Regarding thought control and propaganda, the June 22, 2000 Awake contained the following thoughts:
1) "There is a difference – a big difference – between education and propaganda. Education shows you how to think. Propaganda tells you what to think. Good educators present all sides of an issue and encourage discussion. Propagandists relentlessly force you to hear their view and discourage discussion. Often their real motives are not apparent. They sift the facts, exploiting the useful ones and concealing the others. They also distort and twist facts, specializing in lies and half-truths. Your emotions, not your logical thinking abilities are their target. The propagandist makes sure that his message appears to be the right and moral one and that it gives you a sense of importance and belonging if you follow it. You are one of the smart ones, you are not alone, you are comfortable and secure – so they say.
2) The cunning propagandist loves such shortcuts – especially those that short-circuit rational thought. Propaganda encourages this by agitating the emotions, by exploiting insecurities, by capitalizing on the ambiguity of language and by bending the rules of logic.
3) Certainly, the handiest trick of the propagandist is the use of outright lies.
4) Another very successful tactic of propaganda is generalization. Generalizations tend to obscure important facts about the real issues in question, and they are frequently used to demean entire groups of people.
5) Some people insult those who disagree with them by questioning character or motives instead of focusing on the facts.
6) The sly art of propaganda can paralyze thought, prevent clear thinking and discernment and condition individuals to act en masse.
7) Emotional appeals are fabricated by practiced publicists, who play on feelings as skillfully as a virtuoso plays the piano. For example, fear is an emotion that can becloud judgment.
8) So we need to be selective. We need to scrutinize whatever is presented to us, deciding what to accept and what to reject.
9) Also, if possible, try to check the track record of those speaking. Are they known to speak the truth?"
This was not all taken from one paragraph. These were various statements that helped make up the entire article. Taking these one by one I will investigate them:
- That is one of the best quotes I have ever heard. Indeed….education shows you how to think and propaganda tells you what to think. Good educators present all sides of an issue and encourage discussion while propagandists force you to hear their view…..sifting facts….exploiting useful ones while concealing others. They distort and twist facts….specializing in lies and half truths……. Thus far I have proven to myself that as a religion…..JW's are NOT allowed to have differing view points on matters. They are supposed to fully trust in the governing body. If they do then they unitedly believe every last teaching of the GB and readily accept any an all changes in doctrine. So in order to remain in good standing….they MUST believe what they are told to believe. How is that not propaganda? Propaganda tells you what to believe, no? And education, conversely, shows you HOW to think, correct? Critical thinking is what helps humans make good decisions and avoid being taken advantage of. Yet witnesses are strongly discouraged from thinking critically about the governing body. So if told not to question the governing body, and told to believe what they tell us to believe and NOT think independently…..how exactly is that considered to be "education" in lieu of "propaganda" based on the above definitions that the Society gave? I’ve heard it argued that if you "make your mind over" then you can learn to trust in the governing body and will be apt to lovingly obey. If you spin it that way…..then yes…..it could be said that the society is educating as opposed to propagandizing. But then again….if you spin it that way as well….you could say that Fascist regimes don’t theoretically spread propaganda….rather….they simply take the time to help mold the population’s thinking in line with their agenda. Realistically, in either case it does not matter how you spin it. Whether you say "you WILL believe THIS"…..or you say "a humble Christian that truly loves Jehovah will willingly accept any and all changes we make" the bottom line is the same. They are basically saying "if you want a good relationship with Jehovah then you’ll conform". One way of wording it is dogmatic, insulting, and will receive a lot of bad PR from the media. The other way of wording it seems more loving and will fly under the radar. But either way means the same thing. Listen. Obey. And don’t question our authority. Good educators present all sides of an issue and encourage discussion. Again…that doesn’t happen with Witnesses. If the governing body presents a side to an issue other than their own….as has been demonstrated, it is many times filled with insufficient data, selective quotes, or quotes taken out of context. A classic example of this would be the Kingdom Come’s appendix (or refutation to the 587BC year). It attacks a select few of the many lines of evidence that have been shown