Awake to Propaganda?

As part of the alleged “secret deals” with the United Nations, the conspiracy theorists say, the Watchtower Society “agreed” to write “propaganda” for the UN. They claim a series of articles published in the Awake! during the 1990's were simply written to fulfill their NGO requirement — their “end of the bargain”. Is this a reasonable assessment of the evidence, or is it shallow circumstantial evidence for a crazy conspiracy theory?

We earlier showed how DPI NGO status is very different to ECOSOC NGO status, and that being a DPI NGO is hardly a “secret back-room deal” to create a “political alliance” as some conspiracy theorists claim. They ignore the inconvenient fact that a mere DPI NGO does not have political influence over the UN, nor does it gain any kind of status.

Yet, one of the requirements of any organization wishing to be a DPI NGO and have access to the DPI's vast resources, is that the organization makes full use of them. They must be at least using the facilities for a purpose in harmony with the DPI itself — to educate the public on the role and activities of the UN. To prove the organization is doing so, they must send copies of the organization's journal to the DPI as proof.

There is nothing wrong with this — it proves the Society was indeed making use of the resources, and not abusing them by promoting values contrary to that of the UN charter, such as Nazism, racism, or any such ideas. It is a sensible precaution on behalf of the DPI and completely appropriate.

The conspiracy theorists, however, see the Awake! articles published in the 1990's as part of the great conspiracy to promote the UN as a world government. One even goes so far as claiming that the Governing Body has apostatized — possibly through infiltration from One-world conspirators (influence of the Masons and the Illuminati has not been ruled out) — and now secretly worship the beast of the UN. One claims the Society have stealthily changed the Awake! to “become a UN publication” and it now only “occasionally makes off-handed reference to Jehovah's kingdom.” He also claims the Awake! made just as many references to the UN as God's Kingdom in it's pages during the time of the DPI NGO status. Of course, any regular reader of the Awake! will laugh at these accusations, but is there any truth to them?

A “UN publication”?

References to the United Nations have increased somewhat in the pages of the Awake! over the years. That much is certainly true — especially in news items and articles on subjects such as the environment, human rights, and religious freedom. If we count the number of references to words such as “United Nations” or “UN”, we can plot the number on a chart, as in this chart. We have also plotted the number of references to “new system”, “Christ's Kingdom”, “new world”, etc., on the same chart for comparison.

We can see that mentions of the “United Nations” (or simply the “UN”) did intermittently increase from around 1980, while the number of references to the new system have actually remained pretty much the same, usually being more numerous than mentions of the UN. This certainly isn't a magazine which only “occasionally makes off-handed reference to Jehovah's kingdom”! We know this is a ridiculous statement that flies in the face of the solid evidence presented above. The Awake! mentioned the new system of things hundreds of times over the 1990's — roughly as often as it did in the 1980's!

Furthermore, the only thing this chart proves is that the United Nations — and it's agencies, of which there are numerous — are mentioned in the Awake! somewhat more often in the 1990's than during the 1970's and early 80's. It doesn't tell us much else. For example, how many of those references to the UN are negative? Probably quite a few. How many references are utterly trivial references to a UN agency — such as would be found in a news item? Probably quite a lot. More to the point, how many of those references to the UN or a UN agency are promoting the UN as mankind's only hope for peace? We know the answer to this last question, as shown on this chart to the right.

Yes, even though the Awake! has increased it's references to the UN, it has never once portrayed the UN as a viable world government, and certainly never as God's Kingdom on earth. The Awake! is hardly a “UN publication”! However, why has the Awake! increased it's references to the UN — positive, negative, or otherwise? What could be behind that increase? Has it also increased references to any other organization, government, or agency?

America, America, America

“I'm not reading that American rubbish” said my father when I tried to show him an Awake! article I thought he may find interesting. Like many people of the older generation in Britain, anything American is looked down upon. Indeed, anti-American sentiment has long been a problem for the preaching work in Europe and in other parts of the world, where we are often referred to as an “American sect” — the emphasis being on the American part more than the sect part.

As of 2006, approximately 85% of Jehovah's Witnesses are non-Americans. Yet it was not always that way. At one time most Witnesses were from the States, and there is where most of our literature was written and printed. This meant the Watchtower — and particularly, the Awake! — often concentrated on American events, news items, and what American institutions (religious or otherwise) announced or advised. This often irritated both publishers and members of the public who read our publications outside of the USA — as it did my father. However, in the 1970's this began to change.

