Any cult operating in the information age, an era when facts can be easily verified with a few clicks on Google, will find disseminating baseless propaganda increasingly problematic.
Internet subscriptions are steadily on the rise, even in third world countries. It is simply impossible to dupe people as easily as before internet connectivity became widely available.
Watchtower’s answer to this problem has been a full-scale assault on the internet – an “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” approach. In 2012 Watchtower consolidated its web presence from three websites (jw-media.org, watchtower.org and jw.org) into one, essentially putting all its eggs in one basket with a visually appealing (if utterly misleading) JW.org revamped site.
Then in October last year the Governing Body announced the launch of JW Broadcasting (tv.jw.org) – a shameless foray into the tawdry world of TV evangelism that they had spent decades denouncing in their literature. Tony Morris, speaking at one of this year’s regional conventions, explained some of the thinking behind the move…
“The news agencies, you don’t see them hardly ever do a story about us because, guess who runs the media! This is no surprise. I did news service work at conventions in the early days when I was in the truth – very rarely did we get any decent press. We don’t care anymore. We’ll make our own news, we’ll put it on JW Broadcast, and I’ll tell you we get a lot of people that are not Witnesses – it’s directed, the audience is Jehovah’s people – but they’re like ‘who are these people?’ See, because Jehovah’s going to reach out and let ’em know ‘here’s where the truth is.'”
In other words, the internet and media are becoming increasingly toxic against the Witnesses, especially as reports of shunning, child abuse, and needless deaths from refusing blood transfusions steadily receive more media attention.
JW Broadcasting is therefore a propaganda counter-measure, aimed at projecting Watchtower’s Orwellian “listen, obey and be blessed” message in the hopes that if enough nonsense is thrown at the web-browsing public, some of it might stick.
Now it seems another cult – one that also happens to have a terrible media reputation – wants in on the act. The Daily Mail has reported that the Church of Scientology is constructing its own $50 million studio on Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles to globally disseminate Scientology’s own patented brand of mind control, as the cult’s website explains:
“The global media center that will revolutionize the Church’s communications footprint throughout the print, broadcast, and internet media worlds as a state-of-the-art hub helping beam Scientology’s message all over the globe. The world population of 7 billion is growing by more than 250,000 daily. With 3,000 opportunities to reach each person on any given day, the technological power to reach out exists at unprecedented orders of magnitude. Scientology Media Productions is the emphatic answer to that most vital question of how we will in fact catapult into the next dimension. When this new property opens, we will be capable of reaching virtually every person on Earth.”
Scientology watchdog Tony Ortega of the Underground Bunker blog has already anticipated the development. “They’ve talked about doing a Scientology TV channel, showing their dumb videos over and over again,” he said. “But it could also go the way of their Freedom Magazine, where it’s trying to be more mainstream and commenting on everyday issues. They will try to do TV shows which are legitimate, speaking about every day things with a Scientology slant. Scientology news would be hilarious, but who would watch it?”
Gaining an audience for blatant cult propaganda will doubtless be more challenging for Scientology, regardless of their bigger and better facilities. Despite dominating the media discussion on cults, Scientology is punching well above its weight in terms of membership.
According to “Going Clear,” a recent HBO documentary (which I would urge everyone to watch!), the organization currently boasts a mere 50,000 active members – around the same number Watchtower has in Mozambique! My guess is the majority of viewers of Scientology video material will be critics of Scientology, and members of the atheist and ex-cult communities.
Watchtower, on the other hand, can bank on at least 8 million devoted subscribers to its online content, including JW Broadcasting videos. Even so, it is telling that when it comes to finding ways to thrust unprovable nonsense on people, birds of a feather like Watchtower and Scientology really do flock together.
- Daily Mail article on new Scientology studio
- HBO “Going Clear” documentary on Scientology
- Coming soon to a web browser near you – Governing Body TV (on demand)!
- JWsurvey’s “JW Broadcasting” page