One of the Americans disagreed with this assessment. It doesn’t matter if you understand her messages, he argued. If you simply know who receives them, then you know who among her entourage has real influence. During the debate that ensued, it emerged that several of those present had a pretty good idea who gets Merkel’s texts. Which left us with an even more nonsensical conclusion: Yes, a second secretary at the U.S. embassy might be fascinated to learn whom Merkel pings most often, even if a lot of other people already have this information. But none of us could work out why this would be even remotely of interest to the U.S. president or, indeed, anyone at a senior level in German-American relations.

Now we know untold sums get spent trying to interpret what the German chancellor meant when she typed the word “nein” into her BlackBerry.

Surrounding this story are swirling layers of hypocrisy and emotion, not all of which are rational. The German press has worked itself into a state of self-righteous hysteria; the German foreign minister is talking about severing alliances and suspending trade discussions. …