New Awake! magazine urges “healthy skepticism” of the media

The latest Awake urges Witnesses to be distrustful of the media using the same arguments that could be applied to Watchtower literature

The latest Awake urges Witnesses to be distrustful of the media using arguments that could be applied to Watchtower literature

Two weeks ago this website reported on the December 15th Study Edition of the Watchtower, which slammed the media for propagating “untruths” and printing “misleading statements and outright lies about Jehovah’s servants.”

To drive home this point and leave Witnesses (and members of the public) under no ambiguity on the matter, the latest Awake! magazine urges further skepticism under the title “Can You Trust The News Media?”

In a four-page article the magazine (downloadable on this link) makes a number of criticisms that could be equally levelled at Watchtower’s own literature. For example, one paragraph highlights the media’s record for dishonesty, completely disregarding the fact that Watchtower literature has at times been found to deliberately misrepresent the organization’s own history.

And in a paragraph on “omission,” Awake! writers complain of how “journalists often exclude details that would introduce complications or unresolved issues.” As this website has previously argued, Watchtower writers have become masters at keeping their followers in the dark by withholding information so that readers will only hear one side of the story. It is for this reason that this website was threatened with legal action by Watchtower’s lawyers in December 2012 for publishing a secret elders’ letter that the organization didn’t want ordinary Witnesses to see.

Tests of credibility

True, the article urges some balance. “While it is wise not to believe everything we read in the news, it does not follow that there is nothing we can trust,” it observes on page 7. “The key may be to have a healthy skepticism, while keeping an open mind.”

But then, having urged the virtues of “healthy skepticism,” the magazine goes on to list a number of tests that readers should apply to the media, without acknowledging that these should be equally applied to Watchtower literature. To illustrate why this is so, I will go through these tests one-by-one.

“PROVIDER: Does the report come from a credible, authoritative person or organization? Does the program or publication have a reputation for seriousness or for sensationalism? Who provide the funds for the news source?” – December 2013 Awake! – page 7.

Can it honestly be said that Watchtower publications have a reputation for seriousness rather than sensationalism when they have been announcing the end of the world as being “imminent” since 1914? Can the recent Watchtower urging Witnesses to “close ranks against Satan” truly be considered as being serious and non-sensationalist? And if funding is such an issue, how are we to regard publications both written and funded by an organization that uses the same to solicit our unquestioned allegiance and, if possible, donations?

“SOURCES: Is there evidence of thorough research? Is the story based on just one source? Are the sources reliable, fair, and objective? Are they balanced, or have they been selected to convey only one point of view?” – December 2013 Awake! – page 7.

As mentioned, has an excellent article with a comprehensive list of examples of Watchtower writers employing misquotes to misrepresent what a source is saying by making it seem as though they are supportive of Watchtower’s viewpoint when they are not.

Richard Dawkins is just one of many scholars to have been misquoted in Watchtower literature

Richard Dawkins is just one of many scholars to have been misquoted in Watchtower literature

To cite just one example, in the book Life – How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation? the well-known evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins is quoted as saying that his book, The Selfish Gene, “should be read almost as though it were science fiction.”

In fact, what Professor Dawkins wrote was, “This book should be read almost as though it were science fiction. It is designed to appeal to the imagination. But it is not science fiction: it is science. Cliché or not, ‘stranger than fiction’ expresses exactly how I feel about the truth.”

And so Dawkins wrote something that was subsequently twisted by Watchtower in an attempt to discredit his work. This perfectly demonstrates the intellectual dishonesty frequently employed by Watchtower writers despite them bemoaning the same of others.

“PURPOSE: Ask yourself: ‘Is the news item primarily to inform or entertain? Is it trying to sell or support something?’” – December 2013 Awake! – page 7.

Again, you might well ask yourself this question of what you read of Watchtower literature. Is the information designed to educate you on what the bible says, or is it ultimately aimed at “selling” the benefits of loyalty to a human organization and obeying its instructions “whether these appear sound from a strategic or human standpoint or not”? (w13 11/15 p.20)

“TONE: When the tone of a news item is angry, spiteful, or highly critical, it suggests that an attack is under way and not a reasoned argument.” – December 2013 Awake! – page 7.

