Most of us are fortunate enough never to have experienced it but we may have read about persons who have been in the hands of foreign authorities where brainwashing is practiced on political suspects. In this situation, the questioner is not merely given authority by prestige; he may also have the power to keep the tortured person in prison, to torture him, and perhaps end his life. The suggestibility of the person questioned may be increased by prolonged questioning, by being made to stand for many hours, by deprivation of sleep, by anxiety or by drugging. We may well doubt whether mere psychological understanding of the process would enable one in the end to resist its effects even though such understanding might be helpful in the early stages.
Some people are, however, more resistant to such situations than others. The accounts given by the more resistant suggest that maintaining an attitude of emotional non-involvement is an important element in resistance. By emotional non-involvement is meant not responding to the questioner's anger by anger, or to his kindness with gratitude. Some have reported that they can maintain this emotional non-involvement by persisting in an attitude of contempt for their questioner's; some by the harder but perhaps more effective device of persisting in an attitude of love towards them.
There exists among Jehovah's Witnesses a depressingly similar situation. Those in authority gain prestige by virtue of their position and responsibilities. Though the Watchtower Society may deny to it's members that any 'brother' has authority over another, that in fact the only authority it's members should recognize is that of Jehovah God himself, the truth is that the organization is hierarchical in both nature and structure.
Thus, amongst individual Jehovah's Witnesses will be found a graduated level of respect and prestige given to those whom they accept to have authority over them. In order of authority, from the greatest first, the list might look something like this;
1. Governing Body Member
2. Zone Overseer
3. Branch Overseer
4. District Overseer
5. Circuit Overseer
6. Local Elders
Even among the local Elders their exists an authority structure something like this;
1. Presiding Overseer
2. Service Committee Members:
Field Service Overseer
3. Watchtower Study Conductor
4. School Overseer
5. Group Study Conductor
6. Various others such as:
(Many of these lesser roles are assigned either to Elders of limited teaching or public speaking ability or to a class of members known as Ministerial Servants.)
The effect, whether intended or not, is to produce amongst the 'rank and file' members recognition of the authority structure which exists above them, the acceptance of whatever direction, counsel, advice or information 'comes down to them'. The greater the authority the more readily it is accepted and believed. This is clearly evidenced by the willingness most Jehovah's Witnesses show to believe anything written by the Watchtower Society - this being viewed as having come from the Governing Body Members themselves. When questioned about some doctrine or policy, most Jehovah's Witnesses will be heard to remark; "the Society says" or "the Watchtower says". So much so in fact that the the Watchtower Society has recently had to issue specific guidance to its member not to respond in such a manner when conversing with the public so as not to convey the impression that it's members cannot think for themselves!
So much for authority, but surely that authority does not have real power over its members? Certainly not like that of the inquisitors mentioned above who "have the power to  keep the tortured person in prison,  to torture him, and perhaps  end his life." Let's consider each of these in a little more detail.
 Does the Watchtower Society have the power to 'keep the tortured person in prison'?If loss of freedom or the threat of being separated from family and friends is torture then the Jehovah's Witness who begins to question the authority of the Watchtower Society is most certainly a 'tortured person'. He will not enjoy the freedom to share with his peers the new things he is learning. He is not free to voice doubts or even express an opinion contrary to official Watchtower policy. To do so would inevitably lead to his being called before a 'Judicial Committee' - an inquisition! The committee is comprised of at least three elders, sometimes more. Witnesses may be called on both sides but the accused member is denied the freedom to have the meeting recorded or even witnessed by an independent observer.
It is the stated aim of the Elders to 'readjust his thinking' and ensure that this 'straying sheep' does not leave the fold. But of course, independently minded persons are not 'sheep' and any attempts to block an individuals freedom to leave by threat of shunning can only be tortuous to a mother, father, daughter or son who is threatened with the loss of their family or friends who remain inside the Watchtower Prison. These are the methods commonly used to ensure strict conformity to the Watchtower line. Though it is not the genuine unity that the Society so proudly boasts of it certainly does give such an outward appearance to the casual observer. Beneath the surface however are very many discontented, doubting and very genuinely tortured individuals who remain silent rather than risk exposure.
The Watchtower Society most certainly has 'the power to keep the tortured person in prison' but is it a power they use often? How many are affected by this tortuous regime?
 Does the Watchtower Society ever 'torture' its members?You may believe that the expulsion and subsequent shunning of independently minded members with all the havoc such action wreaks amongst families is relatively rare, perhaps that the Watchtower Society only moves to expel a few rebellious troublemakers every now and then. Not so.
The Watchtower Society's own figures show that worldwide an average of 35,000 are removed from the organization each year. In fairness, a very small proportion of these have left of their own volition by writing a formal letter of 'Disassociation'. These may be individuals with no familial ties to the organization or perhaps they have simply made the brave decision to act by their conscience and make a stand. The majority of those who are expelled have been judged guilty of showing no 'repentance for their sinful course of action'. Often these will be teenagers who simply gave in to sexual desires that most of us would consider healthy and normal. It is worth noting that the Watchtower Society does not provide it's younger members any advice on safe sex or contraception as the only acceptable sexual outlet is deemed to be that within marriage. Masturbation is forbidden - with all the tortuous guilt and frustration that lays upon indoctrinated teenagers - and even within marriage the nature and practice of the sexual act is subject to the policies of the Watchtower Society. This ever present influence over the most private areas of personal sexuality even between willing and consenting partners is just another form of the tortuous control the Watchtower Society exerts over its members.
 Does the Watchtower Society have power over each member to the point where it may 'end his life'?What does it mean to have one's life 'ended'? When a person reaches the lowest ebb of despair, perhaps through the loss of a child, spouse or partner or through some other tragedy, they may remark, "My life is over". Physically, they carry on going of course, but the meaning and purpose to their existence has been removed and the void that is left feels like a kind of 'death'.
In this respect the Watchtower Society most certainly holds the power of death over its members. The threat of being cut off, removed from all social contact with ones family and friends, hangs like a huge sword of Damocles over the heads of anyone who would dare challenge the authority of the Watchtower. It is a constant threat even to those who remain loyal and unquestioning, as the fear of losing family members who are less 'spiritual' is very real.
Not to be overlooked are the hundreds of literal, needless deaths that have been caused by the Watchtower Society's suicidal indoctrination of it's members as respects blood transfusions, organ transplants and other medical procedures. This power over life and death is exercised via the Watchtowers various control mechanisms; it's local Elders, Hospital Liason Committees and Kingdom Hall indoctrination.
There is a lot more to be said about the Watchtower's use of coercive, manipulative propaganda. This will do for now......
Edited by - nicolaou on 4 January 2003 19:26:52