against the year 607. Why? Because the society has some arguments (albeit not worthy ones) against those pieces of evidence. The rest of the lines of evidence are ignored…likely due to the fact that the Society has no response for them. That is NOT what an educator would do. An educator would have presented ALL lines and discussed. But the Society presented a couple of lines that they had a pre-planned argument for and that was it. I am sorry but that is not education. That is propaganda. Furthermore…educators open it up for discussion. That most certainly does NOT happen with witnesses. Witnesses have pre-planned talk outlines. They asked canned questions and regurgitate answers. There is absolutely NO discussion. If the speaker were to want to engage in an open discussion of the topic….he certainly wouldn’t be giving any more talks after that. If an audience member were to comment and open a topic up for discussion/opinion…the conductor would certainly reign that in and get back to the regurgitated answers from the paragraphs. Now…..do all witnesses relentlessly force you to hear their view? No. If you are an interested one….you may present your view, the witness may present his and then you may discuss(in private of course). But over time….you must conform to the view that the Society says you should have. (if you want to be a witness). And if you are already a witness….well…..just go to the kingdom hall and you will hear a relentless pounding of governing body backed doctrine. There is no discussion. This is what you are to believe. If you so choose you may comment at the meeting but that comment better be reiterating what we just told you to believe. Sifting facts? Half truths? Selective quoting? The material printed by the society abounds with this if you dare check out their sources. When others do this it is regarded as propaganda….but when the society does it…..somehow it qualifies as education?
- Does the Society agitate emotions or exploit insecurities? They like to say that all Jehovah’s Witnesses serve God out of love and that love is always the motivating factor behind everything they do….but I don’t believe that to be true. Rather than trust the rank and file to serve Jehovah out of love, the Society constantly uses fear tactics to keep them doing what they tell them. All you have to do is look at the publications throughout the years to see this. Yes, they put an emphasis on how wonderful the "new system" will be…but the flipside is that just as much emphasis has been placed on fear of people outside our organization, fear of the present system of things, fear of being disfellowshipped and fear of dying at Armageddon. A) Armagaddon - Despite not having a doctrine of burning hellfire (like many of the churches today keep people in line with), JW's do have another powerful tool to control with. And I think this tool is so powerful because of our brains and imaginations. Simply put, death scares people. After all, Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that God put time indefinite into our hearts. Even more so, a VIOLENT death really scares people. So the threat of extinction….especially by means of violence is too much for many people to handle. It makes their lives seem meaningless. So they MUST listen to the message and accept it, and do what the Society says in order to have peace in their own heads. Think about the publications. How many of them depict gruesome deaths and fireballs from heaven destroying everything? And how do you think children take this? The pictures are terrifying. Is this really what God has in store for non-witnesses (especially babies and children)? Does He really approve of those that serve him out of morbid fear of the alternative? Fear of violent death scares the bejesus out of adults AND children and unfortunately, the Society has taken full advantage of it. B) Disfellowshipping – Separation from the Organization is feared…..and for many reasons. The disfellowshipped one supposedly loses their relationship with Jehovah. They are cut off from any friends or family they once had. If they choose to remain disfellowshipped then they have sided with the Devil and are doomed for destruction. Once again….fear is the bottom line. Some fear truly losing their relationship with God. Others can’t stand the mere thought of being on Satan’s side as the Society would have you believe. Still others can’t bear the thought of their friends and family turning their backs on them. As for me…..I think that those that truly love God and want to do what is right and try to do what is right are probably approved by Him. So for me….the thought of losing my relationship with God never bothered me. I truly believe that no one can rob you of your relationship with God except for you. An arbitrary decision and subsequent announcement from a platform can neither take nor give you a relationship with God. Of course, that is not what the Society would have you believe. But what has scared me is the thought of losing friends and family. And almost all of that weight is on the "family" side. If I were to come forward and explain to the elders the doctrinal issues I disagree with….I am