Are we allowed to classify the stigmatization of apostates as “mentally diseased” and “gangrenous” as “angry, spiteful, or highly critical,” or does such name-calling represent a “reasoned argument?”

“CONSISTENCY: Are the facts consistent with those in other articles or reports? If stories contradict one another, be careful!” – December 2013 Awake! – page 7.

Of all magazines and periodicals in the world, the Awake! magazine is in no position to be arguing on the need for consistency – as will hopefully be obvious after watching this brief video…

“TIMELINESS: Is the information recent enough to be acceptable? Something thought to be correct 20 years ago may be discounted today. On the other hand, if the news item is a breaking story, it may lack complete and comprehensive information.” – December 2013 Awake! – page 7.

Unlike with the other tests of credibility, the above is rather more cryptic and indecipherable. I would suggest that only the writer knows what examples he is referring to in bemoaning the lack of “timeliness” in the media.

Suffice it to say that the reminder that “something thought to be correct 20 years ago may be discounted today” evokes thoughts of Watchtower’s constantly shifting doctrinal interpretations, or “new light.”

And whether or not a newspaper reports on a breaking story or not is irrelevant to its credibility so long as any details given are factual, and any ambiguity in knowing the full details is expressed as such. Rarely, if ever, does Watchtower express any ambiguity when divulging “news” of its latest understandings of scripture.

“Batten down the hatches!”

In discussing this new Awake! magazine, one poster on the forum made this comment…

“They’re laying down sandbags to protect themselves from the incoming storm of media attention from the Conti loss…”

While the outcome of the Conti appeal is still uncertain, the sandbags metaphor does resonate. As reported earlier this week, Watchtower is now facing 11 child abuse lawsuits from just one law firm, and some of these cases have already received modest exposure in the media.

As the likes of Irwin Zalkin expose Watchtower's negligence in public, Watchtower publications urge Witnesses to be skeptical of the media. Coincidence?

As the likes of Irwin Zalkin expose Watchtower’s negligence in public, Watchtower publications urge Witnesses to be skeptical of the media. Coincidence?

Regardless of the outcome of the Conti appeal, it looks like Watchtower is now resigned to an increased barrage of media reports exposing its terrible track record of mishandling child abuse.

If that is so, it would make sense for them to try to insulate their followers against any negative reports, however true or well-founded these may turn out to be. The best way to do this is to urge Jehovah’s Witnesses to adopt a default position of being critical of whatever they hear on TV or read in the newspapers, and no doubt many Witnesses will obediently respond in this way.

The only problem is, the more Watchtower slams the media the more cult-like they will appear to well-informed outsiders – including those members of the public frequently called on by Witnesses who must be raising an eyebrow as they pick up their latest copy of Awake! with its anti-media ramblings.


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33 Responses to New Awake! magazine urges “healthy skepticism” of the media

  1. WT Critic says:

    Is this an attempt by WT to cover their behinds? Possibly. But to be fair distrust of the media isn’t entirely a cult idea. You have your conservative and liberal media which reports news slanted to their political ideas. And how many times have you heard conservatives slamming “liberal media”? Many. I actually don’t mind WT teaching critical thinking perhaps members will apply it to WT philosophy.

  2. Faithful Witness says:

    Paranoia at its finest.

    The Watchtower Society has employed some absolute masters in Jehovah’s Writing Department. They have become so drunk with power, they are convincing themselves they can control the public opinion in the same manner they control their followers.

    I feel sorry for the JW, who is being forced into field ministry with this magazine. Imagine what their scripted comments might be about this article.

    How about the householder who receives it? Anyone with even remote interest in the article, is just going to be more curious about what the news media is saying about JW’s now.

  3. Faithful Witness says:

    If only that were the case! Critical thinking is forbidden, when it comes to examination of The Truth. They have written articles, condemning independent thinking. A thinking JW, is a disfellowshipped JW. 🙁

  4. Rowland Nelken says:

    Do they really imagine they can convince their dwindling band of followers that all negative publicity about JWs is merely media lies?