The fall of America

Over a few years, the Awake! gained a far more international feel. Articles about American Institutions (whether scientific, religious, or political) seemed to be becoming less frequent, with mentions of non-American people, non-American organizations, and countries other than America becoming more frequent. International organizations which work across borders, rather than simply American ones, became quoted as sources more frequently. Rather than reporting what some American board of health has decided, the World Health Organization would be citied instead. Rather than the American Bill of Rights being discussed and how it relates to religious freedom, the International Declaration of Human Rights is considered instead. Rather than some American environmental group being quoted, international organizations like Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, the World Wildlife Fund, or the United Nations Environmental Programme would be consulted in their place.

This strong trend in the Awake magazine to refocus itself away from the USA can be shown in our chart to the right. As you can see the written mentions of “America”, “American”, “United States”, “USA”, “New York”, and other terms relating to the superpower dropped significantly, while references to the United Nations increased by a small amount.

You will also notice that despite the increase in mentions of the United Nations, references to that government has not even come close to the phenomenal number of references to the United States of America prior to the change. However, the small increase in mentions of the UN obviously did not replace all those references to the USA. So what did replace them? Our next chart, below, provides us with the answer.

From this we can see that while the references to the USA decreased, references to Britain, Japan, France, other European countries, and international organizations, increased to compensate — replacing the USA. This change, along with the small increase in references to the UN, fully accounts for the drop in references to America.

This evidence demonstrates that, rather than being part of some crackpot conspiracy of a “secret political partnership” to support a world government, the increased mentions of the United Nations in Watchtower Society literature from the 1970's onward, was due to their researchers using more international sources for the Awake! articles. Rather than use American institutions, news sources, and correspondents, the magazine moved away to international sources, including international Government agencies. After all, the Society did say the only reason for becoming a DPI NGO was to have continued access to the DPI's vast international research materials, did they not?

As we discussed earlier, the current level of references to the United Nations is no where near the previous levels of references to American institutions and American Government agencies. Would our conspiracy theorists have us believe, therefore, that the Awake! was once publishing that information in a secret deal to curry favor with the United States Government? Or was it not, rather, a symptom of having mainly American writers and an American readership? Of course it was. Likewise, the trend towards more international and non-American references reflects the new nationality of the writers and the greatly expanded international readership.

Readers from 230 countries and territories want to read about international organizations, issues, and government decisions that effect them, they do not want to read what what is of importance to Americans all the time (I'm sure American readers also appreciate the new international feel). That is why the Awake! now quotes from more international sources than ever before (including the UN), and uses correspondents from many different countries.

The most international magazine on earth

The Awake! is now arguably the most International magazine on earth. The average issue is written by authors in several different countries, published on six continents, and translated into a staggering 81 languages for distribution in over 230 countries and territories. For this magazine to have maintained its previous high concentration on American issues and citations would be wholly inappropriate. Much more fittingly it now quotes International organizations, such as the United Nations various cross-border organizations on health, the environment, children, poverty, etc., in its pages. As it's own description states, the magazine “always stays politically neutral and does not exalt one race above another.”

Propaganda pieces?

Despite the obvious change in the Awake!, the conspiracy theorists still insist that the increase in UN references in the Awake was “really” due to “a secret back-room deal” to promote a “totalitarian world government”. They even say the Society is guilty of getting the brothers involved in the alleged “apostasy” by getting them to distribute the UN “propaganda” in the field. Is there any truth in this extraordinary accusation?

Let us examine these so-called “propaganda” pieces in detail, and see whether these allegations have any merit.

The “heavenly Government is invisible but real”

According to one accuser, the “most blatant propagandizing in support of the United Nations” was the November 22nd 1998 cover article of the Awake!, talking about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This was appropriately published on the 50th anniversary of the declaration's signing. The conspiracy theorist says this was written to “publicize the event” on behalf of the UN. Is this accurate? Consider the last few paragraphs of the article. Do they promote the UN as a viable world government?

“Just as the Bible shows that the Creator is the source of the faculties that underlie human rights, it also informs us that he is the source of a world government that ensures them. This heavenly government is invisible but real. In fact, millions of people, perhaps unwittingly, pray for this world government when saying in what is commonly called the Lord’s Prayer: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matthew 6:10) The God-appointed Head of that Kingdom government is the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.—Isaiah 9:6.

This world government will succeed in creating a truly global and lasting human rights culture by, among other things, eliminating war forever. The Bible prophesies: “He [the Creator] is making wars to cease to the extremity of the earth. The bow he breaks apart and does cut the spear in pieces; the wagons he burns in the fire.”—Psalm 46:9

How soon will this happen on a global scale? The Bible study program provided by Jehovah’s Witnesses includes a satisfying answer to this question. We encourage you to get acquainted with this program. If you care about human rights, you will not be disappointed.”

