The Bethel “Happy” video – unauthorized shenanigans or calculated propaganda stunt?

The Bethel "Happy" video: the work of an individual, or Watchtower?
The Bethel “Happy” video: the work of an individual, or Watchtower?

In Spring of last year I helped organize a group of former Jehovah’s Witnesses from various countries to film our own dance video to the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. I felt this was a great way of showing the world that so-called “apostates” are not angry and bitter, but are moving on with their lives in a positive, purposeful way.

The thought did briefly cross my mind: “Could it be that Jehovah’s Witnesses would ever do their own dance video to this song?” Though not completely inconceivable, I felt this would be unlikely given that, growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness, it was always frowned on to even own the music of rap/hip hop stars, let alone dance to it on camera!

Well, it seems I could not have been more wrong.

Since I made the “Happy” video there have been at least two instances of Jehovah’s Witnesses dancing to this particular track: one in a kingdom hall while entertaining international convention delegates and, more recently, a full-blown dance montage to the Happy song at various Bethel locations has been uploaded to YouTube…

The above video was initially available on a number of YouTube channels, but was taken down after complaints from JWs – including from one JW who claimed to speak on behalf of the makers of the video who strongly objected to it being posted to YouTube. (I would present evidence of this, but unfortunately the video was taken down before I could get a screengrab of the comments.)

Indeed, it wouldn’t surprise me if the embedded video above ends up getting pulled from YouTube at some point. If you’re reading this article later on and the version of “Happy” shown above is embedded from my Russian “RuTube” account, you know why.

Why would Jehovah’s Witnesses object?

It hopefully shouldn’t require explanation as to why an undoubtedly positive and upbeat video such as this would ignite controversy among seasoned Jehovah’s Witnesses, but I’ll spell it out for you anyway.

Though this particular song contains no lyrics that can be interpreted as sexually explicit, the same cannot be said of other music by Pharrell – including the following…

And the following quotes give some indication as to why long-standing Witnesses who actually read and apply the instructions found in Watchtower literature might be perplexed at this latest stunt…

“Consider the case of a young man who wants to buy a certain music album. What he has heard from the album is very appealing, but he is concerned because the back cover indicates that the lyrics are sexually explicit and profane… As a lover of Jehovah, this young man is interested in His thoughts and feelings on the matter. How can he perceive what God’s will is in this regard?” w03 12/1 p.21

“Since Bible times, unwholesome music has been a tool of Satan to stimulate unclean behavior. (Compare Exodus 32:17-19; Psalm 69:12; Isaiah 23:16.) Not surprisingly, then, music with sexually seductive—if not explicit—lyrics, profanity, and wild, arousing tempos is popular.” w99 9/1 p.10

What about the lyrics? Do they promote sexual immorality, drug use, or other wrongs that are ‘shameful even to relate?’ (Ephesians 5:12) The Bible says that such things should ‘not even be mentioned’ among God’s people, much less set to a beat and repeated over and over again. (Ephesians 5:3) What about the album-jacket design? Does it contain spiritistic themes or sexually arousing pictures? Perhaps you need to make some changes in the type of music you choose. If you have records, tapes, and discs that carry immoral and demonistic themes, you should immediately dispose of them.” w93 4/15 p.24

Would a JW teenager be allowed to own a Pharrell Williams album?
Would a JW teenager be allowed to own a Pharrell Williams album?

Regarding that last quote, young JWs who were forced to throw away albums featuring lyrics that fell short of Watchtower’s standards would have had no defense in holding on to these simply because a single song on them had lyrics that were harmless.

How, then, can the makers of this “Happy” video have no qualms about endorsing the music of Pharrell Williams when so much of it would be considered “a tool of Satan to stimulate unclean behavior?”

I believe the answer lies in the fact that Watchtower is changing – drastically. It is not the same religion that most Witnesses and ex-Witnesses grew up in.

The Watchtower of the 20th Century was unyielding, uncompromising and proud to be loathed and unpopular. The Watchtower of the 21st Century is image-obsessed, beguiling, and willing to bend a few of its rules for the sake of portraying itself in a favorable light.

The work of a rogue individual, or an inside job?