  5. Hakizimana Jean de Dieu says:

    And read the article What Is the “Gospel of Judas”? in their Watchtower issue of 1 February 2013 (

    Under sub heading WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THE “GOSPEL OF JUDAS”? you can read:

    Whether they viewed the Judas of this gospel as a hero or a demon, none of the scholars who analyzed this text claim that it contains accurate historical information. Bart Ehrman explains: “It is not a Gospel written by Judas, or one that even claims to be. . . . It is not a Gospel written in Judas’s own time by someone who actually knew him . . . It is not a book, therefore, that will provide us with additional information about what actually happened in Jesus’ lifetime.”

    Sad to say, here they Watchtower’s writers are quoting Bart Ehrman and avoid to say that what he says about t the “GOSPEL OF JUDAS”? is exactly what the same bible scholar says about the 4 gospel!!!!

    Using Bart Ehrman to reject the “GOSPEL OF JUDAS” equals rejecting the rest of Gospels and they are withholding that information!!

  6. My thoughts are that they know they are going to get lots of negative publicity over their child abuse policy as they lose case after case. So this is to try to inoculate JWs in the hope not as many will quit donating time, money, energy, or outright walking away and not going back.

  7. Thinking of leaving says:

    I agree totally with your comments. Although the Conti and other law suites are relatively unknown amongst Witnesses in the area I live in. The Wt knows its in the crap and is trying to insulate itself for the storm ahead.

  8. Why is the Watchtower Society warning it’s members that what they see on the media can not be trusted? Is it because their own bad behavior will soon be exposed in the media? This article explains clearly why and how Watchtower try’s to control what information it’s rank & file will watch, listen to, and read.

    Reminds me of Watchtower’s favorite quote “Listen, Obey, and be Blessed!!

  9. Faithful Witness says:

    Ignore the man behind the curtain!

  10. Oubliette says:

    THERE is a difference—a big difference—between education and propaganda. Education shows you how to think. Propaganda tells you what to think. Good educators present all sides of an issue and encourage discussion. Propagandists relentlessly force you to hear their view and discourage discussion. – Awake!, June 22, 2000, pp. 9-11

    As The World Book Encyclopedia says, in a climate where ideas circulate freely, “propaganda differs from education.” – Awake!, June 22, 2000, pp. 4-8

  11. whatevs says:

    And what if the answer to all those questions is yes?
    “Does the report come from a credible, authoritative person or organization?” Quotes from the Society’s own letters to elders, check. Court records, check.
    “Is there evidence of thorough research?” A BBC reporter interviewing his popeness, a member of the governing body himself, check.
    “Ask yourself: ‘Is the news item primarily to inform or entertain?'” Nothing entertaining about pedophilia, so check.
    “Are the facts consistent with those in other articles or reports?” Candace Conti, Bo Jensen, Bill Bowen, Zalkin law firm. Check, check, check, and check.
    “Something thought to be correct 20 years ago may be discounted today.” Pot, meet kettle.

  12. Crazy 4 Jesus says:

    I find the cover most interesting, are they hinting of the wide held skepticism of 911 in the U.S. and more so world wide? Most people don’t what to make of 911 other than the lies that were told for a war in Iraqi, playing on peoples doubts.
    I all find that the dates of these magazines so far in the future before study at KH’s imply that the Wash Towel knows the time frame in which the lawsuits will break national news. Many we see how timely these study issues are and see the divine nature of the Governing Body and not the cynical manipulation of there poor misguided followers.

  13. George says:

    We are witnessing the desperate attempts by the GB to minimise exposure to media fall out.

    The advice they give in the article is correct. There is bias in our media. There is bias and bad practice.

    However, as other posters have mentioned, the criteria they espouse should be applied to their own media!!!

    Even if the rank and file are kept away from the facts, the general public will be made aware, and then can question the witnesses on the doorstep. The facts will be revealed eventually.

