Misquoting and misrepresentation.
Misquoting and misrepresentation are tactics often used by individuals or organizations to manipulate information and justify their own views. It involves intentionally altering the words of an author, usually an authority in the field, to support their own agenda. This unethical practice is a dangerous one, as it can mislead people and create an incorrect understanding of important issues.
A recent example of this can be seen in a quote used in a Watchtower publication from July 2017, titled “Winning the Battle for Your Mind.” The quote is taken from the book “Media and Society in the Twentieth Century” and reads, “Because propaganda ‘is likely to be most effective,’ says one source, ‘if people . . . are discouraged from thinking critically.'”
However, the quote is taken out of context, and the ellipsis between the words indicates that something has been omitted. When the original book was consulted, it was found that the full quote reads as follows: “Therefore, it is likely to be most effective if people do not have access to multiple sources of information and if they are discouraged from thinking critically. Michael Balfour has suggested that the ‘best touchstone for distinguishing propaganda from science is whether a plurality of sources of information and of interpretations is being discouraged or fostered.'”
The misquoting and misrepresentation of this quote by the Watchtower is problematic, as it alters the original meaning of the quote and can mislead readers into believing that the author supports their views. This is a form of intellectual dishonesty and is especially concerning when it is used by organizations or individuals who claim to be purveyors of truth.
Misquoting and misrepresentation are not only unethical, but they also have real-world consequences. They can be used to justify harmful policies, perpetuate false beliefs, and silence dissenting voices. It is important to recognize these tactics and to demand accountability from those who engage in them.
As individuals, we can protect ourselves from misrepresentation by fact-checking information and seeking out multiple sources of information. We should also hold those who engage in this practice accountable and demand transparency and honesty in all forms of communication.
Ad hominem is a fallacy that occurs when someone attacks the person making an argument rather than the argument itself. It’s a type of name-calling or personal attack that is used to discredit an opposing viewpoint. Interestingly, the Watchtower, a publication of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, has been accused of using ad hominem attacks in its literature.
The Watchtower has labeled former members of the organization as “mentally diseased” and “apostates” who spread “deceptive teachings.” They are accused of using “counterfeit words” and “twisting the Scriptures” to fit their own ideas. According to the Watchtower, apostates do not have the best interests of Jehovah’s Witnesses at heart and following them would only lead to spiritual harm.
In the 1986 Watchtower article “Do not be quickly shaken from your reason,” the Watchtower instructs its followers to resist apostates and their “gangrenous, empty speeches.” The article goes on to say that apostates must never be mixed with, received in homes, or even greeted. The Watchtower also equates any material from apostates as “satanic propaganda.”
The Watchtower has also been accused of using ad hominem attacks against its critics. The organization has suggested that those who question its practices or beliefs are motivated by fear, pride, or a desire to have their own way. The Watchtower has also suggested that critics may have a mistaken loyalty to a friend or family member that they put ahead of their loyalty to Jehovah and his standards.
In conclusion, ad hominem attacks are a logical fallacy used to discredit an opposing viewpoint by attacking the person rather than the argument. The Watchtower has been accused of using ad hominem attacks in its literature to discredit former members and critics who question its practices or beliefs. It’s important to be aware of ad hominem attacks and to evaluate arguments based on their own merits rather than on the credibility or character of the person making the argument.
Poisoning the well.
Poisoning the well is a type of informal fallacy where adverse information about a target is presented preemptively to an audience with the intention of discrediting or ridiculing something that the target person is about to say. This is an attempt to discredit the person, so that their argument falls on deaf ears, even if the argument is valid. The Jehovah’s Witnesses are known to practice this method of deception.
For example, a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who questions the leadership’s stance on growing a beard may be discredited preemptively by the elders if they find out that the individual has been reading critical information about the organization. This is done by means of an “emergency local needs talk,” where the individual’s motives are questioned before they have even presented their argument. The audience is convinced that the person’s motives are sinister before hearing their side of the story, resulting in the individual being ignored.
This method can even result in someone’s death, as seen in the case of questioning the Scriptural prohibition against eating blood in transfusions. The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom—1986 suggests that those who question this prohibition do so out of fear or because they have lost hope in the resurrection. This poisoning of the well can result in members refusing life-saving blood transfusions and dying as a result.
Similarly, the Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom—1986 suggests that those who have a critical attitude towards the organization’s strict social contact rules with disfellowshipped persons do so out of mistaken loyalty or putting a friend ahead of loyalty to Jehovah. This discredits their motives before they even have a chance to present their argument.
In conclusion, poisoning the well is a deceitful tactic used to discredit a person’s motives and ideas before they have a chance to present their argument. This tactic is used by the Jehovah’s Witnesses to discourage dissent and maintain control over their members. It is important to be aware of this fallacy and to evaluate arguments based on their merits rather than being swayed by ad hominem attacks.
Play on Emotion
The propaganda technique of playing on pride can be identified by looking for certain key phrases, such as “Any intelligent person knows that . . .” or “A person with your education can’t help but see that . . .” Appeals to pride can also be used in reverse, playing on our fear of seeming stupid. This is a well-known tactic used by professional persuaders.