Some will doubtless argue that this video MUST be the ill-advised work of some rogue, over-enthusiastic, spiritually-weak Witness individual. But there are numerous reasons for asserting that this video is in fact a calculated internal propaganda stunt by Watchtower.

Anyone who has spent any amount of time in Bethel will tell you that you simply do not get that sort of access to the various departments (not to mention the cooperation of the bethelites working IN those departments), without the consent of the departmental overseers.

Dancers behind the reception desk at Patterson
Dancers behind the reception desk at Patterson

You cannot just wander into the lobby of Patterson with a camera and get the receptionists to dance wildly for you at your command.

Another telling sign that this is an inside job comes at 1:13 in the video, where a caption pops up that reads “Hmong RTO.” Hmong is an ethnic group from South-East Asia, and “RTO” stands for “Remote Translation Office.”

The use of organizational jargon in this caption, without any attempt to explain things for those not familiar with the inner workings of Watchtower, would seem to indicate that this video was intended for distribution only among the Bethel family.

The unfettered access to various Watchtower locations and departments, the full and enthusiastic cooperation of so many bethelites, and the use of an internal acronym that most JWs would be unfamiliar with, all points to this being an inside job – authorized at the highest level.

If I’m wrong, and it’s really so easy to roam around Bethel getting bethelites to dance for you in front of the camera, excuse me while I book the first flight to New York!

Reasons for optimism?

But forensics aside, what can we take away from this video? Are we to conclude that bethelites are deliriously happy with their lives? Can we dare to suggest that Watchtower is becoming more easy-going, down-to-earth and mainstream?

On the first question, I would point out two things: (1) you should really check out Brock Talon’s book “Journey To God’s House” and the recent JWpodcast interview with Kam Deo if you want to know whether life in Bethel is all smiles and laughter, and (2) there is a big difference between dancing on camera and being genuinely happy. Yes – I realize you can make this same argument about my own interpretation of the Happy song, but the reasons for an ex-JW to be happy are, in my opinion, far more plausible than those of a JW.

The annihilation of non-JWs at Armageddon - a reason for happiness?
The annihilation of non-JWs at Armageddon – a reason for happiness?

A JW’s “happiness” originates from knowing that he is serving Jehovah (when in fact he is serving an organization), and from the absolute conviction that one day he will live in a world where everyone who disagrees with his beliefs has been slaughtered.

Those are definitely reasons to be happy, but they are not good reasons.

An exJW’s happiness comes from knowing that they have been emancipated from the control of a small group of deluded men in New York, and from knowing they are free to live their lives according to what they think and believe rather than having their personal convictions prescribed for them.

Speaking for myself, there is also a great deal of joy to be derived from knowing that the love you have for your child is unconditional, and that no personal differences need ever threaten to separate your dearest little one from you.

As to the idea that this video represents a softening on the part of Watchtower – if only that were true!

In order for Watchtower to become more “mainstream” and easy-going it would need to loosen up its harsh and damaging rules on such matters as shunning, blood transfusions, child abuse and higher education. Rather than doing that, if anything Watchtower is circling the wagons more and more on those issues, as the recent rant by Tony Morris on higher education indicates.

Unfortunately what we are seeing in this Happy video is Watchtower trying to have the best of both worlds. It wants to be the cool dad at the party, but also the dad who, behind closed doors, spanks his child brutally for the slightest misdemeanor.

As heartwarming and endearing as this video will undoubtedly be for most who watch it, what it actually represents is a sickly propaganda stunt by an organization willing to punish its adherents in one of the most wicked ways imaginable (through family estrangement) if they fall out of line, while bending its own rules whenever advantageous to do so.

 

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***UPDATE***
Since writing this article I have had the opportunity to speak directly to the maker of the video, and I’ve been told that although the concept and execution of this video was carried out by him individually for the “Bethel Family Night” – the project was approved by the Bethel Family Night Committee and received their endorsement and cooperation. I’m relieved that the individual concerned will not get into trouble for making this video, since he seems to have done everything by the book and consulted properly with his superiors. However, his account does verify that Watchtower went into this with its eyes open and saw no double-standards or hypocrisy in using Pharrell Williams to promote life as a bethelite.

Further reading…

Related video…

187 thoughts on “The Bethel “Happy” video – unauthorized shenanigans or calculated propaganda stunt?