    Let us hope that these increasingly hysterical articles will trigger some alarm in the ranks. Many witnesses are only going to meetings etc because of the fear of shunning. If the ones they fear to lose begin to doubt, then the whole fabric of the religion may tear.

    The GB is running out of time.

  14. H.K. Fauskanger says:

    “TIMELINESS: Is the information recent enough to be acceptable? Something thought to be correct 20 years ago may be discounted today.”

    Very interesting! Remember how Watchtower writers love to quote J. Garnier’s 1904 book “The Worship of the Dead” as proof that Halloween is really celebrated in memory of the evil people destroyed by Jehovah in the Flood?

    As evidence that the Tower of Babel story must be true, they regularly quote one Henry Rawlinson, who wrote: “If we were to be thus guided by the mere intersection of linguistic paths, and independently of all reference to the scriptural record, we should still be led to fix on the plains of Shinar, as the focus from which the various lines had radiated.”

    Never mind that Rawlinson wrote this in — 1855! The results of another 150+ years of linguistic research apparently don’t interest the Watchtower writers at all.

    I could definitely go on (“The Imperial Bible-dictionary”, anyone?)

  15. Faithful Witness says:

    The most interesting aspect, is that this appears in the Awake! Magazine… Current events, interpreted especially for Joe Public, by Jehovah’s writing department.

  16. I think the “Poops about to hit the fan.” (you know what I mean. I’m trying to keep it clean. Thanks Cedars for another great article.)

  17. Zeebo says:

    I also find it funny how any anti-Church news is reliable, and floods or earthquakes or wars are reliable.. but anything slightly critical of WT is Satan’s lies.

    I find the strangest thing about JWs is the collective amnesia they have after the event. Last night my wife began talking about how Syria is a sign of the end (immediately after returning from KH)… I politely informed her that i had heard this same rhetoric about 1)Iraq2 2)Afghanistan 3)Iraq 1 4)Kosovo 5)Bosnia and read the same about every other war since 1870.. In the late 90’s i remember the WT was mad on GOG-MAGOG stuff and ‘the king of the north and south’… I predicted they will start reheating this soon. Sadly i have known WT longer than my wife so its all old news to me.

  18. Willows says:

    Most people agree it is wise to have a healthy scepticism of the media.

    Also to be balanced, media that has promoted dates like 1914… 1925….1975….1994 , has caused people to develop a healthy scepticism toward dates and those who promote them.

    Encouraging healthy scepticism is like a two edged sword, it can cut both ways……

  19. 70wksofyrs says:

    Your article is very good at applying there own critical thinking techniques to the WTBTS publications.

    Sad to say, but I am not buying it one little bit. I think something fishy is going on. I cannot and will not believe that every JW on the writing committee in NY and all 8 GB men are stupid and lacking that much intellect.

    In my view, based on the intelligence of my children, there are “Apostates to the GB” in Bethel that are trying to wake up JW’s to the indoctrination.

    I feel they are twisting the motives to the majority by saying, they need to discredit the media due to the mishandling of child abuse now there is a potential media storm.

    But that is my opinion only and I am speculating. There is another alternative, Jehovah God is getting them to write things that will expose them.

    What is more probable to you?

    Sorry but I am not buying it that they are all that stupid!

  20. 70wksofyrs says:

    Thanks to this site and many others JW’s are waking up frequently, but some of the writers must be having a hand in the publications exposing themselves.

    Cedars, if you have a confidential source at Bethel, that is fair enough it must be kept confidential.

  21. sharon says:

    They are doing what is known as CYA. Covering your a.. it’s been going on for as long as the wt has been writing their rag for the mulititudes who can’t think for themselves. They forget the fundamental truth Jesus taught, love thy neighbor. They don’t love anyone but their place in the new system they preach about. They forget who’s name is above all others who’s name every knee will bow to. Jesus. Our Lord is unfortunately forgotten about as they go about their merry little ways trying to get that ever elusive cheese to the mice around the world who can’t think for themselves. Who leave it to men to tell them how to praise our Father and His Son. It is in a normal bible, not the one they purport to say is true. All their little changes in the Holy Bible change the whole gospel. We should be alerted to whatever Cedars says about what they are up to. You can’t believe a word the gb or the writers say. As it is up for change at any moment in the guise of new light.