sure they will be concerned. They would certainly try to "reason" with me based on Watchtower publications. But if I don’t conform….then I will be subject to disfellowshipment. And then my children wouldn’t be allowed to have any Witness friends over to play. If my kids want to go to the zoo…they have a choice. Go with me or go with friends. Go with me or go with Grandma and Grampa. And when my kids become adults I face the very real threat of them deciding to become Witnesses and never speaking to me again. Realistically, my life is turned upside down if that happens. C) Wordly People – The "world" is constantly said to be a bad place. Worldly people display bad qualities and everyone in the world is searching for the happiness that exists within the Organization. This is summed up by the 1987 Watchtower from September 15 th . It says "While some contact with worldly people is unavoidable – at work, at school and otherwise – we must be vigilant so as to keep from being sucked back into the death-dealing atmosphere of this world. Let the world go along in its way, reaping its bad fruitage in the form of broken homes, illegitimate births, sexually transmitted diseases, such as AIDS, and countless other emotional and physical woes." In addition to this, at assemblies there are experiences of those that "were in the world" at one time. They describe themselves as having been drug dealers or thieves or drunkards or this or that. This is all particularly effective for those Witnesses that were born into the religion. From childhood on…."the world" is painted as this terrible place. Everyone in it seeks to get you to terminate your relationship with God. Friends you make in the world will stab you in the back at any opportunity. And then the Organization is painted as this perfect place where we don’t see any of the heartache that we see in the world. But the truth of the matter is that it all comes down to Paul’s admonition that bad association spoils useful habits. Yes….there are a LOT of people in the world that will use you…and are superficial "friends". Yes…if you hang with the wrong crowd….you can get sucked into immorality and drugs and a host of other problems. But there are a lot of people inside the organization that qualify as bad association too. The problem is that they do it secretly because they know they have to. Yet the Society paints the picture that the Organization is a safe haven while the world is dangerous. And that is simply not true. It all comes down to who you surround yourself with in either case.
- Outright Lies – I would honestly say that to my knowledge the Society very rarely prints outright lies. My problem is the half truths, quotes taken out of context, and other ways of misleading. But even then….there are some things that just blow my mind. For instance…..in the book "The Time is at Hand" by C.T Russell, we see the following quote "True, it is expecting great things to claim, as we do, that within the coming twenty-six years all present governments will be overthrown and dissolved. In view of this strong Bible evidence concerning the Times of the Gentiles, we consider it an established truth that the final end of the kingdoms of this world, and the full establishment of the Kingdom of God, will be accomplished at the end of A.D. 1914." But then the September 15, 1993 Watchtower said this, "Jehovah’s Witnesses have consistently shown from the scriptures that the year 1914 marked the beginning of this world’s time of the end and that "the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men" has drawn near." I know that most apologists will say "what Russell wrote was "old light" and it shouldn’t be held against us today." I would disagree with that because you cannot run away from your past. But that isn’t even my point of argument. My point of argument is….why was that statement even printed? (the one in 1993). The Society knew very well that they have NOT consistently shown from the scriptures that 1914 marked the beginning of the time of the end. It wasn’t until after 1914 came and went without the "end of the world" that they changed their tune. So why print that? Why say something that isn’t true?
- Generalization – Here are some examples of generalizations printed by the Society. "Who in our time demonstrate such obedience to God’s commandments on love?.....only Jehovah’s Witnesses." (May 1, 1989 Watchtower page 28). Really? Only Jehovah’s Witnesses have obeyed this commandment of God? No one else? Or "The world is filled with unhappiness, and people generally have a gloomy outlook on the future. However, we have a bright outlook, knowing that one day all sadness will be a thing of the past." (KM – Feb 2002). So we believe we are the happiest people on the earth. But why not poll the Protestants, the Baptists or the Amish? They will most likely say that THEY are the happiest. Besides…..where are the figures to back this up? The world is filled with unhappiness? People have a gloomy outlook on the future? Who? What people? As compared to what? As compared to when? They make statements like these that are nothing more than narrow minded opinions….yet pass them off as fact.