One example of this technique being used is found in a Watchtower article from 2001, which states, “[A mature Christian] does not advocate or insist on personal opinions or harbor private ideas when it comes to Bible understanding. Rather, he has complete confidence in the truth as it is revealed by Jehovah God through his Son, Jesus Christ, and ‘the faithful and discreet slave.’” (Watchtower 2001 Aug 1 p.14)
In another Watchtower article from 1974, readers are told, “Christians have implicit trust in their heavenly Father; they do not question what he tells them through his written Word and organization.” (Watchtower 1974 Jul 15 p.441)
The same sentiment is echoed in a publication from 1955, which states, “If we have love for Jehovah and for the organization of his people we shall not be suspicious, but shall, as the Bible says, ‘Believe all things,’ all the things that the Watchtower brings out.” (Qualified to be Ministers, p.156)
A Watchtower article from 1994 reinforces the idea of unquestioning loyalty, stating, “As loyal servants of Jehovah, why would we want to peek at the propaganda put out by rejecters of Jehovah’s table…” (Watchtower 1994 Jul 1 pp.12-13)
Finally, in a Watchtower article from 2001, the message is clear: “A mature Christian must be in unity and full harmony with fellow believers as far as faith and knowledge are concerned. He does not advocate or insist on personal opinions or harbor private ideas when it comes to Bible understanding. Rather, he has complete confidence in the truth as it is revealed by Jehovah God through his Son, Jesus Christ, and ‘the faithful and discreet slave.’” (Watchtower 2001 Aug 1, Make Your Advancement Manifest)
These quotes demonstrate the way in which the Watchtower organization plays on the pride of its followers, encouraging them to blindly trust in the organization and its teachings without questioning or considering other viewpoints. This type of propaganda seeks to make individuals feel that they are a part of an exclusive and superior group, leading to unquestioning loyalty and obedience.
Play on fear is a well-known propaganda technique that uses fear to influence people’s opinions and behavior. Here are some examples from the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization that show how this technique is used to control its members.
The first example is from the book Pure Worship of Jehovah – Restored at Last! published in 2018. It mentions that during the war of Armageddon, Jehovah will execute people with “explosive force” in a “great rage.” This statement creates a sense of fear in the minds of Jehovah’s Witnesses, making them believe that they will face a horrible fate if they do not follow the organization’s rules.
The second example is from the Kingdom Ministry published in March 2005. The publication implies that those who hope to be concealed in “the day of Jehovah’s anger” will need more than just reading the organization’s publications. This statement plays on the fear of death and suggests that only those who follow the organization’s teachings will be saved.
The third example is from the Watchtower published in 1963. It describes how disfellowshipping serves as a powerful warning to others in the congregation, and that the person who has been disfellowshipped must be avoided completely. This statement plays on the fear of losing loved ones, as Jehovah’s Witnesses who are disfellowshipped face being cut off from their family and friends within the organization.
The fourth example is from the Watchtower published in 1987. It suggests that worldly people are responsible for various problems such as broken homes, illegitimate births, and sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS. This statement plays on the fear of outsiders and suggests that contact with them can lead to negative consequences.
In conclusion, the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization often uses the play on fear propaganda technique to control its members. By creating a sense of fear in the minds of its followers, the organization can influence their opinions and behavior and ensure their adherence to its rules and teachings.
Propagandists often use guilt to manipulate their audience into taking a desired action or behaving in a certain way.
One way they do this is by implying that people who do not act as they suggest are somehow less moral or less worthy. The quote from the Jehovah’s Witnesses publication “Examining the Scriptures Daily” plays on guilt by suggesting that those who do not “exert [themselves] vigorously” in support of Kingdom interests are not doing enough and are therefore falling short of their moral duty.
This kind of guilt-tripping is a common tactic in propaganda, and it can be effective in influencing people’s behavior. However, it is important to be aware of when guilt is being used to manipulate us and to make our own choices based on our own values and priorities.
A “red herring” is a fallacious argument that distracts from the issue at hand by introducing irrelevant or misleading information.
In this case, opponents of Jehovah’s Witnesses have made accusations that the organization promotes Zionism, Communism, American imperialism, and anarchy.
These are all irrelevant to the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the article is pointing out that these accusations are a “red herring” meant to distract from the real issues at hand.
Jehovah’s Witnesses often tout their low divorce rates as evidence of the effectiveness of their teachings on marriage and relationships. In an article in Awake! magazine from 1997, it was claimed that “by applying unselfish love in their marriages, Jehovah’s Witnesses achieve stable relationships.
|“By applying unselfish love in their marriages, Jehovah’s Witnesses achieve stable relationships. In some countries one marriage out of every two or three ends in divorce. But the above-mentioned survey indicated that presently only 4.9 percent of the Witnesses are divorced or separated from their mates.”|
Awake 1997 Sep 8 p.11
The quote suggests that Jehovah’s Witnesses achieve stable relationships because they apply unselfish love in their marriages and that only 4.9% of them are divorced or separated from their mates, implying that their success rate is much higher than the general population.
However, the quote is misleading because it compares the percentage of Jehovah’s Witnesses who are currently divorced or separated with the percentage of the general population who will end up divorced.
In reality, the current divorce rate among Jehovah’s Witnesses is not necessarily lower than the general population, and in some cases, it may even be higher. In fact, the current percentage of the general population who are divorced or separated is around 4%, which is lower than Jehovah’s Witnesses.