The article leaves the reader to consider how the “Prince of Peace” Jesus Christ — not the UN — will create a “truly global and lasting human rights culture”. This is an appropriate end, for in the previous paragraphs the article shows how the UN has failed to accomplish it's Human Rights goals. First of all, this supposed “propaganda” for the UN says:

“For millions of people around the world, human rights violations are impossible to ignore. Their daily plight is still marred by discrimination, poverty, starvation, persecution, rape, child abuse, slavery, and violent death. For these victims the promising conditions spelled out in the towering stack of human rights treaties are a thousand miles away from the world they know. In fact, for most of mankind, even the basic rights listed in the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights remain an unfulfilled promise.”

We wonder what kind of “propaganda” in a “UN publication” calls the UN's Human Rights declaration “an unfulfilled promise” for “most of mankind”. After this, it goes on to list several areas where the UN has failed and Human Rights continue to be violated world-wide. These areas are listed under subheadings entitled, 'Equality for All?', 'Children Without Childhoods', 'Choosing and Changing One's Religion', 'Sore Back but Empty Purse', 'Medical Care for All'. Each subheading headlines how the UN has failed to accomplish their goals in each of these areas. Of course, conspiracy theorists do not tell you about that part of the article.

While the article definitely informs us about the UN, it certainly does not support or promote it as a viable world government. The only thing it seems to be promoting is Jehovah's Witnesses' free Bible study program. Oh, but yes, it certainly does point to a world government as the solution to Human Rights violations — but that government is God's Kingdom, not the United Nations in New York. As the Watchtower Society have quoted many times in relation to the efforts of human governments:

“It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.” —Jeremiah 10:23

“mankind will be united in pure worship”

A few months after the above article was published, the Awake! had an article entitled Religious Intolerance Today. The conspiracy theorists say its publication was “transparently pandering to the United Nations to protect the rights of Jehovah's Witnesses”. Is this a reasonable assumption, or inductive reasoning to reach a conclusion one has already made?

First, the article considers how religious intolerance is a problem in the modern world. It quotes from five UN sources, one newspaper, three books, and a university professor. The next part of the article considers the history of persecution of Christians starting in the 1st century. It quotes one history book, one encyclopedia, one book on religious freedom, one court judge, four other magazines, five newspapers, a parliamentary deputy, one professor, and one doctor, five historical figures who defended religious freedom, and finally from one UN source. The next article in the series quotes from three UN sources, two newspapers, a book on democracy, and the Bible five times. The final article quotes one newspaper, three UN sources, and the Bible twice.

How does the article end? Does it say the UN will solve the problems of religious tolerance? Does it appeal to the UN to step in and defend Jehovah's Witnesses? No, but it does end in this fashion:

“The Bible promises that soon mankind will be united in pure worship of the one true God. This unity will result in a true worldwide fraternity, or brotherhood, where respect for others will prevail. Humans will no longer be plagued by ignorance, as God’s Kingdom will teach people Jehovah’s ways, thus satisfying their intellectual, emotional, and spiritual needs. (Isaiah 11:9; 30:21; 54:13) Real equality and liberty will cover the earth. (2 Corinthians 3:17) By acquiring an accurate understanding of God’s purposes for mankind, you can counter ignorance and intolerance.”

In the past, Jehovah's Witnesses have put forth much effort to get governments to change their minds. They have fought in the courts, even to the highest courts in the land. They have initiated letter-writing campaigns to get brothers released from prison. They have published articles deliberately criticizing certain governments policies, such as with Malawi and Singapore. They have launched special campaigns with specially printed leaflets, as occurred in France with the leaflet People of France — You are Being Deceived! Countless other initiatives have taken place all over the earth to establish religious freedom for Jehovah's Witnesses.

The series of articles we considered above were extremely well-balanced and well-written, showing the problem of religious intolerance today and how “in numerous countries where intolerance and discrimination are hard realities, countless millions of people today do not enjoy religious freedom.” If we want to appeal to the UN to help protect our rights, we would do so directly, not by writing an article and hope it will please them in such a way that they would protect us. When the accuser says these articles were specially written for “transparently pandering to the United Nations to protect the rights of Jehovah's Witnesses”, we think that is an unfounded presumption. We are perfectly capable of defending our own rights, and the UN is already dedicated to protecting the rights of all religious minorities anyway. The most reasonable deduction is that Society was making good use of the UN's extensive library facilities to write high-quality Awake! articles such as this, just as they claimed.