- Insults – Attacking of Character – When discussing anyone that disagrees with the Society’s interpretations or viewpoints, the following was written. "What is often the motive of those who criticize the Society or those taking the lead? Is it not often that some application of Scripture affects them personally? Rather than conform to sound doctrine and direction, they want the organization to change. Let us illustrate this with a few examples: A brother insists on some extreme clothing or grooming style. The elders feel that he is not a good example and do not extend to him certain privileges, such as appearing on the platform to give instruction. He becomes resentful, claiming that others are trying to take away his Christian freedom. But what is behind such reasoning? Is it not usually pride, an independent attitude, or a rather childish desire to have one's own way? Occasionally you may hear someone question whether the Scriptural prohibition against eating blood really applies to transfusions. But what is behind that reasoning? Is it fear-fear of possibly losing one's present life or the life of a loved one? Is hope in the resurrection fading? ... Finally, we might consider what the Society has published in the past on chronology. Some opposers claim that Jehovah's Witnesses are false prophets. These opponents say that dates have been set, but nothing has happened. Again we ask, What is the motive of these critics? Are they encouraging wakefulness on the part of God's people, or are they, rather, trying to justify themselves for falling back into sleepy inactivity?" (March 15, 1986 Watchtower, p 18) In their article on propaganda mentioned above (the June 22, 2000 Awake)….the Society was dead on accurate in a description of themselves. In all three examples that the Society gave in this 1986 Watchtower…..not one single attempt was made to discuss the issues. Rather, in each situation…the person’s motives are being insulted or called into question. That is pure propaganda…..exactly as they themselves defined it. If you question the doctrine on blood….could it possibly be because the doctrine is wrong? According to the society….no. You must love yourself too much. Or perhaps your faith in the resurrection is too weak. If you are bothered by the society’s history of failed predictions then apparently you don’t properly appreciate increased light and you are looking to justify your laziness. It couldn’t possibly be that you are truly concerned that they made decisions and predictions without God’s direction. I find the society’s haughtiness and arrogance to be alarming.
- Paralyzing thought and prevention of clear thinking, causing ones to act en masse – The following has been written by the Society. ""Avoid questioning the counsel that is provided by God's visible organization. Some point out that the organization has had to make some adjustments before, and so they argue: "This shows that we have to make up our own mind on what to believe." This is independent thinking. Why is it so dangerous?" (January 15, 1983 Watchtower p 22). Here is another…."First, since "oneness" is to be observed, a mature Christian must be in unity and full harmony with fellow believers as far as faith and knowledge are concerned. He does not advocate or insist on personal opinions or harbor private ideas when it comes to Bible understanding. Rather, he has complete confidence in the truth as it is revealed by Jehovah God through his Son, Jesus Christ, and "the faithful and discreet slave." By regularly taking in the spiritual food provided "at the proper time"-through Christian publications, meetings, assemblies, and conventions-we can be sure that we maintain "oneness" with fellow Christians in faith and knowledge." (August 1, 2001 Watchtower p 14) And another….."False religious propaganda from any source should be avoided like poison! Really, since our Lord has used the faithful and discreet slave to convey to us sayings of everlasting life, why should we ever want to look anywhere else?" (Nov 1, 1987 Watchtower p 20) Unfortunately, openly questioning something as taught by the Society is portrayed as tantamount to challenging God. There is strong discouragement against any discussion that does not agree 100% with what the Society says. In each meeting they have, paragraphs are read from a book or magazine. Questions are asked. And regurgitated answers are to be given based on what was just read. Never is a discussion permitted that deviates from what is written. It is part of the indoctrination process. And although teachings have morphed greatly over the years….and will continue to…they are not to be questioned. To condemn an individual for questioning the constant changes is a very confusing means of mental manipulation….because….we know that many things that are "true" right now..won’t be in another 30 years. Yet it is wrong to admit that….. until the change is actually made official by the Society. And at THAT point….you are to follow along with the newest change and discard the old line of thinking……like a puppy dog. Forbidding questioning and discouraging research outside of the organization is THE most powerful form of mind control.
