Fear spreads fear.
Language, words; these become powerful tools in the hands of wordsmiths. Advertisers, politicians, news media, movies – and religion – exist, survive and thrive on lighting up our limbic systems to sell us anything from products to powerful ideas.
Often called our ‘primitive brain,’ our limbic system is described as, “a complex system of nerves and networks in the brain, involving several areas near the edge of the cortex concerned with instinct and mood. It controls the basic emotions (fear, pleasure, anger)”.
Deep within this labyrinth is contained what is commonly referred to as the “flight or fight” response. In emergency situations, or perceived emergencies, the limbic system reacts to attempt to neutralise a real or perceived danger.
Language and the Emotion-Centre of our Brain
Watchtower has always been skilled at evolving its language to survive, as science reveals more about what we should ‘believe’ and what we now know; thus, buzzwords like ‘paradise,’ ‘Kingdom,’ ‘shepherd,’ ‘flock,’ and ‘loving’ are used to evoke a positive response, while words like ‘apostate,’ ‘disloyal,’ ‘destruction,’ ‘Armageddon,’ and ‘urgent’ can produce anything from an adrenaline rush to a sense of disgust.
Hearing sentences such as, ‘Destruction awaits all those who are disloyal to Jehovah’s organisation,’ can evoke strong emotions in those emotionally-committed to Watchtower doctrines, thus its canny use of them. Simply listen to any ‘mature’ Jehovah’s Witness and note the frequency such words come up in their personal use of language.
Due to this publishing corporation’s constant repetition of certain words and phrases, it may be discerned that there is a thin line between mental-conditioning, and the hypnotic effect.
Language as Sleight-of-Hand
Magicians or illusionists specialise in the skill of ‘distraction’ and are concerned mainly with fooling the eye for our entertainment. There is, however, a far darker force involved when wordsmiths use language to fool the ear to further their purpose. Consider one significant example:
Like so many, I found my eyebrows raised at the extreme language used during the Watchtower District Convention manuscript talk, “Beware of Human Apostates,” given on the Saturday morning of the worldwide assemblies of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2013 (a recording can be found here). As I was listening, it dawned on me that I had heard this kind of talk, and I don’t mean the discourse itself, before. It didn’t take me long to remember where, and find an example of its ilk.
In 1940, Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s propaganda minister for his National Socialist government, started a newspaper called Das Reich. On 16 November, 1941, in one of his lead articles, Goebbels had penned an essay entitled, Die Juden Sind Guilty [The Jews are Guilty]. Characteristically, the propaganda minister set about marginalising, stigmatising, and anathematising a vulnerable minority.
A Disturbing Parallel of Cult-Talk
Portraying those of Jewish descent as warring against the kindly patriarchal State, Goebbels claimed:
“Every Jew is our enemy in this historic struggle, regardless of whether he vegetates in a Polish ghetto or carries on his parasitic existence in Berlin or Hamburg or blows the trumpets of war in New York or Washington. All Jews by virtue of their birth and their race are part of an international conspiracy against National Socialist Germany. They want its defeat and annihilation, and do all in their power to bring it about. That they can do nothing inside the Reich is hardly a sign of their loyalty, but rather of the appropriate measures we took against them.
“One of these measures is the institution of the yellow star that each Jew must wear. We wanted to make them visible as Jews, particularly if they made even the least attempt to harm the German community. It is a remarkably humane measure on our part, a hygienic and prophylactic measure to be sure that the Jew cannot infiltrate our ranks unseen to sow discord.”
Perhaps, like me, you have heard the convention talk, “Beware of Human Apostates” and were surprised by some inconvenient and downright disturbing parallels.
The National Mind is Manipulated
During the 11 years leading up to WWII, Germany, like so many countries in the world, had suffered the indignities, deprivations, and hardships effected by a global financial meltdown. The economy had utterly failed; work was scarce and parents were now faced with the impossible task of even feeding their own children. This was Germany’s future.
As if guided by divine providence, a messianic figure arises touting many innovative ideas, a figure who initially returned a sense of national pride to the people, rallying them together, building industry, and laying down a future that seduced even kings and prime ministers.
By 1941, however, the atmosphere had changed. Articles such as that cited above were now telling the citizenry not how to think, but what to think. Political bullying, physical violence, and public displays of persecution, produced fear everywhere. Minorities who were once neighbours were now enemies of the State and a burden to the people, a problem that needed a permanent solution.