“a heavenly government... the definitive solution”

Regarding the November 8th 1999 Awake!, the accuser says, “Most people probably do not even know that there is such an agency as the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs; but the Watchtower Society has seen to it that its readership is made aware—if only superficially—of even obscure UN agencies.”

Does the Awake! inform it's readers of “obscure UN agencies” for the purpose of “promoting it's global agenda” as the accuser says elsewhere? Or does the Awake! quote from that agency because it is international, authoritative, and reliable? Here are the final paragraphs of that same Awake! Magazine. Read and decide for yourself whether it promotes God's Kingdom or the UN's “global agenda”:

“If the war on drugs is to be won, there must be a global solution because the problem is already a global one. In this regard the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs notes: “While drug abuse, drug trafficking and the criminality connected to the drug problem were in most countries perceived as one of the main threats to security, the public was less aware of the fact that illicit drugs were a global problem that could no longer be solved by national efforts alone.”

But will the governments of the world band together to eradicate this global scourge? The results so far have not been encouraging. The Bible, however, points to a heavenly government that will transcend national boundaries as the definitive solution. The Bible assures us that God’s Kingdom, ruled by Jesus Christ, will last “forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15) Hence, under God’s Kingdom, divine education will ensure that the demand for drugs will disappear. (Isaiah 54:13) And the social and emotional problems that now provide fertile soil for drug abuse will be gone forever.—Psalm 55:22; 72:12; Micah 4:4.

Are You in Need of Help?

Even now, hope in God’s Kingdom in the hands of Christ is motivating people to say no to drugs. If you would like more information, please contact Jehovah’s Witnesses in your area.”

Needless to say, we could go on and on. If you wish to see more so-called examples of the “UN propaganda” please see the Appendix entry entitled More on the Awake! Articles.

The question now needs to be asked: Do these articles promote the UN or God’s Kingdom as the hope for mankind? They all, without exception, are showing how God’s Kingdom will succeed in remedying the problems of mankind where the UN and all human governments have failed. They hold a respectful attitude towards the UN and all governments while recognizing their sincerity and desire to improve the world. They tactfully declare the message of God's Kingdom so as not to turn people off when reading it.

Another pertinent question to ask is whether the writer of the above accusations actually read the entire articles or if he simply has an agenda is to misrepresent the facts. Should we really expect that every article about the UN should conclude with how the UN is the wild beast and will be ultimately destroyed by God’s Kingdom? That is absurd. Yet to be sure there were certainly a few articles during the decade of the 1990’s that did just that. —See the 12/8/90 and 7/8/96 Awake!; also the 5/1/93 and 10/1/95 Watchtower

Pre-1991 articles

What about Watchtower and Awake! articles written before and after the Society was a DPI NGO? Has there been any articles which, if had been published during the 1991 to 2001 status, would now be declared as “UN propaganda” by Internet conspiracy theorists? Certainly!

One article which would have definitely been considered “propaganda” printed as “part of the deal” with the UN, is in the February 22nd 1979 Awake!. When examining this article are we to assume that that the Watchtower Society had a 12-year plot to become a DPI NGO with the UN and thus began writing “UN propaganda”?

Here are a few quotes from that article. While reading it, just imagine what kind of accusations a conspiracy theorist would make.

“Commendable Goals

The goals of the United Nations organization are commendable. “The purposes of the United Nations are,” so reads its charter, “to maintain international peace and security.”

Article 55 of the charter says: “With a view to the creation of conditions of stability and well-being which are necessary for peaceful and friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, the United Nations shall promote: a) higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social progress and development; b) solutions of international economic, social, health, and related problems; and international cultural and educational cooperation; and c) universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.”

Fine goals, but to what extent have they been reached? To what extent can they be reached? An article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in 1965 called attention to certain facts that still apply today 14 years later: “A balance of twenty years of UN history and a long list of conciliation and mediation measures shows that the United Nations have been successful in cases where the ‘super powers’ have not been directly involved.”

The article called attention to the fine work done by organs of the United Nations in other fields, such as by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and by a host of others.

There are U.N. agencies, for example, dealing with the peaceful uses of outer space, of atomic energy and of the seabed. Questions of the environment, industrial development and economic development also come up for consideration. There is a United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control. Much has been done in the way of disaster relief. One of the most remarkable achievements was caring for the needs of millions of Bangladeshi refugees after the war with Pakistan.