- Emotions – The Society stresses that "we are Jehovah’s people" and will be saved at Armageddon. Yet it also brings out that Zephaniah 2:3 brings out that it is not a certainty that everyone will be saved as it says "probably you may be concealed". Yet it also hints that those in the world will meet their destruction……followed up by saying that certain ones in the world may or may not make it….."we are wise not to speculate." As of now…..the common belief among witnesses is that no one is absolutely sure…..but the odds are stacked heavily in your favor if you are doing what the Society tells you to do. "Still, if anyone hopes to be concealed in "the day of Jehovah’s anger", he will need help to do more than be a regular reader of our publications". (March 2005 KM). Along with Zephaniah 2:3, the Society likes to use Luke 13:24 ("exert yourselves vigorously") and James 2:17 ("faith, if it does not have works, is dead in itself"). The Society tends to mention things like "Are you giving as much time as you truly can in the ministry?" or "could you be reaching out for further privileges?" in connection with those scriptures. The basic implication is that you need not get complacent if you want to survive Armageddon. Yet, how many individual witnesses apply that very concept (can I be doing more?) to themselves rigidly? The answer is many. I have had that conversation with many witnesses over the years. How much is enough work to be giving back to the Society? And if you are doing enough in your own mind….should you be going above and beyond even that? Most Witnesses agree that as long as they are "trying" Jehovah will accept what they are giving. But just the fact that these conversations have taken place tells me that others out there are terrified because of the unknown. They’ve wondered and sometimes worried if what they are doing is enough. And all of that worry was set in place by the Society and their doomsday prophecies…..vividly depicting the destruction of billions while asking us if we could be doing more. Remember, according to witness beliefs….it doesn’t matter what you did before Armageddon that counts. It matters what you were doing at that time. If you were zealous for 50 years but fell away for the last 5 and Armageddon were to come then……the belief is that your prospects don’t look good. Yet if you were a thief and liar for 50 years, but you became a strong Witness for the last 5 years…..you are saved. Another way our emotions are played upon is through the instruction at the Kingdom Hall. In college, I had to study pubic speaking and persuasive argument techniques. One thing I immediately noticed was the similarity between our talks that were given (obviously some brothers are better speakers than others) and those in the political world. In both cases, within the first 5 minutes, the speaker generates a "yes" set. He asks rhetorical questions or makes statements that will cause the listener to agree. Then come "truisms". These are facts that are many times easily debatable but much less so now that the "yes" set has been laid out and the audience is already prone to agreement. The odds of the audience member taking a moment to truly debate the point in his mind is practically nil. Finally comes the suggestion. Since you have been agreeing all along…this is what the speaker wants you to do. He wants you to be persuaded to accept the suggestion. Here are two examples.
- Again, the Society urges us not to scrutinize. Think critically if we are buying a house or a car. Think critically if we are taking a new job. Think critically about any information presented to us except of course for information that is handed down by the society. We are to turn off our thinking abilities and just simply accept that info.
- Check the track record of those that are presenting the information? Unfortunately, when looked at objectively, those presenting the information have had a 100% failure rate when it comes to getting dates correct. And they’ve changed dozens of other teachings based on necessity. Yet the Society will tell you that the changes were made because the light got brighter or Jehovah released more truth progressively. My opinion is that a person who is truly educated as opposed to being filled with propaganda can see the "light getting brighter" excuse is nothing more than a perpetual cover up for wrong predictions and interpretations.
"Are you angry about high gas prices? Are you tired of increasing health care costs? Well, my opponent allowed a bill to pass through congress that increased your health care costs. And he fully believes the big oil companies don’t make enough money. Your paycheck barely covers your expenses these days! The answer to these problems is to change these problems, isn’t it? Elect me….."
"Has mankind been able make humans live forever? Have we been able to eradicate all sickness? Well, we keep running into more and more problems, don’t we? Sickness and disease is ravaging our population like never before. The more we cure, the more problems we create. We don’t have the answer, do we? No, the answer is allowing the Faithful Slave to lead us into the new world.