In Goebbels’ article, even a cursory glance reveals language couched in self-congratulatory terms and religious words. The Leader makes ‘prophecies’ and posterity fulfills them. The readers are fed with phrases such as, “If we Germans have a fateful flaw…” “our human decency and generosity,” “good natured as we are,” “German soldiers giving bread… to hungry French women and children,” “That’s how we Germans are,” “Our national virtue,” and “world-famed good nature.”
Despite the avuncular or uncle-like character of the State, Goebbels claims that “financial Jewry” is involved in an “international conspiracy,” that Jews are guilty by virtue of their birth, and they want to bring down the government. “The Jews” must be exposed and separated from the people to protect the national mind and health, he asserts. Marginalised, stigmatised, and anathematised, this minority are a national shame to be shunned by their former neighbours. It is war with this minority; “One of the most effective defenses is an unforgiving, cold hardness against the destroyers of our people,” readers are told. National identity depends on this singular-thinking and purity of belief.
Who exactly are “the Jews”? This propaganda article fails to pinpoint an actual group, compelling the reader to accept any of Semitic descent as a threat to the State; the State is also to be left alone to devise the most effective way to neutralise this perceived threat.
As the perception deepens, all Germans could potentially be responsible for the weakening or even destruction of the newly-reclaimed 1000-year Utopian State, so painstakingly hewn by the inspired minds of the Third Reich, if they don’t take part in the shunning, shaming, and persecution of their ‘enemies.’ “The Jews” are part of a ‘conspiracy,’ or so they’re told; do not buy their products, support them financially, or even eat a meal with them or greet them in the streets.
Religion Fashioned by a Powerful Idea
“National Socialism is a religion. …One day soon National Socialism will be the religion of all Germans. My Party is my church, and I believe I serve the Lord best if I do his will, and liberate my oppressed people from the fetters of slavery. That is my gospel.” ― Joseph Goebbels
Theists often argue that the Third Reich was a secular state. Today we know ‘secularism,’ as a philosophy, not of chosen ignorance and parochialism, but of tolerance and educated humanism; of cultural diversity and colour.
To say that people like Goebbels and his inspiration, the leader of philosophies like Nazi National Socialism, were ignorant would be to sell them short. To the contrary, along with the propaganda minister and others such as Albert Speer, these ones set about creating a thousand-year paradise of Teutonic greatness, forming it into a virtual religion for the common man. Swastikas, spotlights, ethereal music, and bombastic oratory became the cathedral through which a nation was seduced to transcend its innate morality.
A Purposeful Parody to Make a Point
This macabre chapter of history is dust, but have the lessons been learned?
When reviewing the methodology, syntax, and word-juxtaposition, I wondered how easy it would be to create a chilling parody of Goebbels’ article (in particular the above excerpt from his article, ‘The Jews are Guilty’) to language that may be familiar to readers of this website. Perhaps it might take little imagination to hear it spoken over a microphone to a large audience. So, with a little tweaking and replacement of operative words, I tried this:
“Every apostate is our enemy in this time of the end of this old system of things, regardless of whether he publishes hatred of God’s Organisation on the Internet or carries on his parasitic existence in private conversations intent on misleading the true servants of God, or seeks to undermine the truth of the Bible as taught by true Christians privately to family members. All apostates by virtue of their mentally-diseased thinking and their desire to carry out the will of the Devil are part of an international conspiracy against God’s true organisation on earth today. They want its defeat and annihilation, and do all in their power to bring it about. That they can do nothing but smile and play innocent within the congregation is hardly a sign of their loyalty, but rather evidence that they wait for opportunity to mislead the spiritually weak.
“One of these measures is the institution of regular warnings against their warped thinking that each apostate must fear. We want to make them visible as enemies, particularly if they make even the least attempt to harm the true Christian community. It is a remarkably humane measure on our part, a hygienic and protective measure to be sure that apostates cannot infiltrate our ranks unseen to sow discord.”
Conclusion: When in an audience watching an illusionist, we might reasonably exclaim, “Wow, I wonder how he did that!” When we know how the trick is done, not only might we lose our sense of amazement, but also form a healthy scepticism. Of course, magicians are entertainers, so the chances are we don’t actually want to know the answer; but what of the dark magic spell that can cause entire crowds to label their fellow humans as social pariahs, outcasts, to be avoided? How can that spell be broken?
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