"And that's why I think it is the case that many, many JW are AFRAID of independent thinking."
Yes, yes, they are. My best friend, with whom I frustratingly tried to reason about several 'problems' with WT teaching, flat out TOLD me "I don't WANT to have any DOUBTS. I worked my whole life to get into this organization and I plan to STAY in." This is the mindset of many whose lives led them to "investigate" and "see" that this was "the truth." They are (and we were) VERY good at compartmentalizing -- and blocking out anything that might contradict the conclusions they've already reached (years, and years, and years, ago! usually during some time of emotional vulnerability). They simply choose NOT to see. Especially when, as you pointed out, the constant refrain from the platform is "Avoid independent thinking."
But there's hope! There really is! Because look at all of US! I'm thinking of the recent new ones -- truman, teraly and ... I'm forgetting someone else -- with 30 years in!!! But they made their way out (or are in the process). Why? Because they were awakened somehow -- their own minds finally realized the dissonance between life in the Organization and Bible truths and what they actually observed in the world at large.
This can happen to others, too! Maybe not all of the ones WE would like to see leave. But many others, especially as discussion boards such as these continue to be available (thank you, Simon!) and as those still "in" because of spouses or in-laws refuse to shackle their own children with the absurd MAN-MADE dictates of the WTS, and as those "out" demonstrate in their daily lives that they are not the wicked monsters that the WTS paints and that nothing terrible befalls them when they leave.
(I, for one, am not going to shun those who would shun me. When I meet former fellow Witnesses I plan to greet them pleasantly and make the insipid comment about "looking well" or "awful weather" that one would politely make to any acquaintance. I am not giving them the power to make me ashamed of disassociating myself, and I want them to see that it's really OK out here in 'Satan's world'!)
So, my suggestion is for each of us to spend some time, INDEPENDENTLY, THINKING [and PRAYING, for those who still do that]about how best we can aid the others we know and love and those we have just "met" here in cyberspace to break free of the subtle mind control they have been experiencing at the hands of the Society. It takes some time to become deprogrammed (not sure I am yet!), and gentle nurturing rather than cold logic is probably the best way to go. Why? Because they DON'T WANT to hear -- but they will respond to the LOVE!