Watchtower & Stalin
both alter artwork — Why?
PARADE MAGAZINE (February 8, 1998, pg. 15) tells about Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's practice of having photographs retouched to remove the faces of political figures who had fallen out of favor. Examples are show on the cover of a new book, The Commissar Vanishes: The Falsification of Photographs and Art in Stalin's Russia by David King (Metropolitan Books-Henry Holt).
The book review in PARADE MAGAZINE explains that the Communist dictator used "the photographer's airbrush as a political weapon." The out-of-favor figures who disappeared from historical photographs were "victims of expert retouching." In PARADE 's opinion, this practice showed Stalin's government to be "a cruel regime whose cynicism neglected no details."
Does that book speak about Jehovah's Witnesses? Not that we know of. What is the connection, then? This: The Watchtower Society follows the same practice. And if such a practice leads to certain conclusions about the regime of Josef Stalin, the same practice on the part of the Watchtower leadership may lead to similar conclusions about them.
Who else follows the practice of retouching photographs and artwork as different viewpoints or personalities fall in or out of favor? There must be others, but the only one that comes readily to mind is "Big Brother" in George Orwell's futuristic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. While "Big Brother is watching you" his henchmen are rewriting books and fixing photos:
This process of continual alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals…cartoons, photographs …In this way the Party could be shown by documentary evidence to have been correct…mistaken prophecies by Big Brother, have been rewritten a dozen times…without any admission that any alteration had been made.
—Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell (Signet Classic edition)
Big Brother and dictator Josef Stalin — strange company for a religious organization! Yet the Watchtower Society has placed itself in that company by adopting their methods.
Could some underling be to blame for the doctored artwork in The Watchtower ? No, because the leaders claim responsibility in the March 1, 1987, Watchtower (page 15):
Each article in both The Watchtower and Awake! and every page, including the artwork, is scrutinized by selected members of the Governing Body before it is printed...
In fact, although JW publications neither explain nor acknowledge the changes, it is often evident that a high-level decision must have been made to rule a certain hairstyle out of favor or to disqualify individuals from appearing in photographs. Over-the-ears hairstyles on men are replaced in some pictures with short "theocratic" haircuts.
THE WATCHTOWER gave this man a new head
Altered Watchtower illustrations are reminiscent of
Stalin & "Big Brother"
In Orwell's novel Big Brother's men altered not only the illustrations in books, magazines, and newspapers, but also the text. Josef Stalin presumably did the same. And the Watchtower Society follows suit.
Compare page 12 of the January 1, 1989, Watchtower with its bound volume reprint. In the original magazine, paragraph 8 ends with the statement that the apostle Paul’s missionary activity laid the foundation for “a work that would be completed in our 20th century.”—a subtle prophecy that ‘the end’ will come by the year 2000 A.D. This sentence is changed in the bound volume reprint to read “a work that would be completed in our day.” Yet there is no footnote or other indication that anything was changed. How similar, again, to "Big Brother"'s world where:
Everything faded into the mist. The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became the truth. …This process of continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound tracks, cartoons, photographs— … without any admission that any alteration had been made.— Nineteen Eighty-Four, G. Orwell (Signet ed.) p. 36-37
Motivation for the Watchtower Society's alterations has not always been the same. During 1981 and 1982 an ad for Johnnie Walker Red scotch whisky appeared in several major magazines, including the September 1982 Reader’s Digest (certain editions only, p. 37). The ad depicted a red sunset silhouetting a building with two people standing on an elevated porch. It had first been run in the June 29, 1981 U.S. News and World Report, and was copyrighted, according to the liquor company’s staff attorney.
Then The Watchtower of September 15, 1982, appeared with the same picture on its cover (slightly modified—the Watchtower Society’s artist cut off the left edge of the building and removed one of the people from the porch). This misuse of the liquor ad picture was exposed in the October, 1982, issue of Comments from the Friends .
As a result of such publicity the liquor company, Somerset Importers, Inc., contacted Watchtower headquarters through their legal staff. The Society agreed, out of court, to stop using the ad on its cover. So, when the year’s magazines were reprinted as a bound volume at the end of 1982, the cover of the September 15th issue featured a different picture—a landscape showing trees with mountains in the background, predominantly blue instead of red. Foreign language editions—those printed after the U.S. English edition—also carried the new cover. The Watchtower issue with a liquor ad picture on its cover is now a collector’s item.
Compare page 13 of the June 1, 1989, Watchtower with the bound volume reprint of the same magazine. The original issue features a photograph of a married couple over the heading, “God’s Word says, ‘Let marriage be honorable.’” In the bound volume reprinted at the end of the year, a different couple’s photograph has been substituted. Again, no explanation is offered. And, again, reminiscent of The Commissar Vanishes —dictator Josef Stalin's similar altering of pictures — and Big Brother in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Amazingly, the average Jehovah's Witness accepts the altered illustrations without comment and pretends that nothing is wrong — just as did the oppressed populations in Stalin's Soviet Union and in Orwell's nightmarish novel.