One of the things I certainly noticed as a JW, and even during the time I was in Bethel, was the complexities of reporting "truth."
Beginning with an observation on a personal level, I consider myself an honest person. But something happened along the way, beginning when I pioneered. Looking back, I started out keeping my time accurate. But with the pressure to get my time, I increasingly rounded my hours up... by a little at first... then a little more. At first I was afraid I'd get killed like Ananias and Sapphira, but when that didn't happen, faking time became a relief. Keeping my hours at 10 per month to qualify for appointment was easy when you showed up enough for service and nobody asked any questions. I still felt bad about not being "fully truthful", but it seemed that most of the pioneers were doing the same thing. Phantom pioneers and phantom publishers became obvious once I became an elder and saw the cards. Some of these with the great hours and placements were clearly being dishonest. The ones that tried to be honest were the ones that would be the most stressed out and often burnt out. I didn't completely fake it, and plenty of door-knocking still got done. But a lot of time was faked or wasted on social calls and just driving around. Even the COs and their wives would often give just a spurt of excitement before it was time to do somebody else's calls and take lengthy "encouraging" breaks.
Now I'll get a little more honest. When I was the congregation secretary, it was a hassle to chase down everybody who forgot to turn in their reports. After trying that for the first several months, by the time the second CO visit came around, I played fill in the blanks. Instead of the hassle, I filled out missing months for many. Keeping the numbers around their average, or a bit higher. I still didn't get struck down like Ananias and Sapphira, which made it all the easier to continue. The CO comes and says how nice the cards look and my habit became set in stone. Only if someone clearly had issues or became inactive did I stop reporting for them. It wasn't enough that we were the best congregation in the circuit or anything, but it just made life for everyone a lot easier and fewer hassles for everyone involved.
I don't think I was the only person that felt this way. When they eliminated the home "Bible" study report slips, it made it easier to fake a study because you didn't even have to come up with a name and address for the householder. Sure, I don't doubt that many publishers and secretaries are being honest on what they report, but it's just so easy and rewarding to be dishonest. It's not like you have to turn in money, you just scratch numbers on a stupid slip of paper. And some numbers look better than others. As you multiply the little bits of dishonesty, the numbers grow.
Something I noticed at bethel, was a cultural element of "truth." Dealing with dubs from other countries and other cultures, even those in branches, they would tend to tell you what they thought you wanted to hear, rather than what the facts were. If the facts were indisputable, such as how much money is in the bank, or how much rice is in the kitchen, they would have to be honest. But if it came to things like experiences reported, you couldn't count on honesty. And if the report is only scratching a number on paper, it's easy to write a bigger number that will make everybody happy, rather than an honest number, that will make people unhappy. Not everyone, and not every culture is like that, but I'm wondering about a trend. Watchtower bosses like to see those increasing numbers, who is making sure those numbers coming from the branches are legit?
In the past several years, some countries are reporting stagnation or decrease, while others report increase. We've discussed before how it's the poor and uneducated countries that have the growth. Well, I also think the reports of increase are coming from countries that are more likely to use "theocratic warfare strategy" and fatten up their reports to satisfy Brooklyn and keep their branches open. Who's going to check their figures? Most of the countries that report growth don't have government statistics on JW activity to compare against. However, the countries that report stagnation or decrease are more likely to be honest or have government reports that might conflict with WT numbers. The US branch reported growth last year, and would they lie? Of course! They're publishing only their own collected figures. It's like asking the students to submit their own grades for the year. Of course they'll give themselves the best grade! It's not like PriceWaterhouseCooper is coming behind to do a publisher audit to make sure the figures are right.
Granted, there has been growth in some areas of the US, but not all. And a curious reshuffling of circuits has taken place around here for no clear reason, other than to make one of the shrinking circuits look less pathetic.
Anyway, just wanted to throw this out there for consideration. A new Annual Report will be coming out that I suspect will still report growing numbers in whatever different countries. But I think it's all a sham. The Watchtower ship is sinking. The reports of their increases are numbers of their own fabrication.