COURT CASES ARE BORING and take too long. All proceedings must be verbal; the written preparations just serve as a background and what is not said, does not officially count. That is why this court case will last five days.

Magnusson, Scientology’s attorney, opens with a tiresome enumeration of Zenon’s misdeeds and misbehaviours. Posted this, webbed that, material filed here, copy made there, said this, did that, in September… in October… in May… I am on the verge of falling asleep, I know this song too well by now. Besides, Magnusson is not a gifted speaker. The court – five judges, one of them a trainee who serves as the clerk – listens without much interest. They know this story too. Magnusson is so slow that he doesn’t manage to reach the part where he outlines the grounds for his complaints. He’ll continue tomorrow. Now it’s Zenon’s turn first.

The court hopes that he will simply plead guilty on many counts, so that deliberations about those acts can be dismissed. And Zenon is quite willing to do so: he has never denied having webbed parts of the OTs nor denies having posted the NOTs, but Scientology accuses him of much more. That he will fight. And he wants to win at least one point. He is even prepared to settle or to admit guilt on all counts as long as he gets this particular one: a declaration that the OTs and NOTs are legally published.

From that one concession or confirmation a series of important rights and consequences follow, and Zenon is prepared to sacrifice everything in order to establish these rights: the right to possess copies of the OTs and NOTs for private use, the right to quote from them, and thus, of course, re-establishing every citizen’s right to demand a copy of the OTs and NOTs under offentlighetsprincipen. (If legal publication is established, the limitation that the Swedish law, after pressure exerted from Scientology and the US, has put on offentlighetsprincipen would no longer apply to the OTs and NOTs.)

In Zenon’s case, just like in mine, Scientology claims infringement in many more instances than they are willing to – or can – prove. With respect to the OT-fragments included in the Fishman Affidavit, Scientology in my case has only shown some evidence regarding OT2 and OT3. For the other fragments they claim copyright as well but they have refused to come up with even the tiniest shred of evidence. Zenon knows that they wouldn’t; after al, he webbed the Fishman Affidavit after my case had been brought before court, and he challenged them on their faint evidence and their all too extensive claims.

The case against him was already well on its way when Zenon filed a new, even thicker stack of NOTs with the court. Scientology immediately claimed copyright to those as well and demanded secrecy. They even had a notary public compare this thick stack to the original, unmasked NOTs, and upon doing a random comparison, she established that this thick stack contained nothing but pure, unadulterated NOTs.

*

BUT THEY WEREN’T original NOTs. That is to say: just a few were. Of this stack of two hundred alleged NOTs, only eight were authentic; the rest had been mangled. Zenon had posted on a.r.s., asking people to send him Monkey NOTs, and he had received them in abundance. Some ten of them were NOTs that had been ‘translated’ using programs that produce dialects: there were Swedish Cheffed NOTs, Jived NOTs, and Rastafarian NOTs – hence, satire, not originals. “Hjändle åll sjuch Björks ånd cljusters by blåwing them öff,” that kind of stuff. Moreover, hundred and eight-five were cut up and mangled. To mangle them, you do this: you take a paragraph from a text, use it as a ‘seed’ and input it to a program, and the output is a full page of mixed-up phrases, illogical sentences and weird grammar – but full of faintly familiar phrases. “Those are our NOTs!” Scientology exclaimed, and the notary public agreed with them. Not true: they are nonsensical, gibberish, Jabberwocky’ed texts, Zenon explained to the court, and what is more: the fact that Scientology claims copyright on these texts proves that one should take their claims with not a grain but a pound of salt.

The court looks confused.

“Take a look at page so-and-so of my appeal brief,” Zenon says, and points the court to a page that looks familiar: “… copyright infringement … taking into consideration that … plaintiff stated that … in a ruling dated …” The court nods, they know this text. It is part of the ruling of the previous court in Scientology versus Panoussis, the ruling that is being appealed right now.

“Please read the text carefully,” Zenon asks, and he is silent. The court raises an eyebrow and reads. After a few seconds, more eyebrows are raised. This text doesn’t make any sense, it has no head nor tail. It’s plainly gibberish. The judges look at one another, quizzed. “This text is the result of a real paragraph of the ruling having been mangled in the same way as the Monkey NOTs that I filed and to which Scientology claims copyright,” Zenon explains. No reaction. “I wanted to prove that Scientology claims copyright to any text that contains a few of their phrases, so I mangled a paragraph of the previous court’s ruling in order to demonstrate the scope of that claim. Scientology claiming that the mangled NOTs are theirs, amounts to this court accepting this gibberish as a valid and legal ruling.” Slowly, things start falling in place. The one judge after the other grabs the mangled NOTs, picks up the mangled ruling and compares it to the actual ruling, and they understand what has been going on. Fuck. So this is what Scientology claims copyright to? And they got a notary to confirm their claim?

We really need to investigate those claims, the court thinks. You can see it on their faces.

Zenon sits back, happy. This is exactly what he wanted to attain when he filed these mangled NOTs, and Scientology fell into the trap that he had set up for them. Point scored.

*

MAGNUSSON, SCIENTOLOGY’S ATTORNEY, coughs and reassembles himself. He informs the court that he has re-ordered the evidence that he has filed and has created a new set of binders for the court. Aides go up to the bench and to both parties, and deposit ten new binders in front of all of them. Zenon just got another ten kilos of paper thrown into my lap.

[Unbiased columnism is a series of seven court reports on the proceedings of Scientology versus Zenon Panoussis. This series covers the Jan 2001 sessions. Next: McShane compliments Zenon.]

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