“We live in a world in which lies, deceit, and violent anger are commonplace,” warned one 1988 Watchtower. “Satan makes full use of the media to put across this degraded mentality.” (w88 9/1 p.16 par.13)
The above statement is typical of the sweeping anti-media rhetoric Witnesses continue to hear from Watchtower, both in the publications and from the platform. A recent Awake! article slammed the media for its “misleading statements and outright lies about Jehovah’s servants.”
Witnesses are raised to believe that the media belongs to Satan. Anything reported by newspapers, news channels or magazines is therefore not to be trusted. Witnesses are to instead place their implicit trust in Watchtower publications, which promise that “in the new world, Satan’s propaganda media will have been removed.” (w97 4/1 p.17 par.16)
However, by condemning the media to such an outrageous extent, Watchtower has a problem. If the media is truly under Satan’s control, how are they able to use it so freely?
Consider the following paragraph from the latest God’s Kingdom Rules! book, which is being released at the 2014 series of conventions (bold is mine)…
“Coordinators’ Committee – The brothers serving on this committee oversee legal matters as well as the use of the media when it is necessary to convey an accurate picture of our beliefs. They also respond to disasters, outbreaks of persecution, and other emergencies affecting our brotherhood anywhere in the world.” – God’s Kingdom Rules!, page 131
The truth is, the Governing Body has become quite adept at “using” the media to get its message across when the opportunity presents itself.
Anyone who subscribes to Google Alerts for Jehovah’s Witnesses will notice that by far the majority of news articles that get flagged up by Google are positive in favor of the Witnesses. Many are written in such a one-sided way that you would think they were penned by Watchtower’s PR department.
Take, for example, a recent UK article on public witnessing in which my old friend Rick Fenton, the London Bethel’s up-and-coming “publicity officer,” was asked to comment.
Rick Fenton, a publicity officer in the movement, said: “It has been suggested in some media reports public witnesses have replaced the door to door work but it has not.
“It has been going on for the last couple of years on a much larger scale – it was piloted in New York City.”
In central London alone, 1,300 witnesses hand out about 160,000 magazines and 20,000 books in a typical month.
Mr Fenton said although the operation outside stations like Ilford, Redbridge and Wanstead is much smaller – the aim is still the same.
“The literature explains the bible’s message – this is what we are focusing our efforts on,” he said.
“Reading the bible initially is a bit like visiting London for the first time – you need a guide book.
“What the bible says is really practical for life in the 21st century.”
No former Witnesses are interviewed to give their perspectives on possible motives for the public witnessing campaign. Dubious or downright harmful elements of Watchtower literature, such as the stigmatization of higher education or the urging of Witnesses to shun disfellowshipped family members, are not discussed.
Harry Kemble, who wrote the article, seems to be only interested in getting Watchtower’s perspective, and gifting the organization the platform it sorely craves. The Ilford Recorder thus, albeit briefly, lowers itself to becoming just another cog in Watchtower’s PR machinery.
How any Witness can read this article and conclude that “ah, Satan’s media is at it again with its misleading statements and outright lies about Jehovah’s servants,” is beyond me. It should be perfectly obvious to anyone that there is some serious cherry picking afoot.
Watchtower cannot have it both ways. When the media gets it right about the organization and discusses issues such as blood transfusions, shunning or child abuse they cannot cry “foul” and blast everything as “Satan’s media” while simultaneously exploiting the same media as a PR tool when it suits them.
In reality, the media is mostly indifferent to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Three years of effort on my part to convince journalists to show more interest have convinced me that, if anything, the Witnesses are considered a taboo subject. Most investigative journalists seem to prefer to focus on easy targets such as Scientology or the Westboro Baptist Church – cults so small and outrageous that they can safely put the boot in without offending hardly anyone.
All the while Watchtower flourishes in a relative vacuum of media interest, where the media’s paranoia surrounding respect for religious freedoms allows the Governing Body to continue violating those same freedoms for any Witnesses who happen to figure it all out.