One example was a political speech and one was a typical talk you’ll hear at the Kingdom Hall. Different points being delivered, but the format is the same and the expected result is the same. And I am not knocking the format. Whether it is a political rally or a religious sermon….the idea is to stir the crowd. I am simply saying that such a format of speaking easily leads those in the audience (that are already trained to listen and do exactly what is commanded from the platform) to an emotional persuasion.
After reading all of this in the society's own magazine I was stunned. I thought…."surely the Society did not print such a magazine when all of points mentioned above apply to them!" Then I saw the next article in the magazine. It was entitled "Is the Work of Jehovah’s Witnesses Propagandistic?" Surely this magazine would present evidence to the contrary. I read the article and was equally stunned. The article made sure to bring out that witnesses preach the good news of God’s Kingdom….that witnesses are peaceable and non-disruptive….that high ranking officials have commended witnesses as examples in the communities in which they live……that witnesses are good, moral people that obey the laws…..that witnesses use the bible to teach principles and morality and promote values of family life. It then says "Such a work would hardly be termed propaganda". When read with figurative Watchtower glasses on….many years ago…I would have put down the magazine and said "see, this is purely educational/beneficial and NOT propaganda." But now that I have learned to think critically in ALL facets of life I see a big problem. No one is questioning that Jehovah’s Witnesses are good people. No one questions that they are moral and law abiding citizens. A witness will preach to you at your door and attempt to reason with you based on how they see the scriptures and you are free to reason back to them. The witness at your door is not dogmatic and demanding. The problem isn’t with the rank and file witnesses. The problem is with the Society.
Reiterating all the good things that individual witnesses do does not change the fact that the Society is indeed dogmatic with their teachings. You are told what to believe and you are told not to question them because they are God’s sole channel of communication. I have dug up proof that they have indeed sifted facts and taught half truths. They do insult those that disagree with them (especially those labeled as apostates). They do make generalizations. Etc etc. They do everything that they themselves described in their own magazine as propagandistic. What I find amazing is that the question "is the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses propagandistic" is met with a completely irrelevant response. It is met with a red herring to focus your attention on the fact that normally, most individual witnesses are good people. But showing that individual witnesses are good people and help others to be as well does not change the fact that the Society does indeed engage in the development and spread of one sided arguments that must be abided by…..by their members. Yet 99 out of 100 witnesses will read that article and not even make that connection. Think about it. "Is the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses propagandistic?" And then the magazine answers by bringing out the wonderful qualities that make up your average witness. That is no different than saying "Is OJ Simpson a murderer?" "OJ has donated a lot of money to charity. He volunteers at a soup kitchen for the homeless. He loves children and shows it by throwing a fund raising parade for the children’s hospital." "Does that sound like a murderer to you?" Think about how that sounds. I made OJ sound like a real swell guy but did nothing to truly address if he was a murderer. The Society did the exact same thing with their article. Every last thing they said was nothing but a red herring argument designed to divert the reader’s attention away from the real question at hand. Now some will say that each person is a free moral agent….that each person can make his own decisions and the Society does not technically force their teachings on anyone, but is that true? I mean really? The basic message from the Society is "we are God’s mouthpiece and his holy spirit only operates through us. This is what we teach and if you want to be considered one of Jehovah’s sheep you need to believe it. If you choose not to…that is your choice….but will not be considered one of Jehovah’s sheep and depending on your level of disbelief you may be disfellowshipped." So if you are an existing witness and are prepared to have your family ripped apart and be shunned for the rest of your life by your former friends then you can choose to have your own viewpoints on matters. Yeah....in a way we are free to make our own decisions as to what we believe…..but such freedom is subject to devastating effects. Much like having the freedom to pay taxes. You can choose not to ….but you’ll go to jail. So how free does that really make you? The fact of the matter is that being technically free to make your own decision does not matter. It has nothing to do with the meaning of propaganda or propagandistic. Does the society tell individual witnesses what to believe? Have they taught half truths? Have they quoted out of context to present a different argument than what was intended? Etc? The answers to those questions is what defines whether or not you are propagandistic.