  22. 70wksofyrs says:

    Still not buying it, JWN have loads of newbies all this year, possibly the most there have been in a year to date.

    The WTBTS publications must be exposing the bad in the organisation on purpose in my view.

  23. Faithful Witness says:

    70wks: I hope you are right! It is sad to say, but I think their tactics are likely to succeed. We are only seeing the words they are revealing to the public. The secret communications that come down from the tower, will surely include specific phrase and techniques to keep the faithful in line. Anyone doubting, will be identified as “weak,” and dealt with accordingly. This organization has become its own living, breathing organism. It eats innocent people and uses them for its own purpose. (Fundraising)

  24. CAMOKO says:

    To Rawland:sorry for you my friend. saddly, the JWs are convinced.
    You see, communism may be seen only as a socio/political system (or organizaton), I have come to realize that it applies to “religious” entities in witch members are crafted into a way to speak (pure langage), to look (dress code), to receive a programmed joy (they seem to always be happy)…
    When Jim Jones settled his followers in a “closed” physical compound, the Watchtower (and all her cousins like the mormons, the christiadelphians, the way intl, the branch davidians, the adventist…) has locked the JWs peoples into a SPIRITUAL steel compound.
    One more time I saythat YES, the JWs ARE convinced.
    An annecdote: My laptop mouse pointer is in a form of a cross (three actually). one day I let my wife turn it on, and after all the icons finished to display, she moved the cursor and found out that the pointer WAS a CROSS: SHE RUN AWAY from the bedroom where we were!!! why? she simply saw the devil. And THAT… is what she received from mother organization, she believes it and its a (tangible) reality in her mind!!!

  25. Whyamiscared says:

    Dang! They stay ahead of their game by -keeping them uninformed about negative JW news stories like child molestation- coming out with an article like this one…..the result? They will all think that article was from Jehovah, and that he knew ahead of time to strengthen them for this difficulty. Yes sadly, they will definitely only be encouraged by this. I hate my life.

  26. Arno says:

    “Healthy Skepticism” my foot! Just another way to retain control over a very confused group of people. May the day hasten when the downfall of this very strange and anachronistic WTS will be announced all over the globe and through the heaven of heavens…This is one of my earnest and urgent prayers.

  27. Alex says:

    The thing is that GB urges JWs to be critical and skeptical of everyone and everyone (no matter how true that/they may be) but what is printed by the Watchtower.

  28. Faithful Witness says:

    Yes, they have JW’s turning on each other now.

  29. CAMOKO says:

    If you’ve ever played (namely fight) Dr Robotnic in the Sonic game by SEGA, you may think “what if the WTS is a doctor Robotnic” of the new age mouvement…humm !!!

  30. Tom says:

    I wish there was a rich ex-jw or non-jw who would kindly start advertising the truth about the truth using adsense or any other mean.

  31. LMC says:

    I heard an interested comment on a television show the other night. If an organization asks that you turn over all your assets to them they are a CULT!

    • sharon lee murray says:

      I totally agree. Not only that but your future as well. They are a cult, a demonic family destroying cult. Anyone with eyes that can read a real bible can see this. I’m sorry it took me 53 years to see it.

  32. george19 says:

    Just a comment on today’s WT lesson Dec 1st.
    “a sub-co mention his money is only enough for an one-way trip for visiting a congregation, he decide to make the visit, then a sister gave them some fund.
    It was the exact amount of money
    they needed to complete the trip.”

    I just feel the experience is so fake.
    How can you know the exact amount they needed to complete the trip? It would be much more real if it is like
    “It was what we need to complete the trip.”
    But then the “EXACT” flavor is lost so no divine intervention?
    Just some personal feelings about the advocate for Jw to pioneering.
    I wonder in Cedar’s pioneer experience, do you have something similar you can share with us?of course from a very objective point of view now.

    Thanks very much.

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