Criticism of the press, censorship, and outright burning of books are all trademarks of fascism, and of dictatorships. This type of information control was common during the Nazi regime, and during the persecution of first-century Christians.
Today, book burning and bans are not quite as common, but controlling information is a sure sign of a cult. Steven Hassan, a well-known commentator on cults, mentions information control in his BITE model; note one excerpt that he considers the sign of a cult:
Minimize or discourage access to non-cult sources of information, including:
a. Internet, TV, radio, books, articles, newspapers, magazines, other media
b. Critical information
c. Former members
The Watchtower Society has been very guilty of information control, and especially in the last few years, as more and more news stories about their mishandling of child sex abuse and other such scandals have surfaced:
To keep their congregants in the dark about these types of things, the July 15, 2011, Watchtower said that Jehovah’s Witnesses should not “speak to [apostates] or invite them into our houses. We also do not read their books, watch them on television, read what they write on the Internet, or add our own comments about what they write on the Internet.”
Note the key point here; the Watchtower doesn’t tell its members to carefully consider and fully research anything they might see and hear from these apostates. Instead, Jehovah’s Witnesses are to not even listen to those words, or to any argument against Watchtower doctrine.
This is pure, blatant information control, and something that should get members thinking. If Watchtower has the truth, wouldn’t their practices, teachings, and doctrines stand up to any scrutiny, by any member?
Leaders of the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses also tend to add an element of paranoia in their warnings about critics; the July 15, 2011, Watchtower referred to apostates of their religion as “mentally diseased,” and the February 15, 2004, Watchtower said that apostates of the religion have “poisonous reasoning.”
This paranoia, and the information control that goes with it, has recently been ramped up in the August 2018 Watchtower study edition, in the very first article, “Do You Have the Facts?” In this article, the magazine stated:
“It is especially important to avoid websites promoted by apostates. Their whole purpose is to tear down God’s people and to distort the truth. Poor quality information will lead to poor decisions. Never underestimate the powerful effect that misleading information can have on your mind and heart.”
This is, first of all, insulting to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Congregation members are apparently not adults with strong minds who can discern truthful information and decide for themselves how to act, but are just impressionable children, believing everything they see and hear. Like children, congregants need the governing body to sift and sort through information and news stories, and then dole it out to them as they see fit.
These words also create a horrific fear of apostates, who might apparently have a “powerful effect” on someone, as if apostates play Jedi mind tricks through the internet. You shouldn’t just be skeptical of apostates, or so the Watchtower teaches, but should be outright afraid of losing your thinking abilities when listening to them.
Also, according to this magazine, anyone who speaks out against the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses has one purpose, and that’s to “tear down” Witnesses and “distort the truth.” This is an outright, blatant lie on the part of the Watchtower. First, I have no desire whatsoever to distort anything, and try very hard to include quotes and sources for my information, and ensure that I also offer them in context:
The second inaccuracy is that apostates want to “tear down God’s people.” Many apostates simply want the religion to change policies regarding some of its most harmful practices. Others may want the religion to dissolve since its practices are so hurtful, but they still have no interest in hurting people’s spirituality, interfering with their relationship with god, and so on.
Mentioning Reports Specifically
One noteworthy aspect of this article was that it specifically mentioned “reports” about the religion; no doubt this would mean news stories, exposés, and documentaries, and not just small-potatoes blogs. It’s interesting that these types of reports are mentioned, since many of these productions are not made by former Jehovah’s Witnesses, but by actual journalists with no ax to grind, no dog in this fight. This would give those reports, such as the W5 documentary shared above, even more credibility when it comes to the stories they share, and the information they expose.
As said above, if Jehovah’s Witnesses had nothing to hide and nothing to fear from those reports, they would have no reason to tell their members to avoid them. Instead, this Watchtower article says that “opposers … ‘lyingly say every sort of wicked thing’ against us.” Without answering the claims made in such documentaries, Watchtower simply calls them wicked lies. This ensures that their followers don’t even bother to listen to these reports; in turn, those followers can’t make their own decision about whether or not such reports are lies.
All of this information control, deceit, and paranoia is a sign of a controlling and abusive dictatorship, one that can’t answer to accusations made, but which simply wants its members to put their fingers in their ears and not hear those accusations in the first place. Jehovah’s Witnesses insult members by deciding that they’re not smart enough or strong enough to listen to challenges to their religion, insult those speaking out against it by saying that they’re just lying and wicked, and don’t answer those challenges and accusations. Like any dictatorship or fascist government, they’ve decided that people beneath them need to be harshly controlled and kept in the dark, and that it’s better to simply burn the book or censor the information, than risk losing followers who may find out the truth about their harmful, hurtful cult.
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