  • February 17, 2015 at 10:02 pm
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    just testing here – I posted b4 but didn’t c it

  • February 17, 2015 at 10:57 pm
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    This latest fiasco only confirms that the Watchtower society and all their sheepish followers have finally deteriorated into a pathetic joke. There is NO Jehovah. There NEVER was.

    THERE IS ONLY ALMIGHTY GOD.

    Anything else is blasphemy.
    God has NO need for a name.
    jehovah / yahweh is the FALSE god of an Iron Age tribe of nomadic, desert-dwelling goat herders. The so-called governing body and their merry band of gloriously deluded followers have truly earned the name, jehovah’s witLesses. LOL They have, however, unfortunately, managed to somehow extend their influence (effluent?) all the way around our precious globe like a poison, or more precisely, a virus, far beyond their own meager numbers. They MUST be outlawed, as must be all organized religion. Organized religion = Fairy tales. The time has come for humanity to take the next step in our evolution (or whatever) and extract itself from its dream world full of rainbows and unicorns, and GET REAL. “Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.” Happiness comes from living in the REAL world!!

    • April 21, 2015 at 1:02 am
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      i like your comments BUT get your facts right first. The name was INVENTED as a Latin substitute word for LORD by a Spanish monk in the 13th century, Raymundas. This can all be verified by looking in Google. It was certainly NOT the name for the God of Israel. JW’s confirm this in their “AID TO BIBLE UNDERSTANDING” book on page 884/5. check it out. after 38 years of being brainwashed I am now free. Please read one of my journals. pitn.wordpress.com

      • November 29, 2015 at 12:48 pm
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        Not true

    • November 29, 2015 at 12:47 pm
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      God has no need for a name? That’s stupid read your bible

    • November 29, 2015 at 1:30 pm
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      Kuku Kuku

    • January 16, 2016 at 2:49 pm
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      Dear Me. “outlawed…all organised religion”? Well then, that will be the end of Atheism and Evolutionists as these are organised belief systems too.
      I am an ex Jw, but really !! The author of that statement has moved me more than at any other time to believe that atheist is right and there is no such thing as intelligent design, He is living proof that he is neither intelligent or designed.

  • March 3, 2015 at 10:16 pm
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    WOW! From watching that video I realize that I have been wrong about Jehovah’s Witnesses all along. They are not in a cult. They are happy people. They’re cool! They know how to have fun! And to the music of Pharrell Williams! I’m going to join them!
    Just joking. I was a JW once. It’s a cult.

    • March 10, 2015 at 7:07 am
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      Ha! you had me going.

    • November 29, 2015 at 12:51 pm
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      Find out what a cult is first before you publish dumb statements

  • June 26, 2015 at 3:45 pm
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    Great PR from a sect desperately in need of damage control.

    Although WTBTS is a cult it does not disprove Bible truth. The WT twists and perverts the Holy Scriptures to their own destruction.

    The God of the Bible is YHVH – Tsabaoth, YHVH – Yireh, YHVH – Rohi, YHVH Tsidkenu, El Shaddai, El Elyon, El Gibbor, Eloah, YH, Yeshua – Jesus. That is how He has revealed Himself. God’s Word endures forever whatever crazy cults may think or do in foisting their own opinions upon it.

  • October 12, 2015 at 4:04 am
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    I am late to hearing about this video, came across it on YouTube by JWFairyTale, but I thought it was a prank, but it’s real? I am shocked. While they are so happy at Bethel with their “family” and all their little parties at district conventions, a child is dying in the hospital due to JW rules that mandate that child to die that could be saved by a blood transfusion, a man will praise Jah by letting his wife die in childbirth that might be saved by a blood transfusion. I am so glad these sick people are showing that they worship their true god Satan the devil who delights in the death of innocent souls.

  • November 29, 2015 at 12:43 pm
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    You aren’t really happy being outside of Jehovah’ organization otherwise you wouldn’t spend so much time trying to find fault Get a real life!!

    • September 12, 2016 at 12:01 am
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      Get some balls Kenneth, do the research you’ll be right here with us, oh wait.. You are here ! Are you looking at apostate web sites? CALL THE JW COPS !!!!(elders)

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