JW.org has released a polished new publicity video showing highlights from the 2013 Annual Meeting, at which the revised New World Translation was revealed by Governing Body members.
The video, which runs to just over seven minutes, ends with footage from various English-speaking lands showing members of the 1.4-million-strong audience waving and hugging their new Bibles enthusiastically.
One clip, which can be seen at 6:18, even shows a woman from Canada holding her new Bible to her face. Thinking Witnesses will be wondering why unbridled adoration of what is essentially a revision of an existing book is quite so necessary or admirable.
Curiously, the video of this ‘historic’ meeting does not feature certain parts of the program that left listeners like myself bemused and disturbed.
For example, at 0:55 Guy Pierce is shown promising that Bible truths will be refined, but the video doesn’t show him asking his audience to follow him in reading Proverbs 4:18 – thus heightening expectation for “new light” on the scriptures that would never be revealed.
Gerrit Lösch is similarly treated kindly by the filmmakers. Visitors to JW.org who watch the video will be spared from seeing him tell his audience that they should “not let family ties overshadow bible principles,” and that “relatives who are not in the truth and not on the way to accept it could exert a negative influence in our lives.”
Geoffrey Jackson’s joke about the new Bible being “sister proof” is also notably absent, as is the same speaker’s bizarre insinuation that Jehovah manipulated the weather at Wallkill so that more copies could be printed. Sadly and predictably the makers of this video have stripped their production of virtually all the most cringeworthy elements in the Annual Meeting, leaving only the feel-good moments and adulation.
And it is not the first time that Watchtower history has been altered through some nifty editing.
The vanishing flags of Cedar Point, Ohio
In the opening sequence of the new video, footage is shown from Watchtower’s recent “Faith In Action” DVD series to depict “pivotal” events in the organization’s history. It should be noted that film footage exists of Charles Taze Russell, Joseph Rutherford AND Nathan Knorr – but none of this was used by the filmmakers. Instead, re-enactments by actors were cleverly selected to depict key moments in a polished and sanitized way.
For example, at 0:16 you will see an actor portraying Joseph Rutherford delivering his famous “advertize, advertize, advertize” speech at the 1922 convention at Cedar Point, Ohio. The footage, lifted directly from the 2010 “Faith In Action” DVD (Part 1), shows the stage at Cedar Point with plain wooden boards at either side. You are doubtless thinking, “Yes, but what is the significance of this?”
If you turn to page 299 in the Daniel Book (Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy), or page 259 in the Proclaimers Book (Jehovah’s Witnesses – Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom), you will notice that American flags were originally draped either side of the stage at the Cedar Point convention of 1922. It is difficult to make them out because the photos are in black and white – but they are unmistakably there.
But in Watchtower’s recent sanitized version of its history from the DVD, the flags have vanished. In the space where they would have been draped either side of the stage, wooden boards are cleverly inserted.
The purpose in removing the flags was undoubtedly to avoid ‘stumbling’ any Witnesses by presenting them with uncomfortable evidence that the organization was once not quite as politically neutral as it would like to admit.
Some would argue that this is only a minor issue and Watchtower was doing nothing wrong by re-writing its history in this way, but consider the following words from page 13 of the 2011 Yearbook…
“In summary, the Writing Department insists on using only material that is accurate and truthful, even regarding seemingly insignificant details. As a result, ‘the faithful and discreet slave’ can consistently supply spiritual food that brings honor to ‘the God of truth,’ Jehovah.—Ps. 31:5.”
Image over substance
Why do I highlight the above discrepancy? Because it demonstrates perfectly what Watchtower is increasingly becoming – a vain organization that is pre-occupied with spin and self-publicity rather than the interests of its adherents.
The inclusion of the doctored Cedar Point re-enactment at the beginning of this latest video sets the stage (if you will excuse the pun!) for what is to follow – a carefully manicured piece of propaganda designed to stir the emotions and gloss over any idiosyncracies.
When listening to the Annual Meeting program in its entirety, it was apparent that the Governing Body were cleverly building anticipation for the new release from the beginning.
Jokes were made by Governing Body members about the shortage of Bibles without any apology for the decision to keep ordinary brothers in the dark as to what was happening. Such unwarranted secrecy led to confusion and distress, to the point where some wrote to Bethel to ask what was going on – but even this reaction was made the subject of joking and flippancy.
Then, as shown at 2:50 in the video, Geoffrey Jackson teased his audience by implying they would need to wait to receive their new Bibles before pulling his grey rabbit out of the hat. “You don’t have to wait at all – here it is! The newly released revised New World Translation!”
Immediately after this point in the video children can be heard singing “we thank you Jehovah” – rather cheaply and cheesily reinforcing the idea that God is directly responsible for the new Bible.
Against the backdrop of children singing and applause, at 3:00, 3:05 and 3:15 women are shown wiping tears from their eyes. The melodrama and hype is tangible.
Adulation of the Governing Body then ensues as sisters are shown (at 3:54) laughing hysterically and clapping at Steven Lett’s joke about Guy Pierce “twisting” the new Bible. This is followed at 5:15 by Anthony Morris reminding his audience that the new Bible is a “wonderful gift God’s given to all of us.” And at 5:49 a sister beams with awe as David Splane delivers some feel-good words. “The Great Jehovah can cause you to succeed at any assignment he gives you whether at Bethel or in the field.”
As the video reaches its climax, the focus on adulation of the new Bible becomes more obvious. Once the sister in Canada has held her new Bible to her cheek at 6:18 a number of scenes follow to the sound of recorded applause and a string accompaniment.
At 6:26 another smiling Canadian sister clutches the new Bible to her bosom. At 6:38 a group of brothers and sisters hold their Bibles up for the camera. And at 6:43 an entire audience of brothers in Britain flap their Bibles in the air in a scene reminiscent of Chinese crowds at communist rallies.
The video ends with a young red-headed Canadian boy smiling at the camera as he holds aloft his new Bible as the closing captions fade in, and the string music reaches its heart-tugging conclusion.
Too much to ask?
Some will say I am being harsh and over-critical in calling attention to the clever editing, rewriting of history and appeals to emotion in this video. But I do so because I believe this and other videos represent a dangerous attempt to deceive people through the tried-and-trusted means of propaganda. And it is my Witness family who will be among those swept along by the fervor and hype.
If Watchtower wants to publish a highlights video for what was essentially a glorified pep rally, where the Governing Body rode to the rescue to solve a problem they themselves had created, they are more than welcome to do this. But can’t they at least try to do it honestly, and include the less savory moments? I don’t think I ask too much.
After all, 1.4 million may be an impressively large audience, but it is still only less than a fifth of Witnesses globally. The majority of Witnesses will be completely in the dark as to some of the more disturbing elements of this year’s Annual Meeting, which betrayed a side of their leaders most are unfamiliar with. And by the looks of this new video, that is precisely how the Governing Body wants them to remain.
- Page on JW.org showing the Annual Meeting highlights
- “Governing Body on show: God fixed weather to produce ‘sister proof’ new bible“
- “New English NWT Bible released as Annual Meeting is leaked online“
- “The Revised New World Translation: Will it stand the test of time?“
- “Error found in new ‘Silver Sword’ revised New World Translation“