A Committee on Crime Prevention and Control has also done fine work. The first major intergovernmental conference ever devoted solely to women was sponsored by this organization in Mexico City in 1975.”

Here is another example, a December 8th 1974 Awake! article entitled What the Poor Nations Are Saying:

“In the spring of 1974, the “underdeveloped” countries sponsored a special session of the United Nations General Assembly. This three-week session was devoted to their problems, especially the use of their raw materials by the richer countries.”

United Nations Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim answers:

“The single most devastating indictment of our current world civilization is the continued existence of stark, pervasive poverty among two-thirds of the world population.”

“It permeates every phase of life in developing countries: in the malnutrition of children, in the outbreaks of diseases, in widespread unemployment, in low literacy rates, in overcrowded cities.”

Ah, now it is becoming clearer. The Watchtower Society had a 17-year plot to disseminate information for the UN in order to become a DPI NGO! That is almost comical. Needless to say there are others, and of course all the articles close with, as the accusers will say, the ‘token’ references to God’s Kingdom and that it will accomplish what man-made governments have failed to accomplish.

Post-2001 articles

Do the Watchtower Society publications show a change since withdrawing membership as a DPI NGO? Would the articles written continue to be viewed as ‘UN propaganda’ if the Society was still a DPI NGO today? Lets examine some of these articles in the Awake! magazine since 2001.

The March 22nd 2005 Awake! cover-article Mountains Vital for Life On Earth is one recent example. Here is a quote from it:

“The United Nations Environmental Programme sponsored the International Year of Mountains 2002. To emphasize mankind’s dependence on the mountains, organizers coined the phrase “We Are All Mountain People.” They aimed to increase awareness of the problems facing the world’s mountains and seek solutions to protect them. This concern is a valid one...”

Other references are made to what the UN has done and, as always, the article closes with what God’s Kingdom will accomplish. Can you not just here the accusations, “Most people did not even know that 2002 was the International Year of mountains. But here again the Watchtower has seen to it that its readership is made aware of even obscure International Years.” Is this not precisely what would be said?

Another example is January 8th 2005 Awake! article Can Planet Earth Be Saved? Here is a quote from it:

“True, world leaders have made commendable efforts to curb pollution, deforestation, and other environmental problems. Starting with the UN Conference on Human Environment in 1972, and followed by other conferences at regular intervals, up to 163 nations have met to endorse action plans.”

Imagine if this had been written in the 1990’s, we would no doubt hear the same tired old accusations of conspiracy and deception from accusers, “It's more one-world propaganda for the UN! They are praising the 1972 conference and the so-called commendable efforts of the UN!”

Also consider the February 22nd 2003 Awake! article Malnutrition “The Silent Emergency”. As you can just imagine from the title, there are many references made to the UN. Here is one that would definitely be given as “proof” if written during the time the Society had DPI NGO status:

“ 1996 the World Food Summit of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) set the goal of reducing the number of the world’s undernourished by half—some 400 million people—by the year 2015. Commendably, some progress has been made.”

Listen! Can you here the accusatory statements about the blatant way the Watchtower promotes the goals of the UN and informs us of the UN’s proposed solutions as part of their global agenda?

Let's take one final example, although we could go on and on. Consider the February 22nd 2005 Awake! article The Role of Mothers as Educators. Here the Writing Department has the gall to put a picture of the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, and quote what he said about women in the center of page 5! Can't you just hear the accusations? “What purpose could this possibly serve but to promote the UN and their agenda?”

Yet the fact is that all of these articles were written after 2001 when the Watchtower Society withdrew its DPI NGO status. Perhaps someone needs to tell them that they can stop their “blatant propagandizing for the UN” since they no longer need to disseminate such information as part of the “back room deal”. That is certainly a ridiculous statement, but it well demonstrates how absurd the previous accusations are about the Watchtower Society's deliberately publishing “UN propaganda” and the Awake! allegedly becoming a “UN publication” to fulfill the UN's requirements.

Each article featuring the UN has always closed with how God’s Kingdom, not the UN, will solve all the problems of mankind. Besides, articles of these exact same sentiments were published both before and after the DPI NGO years anyway.

The conclusion, all things having been heard

In conclusion, have we as Jehovah's Witnesses disseminated information about the UN? Of course we have. We did this long before we were a DPI NGO — even before the UN was formed — and we continue to do so to this day. Did we give our publications to the UN as proof of our concurrence with DPI requirements? Yes, and why not? Such a provision was a sensible precaution of behalf of the UN's DPI to ensure their facilities were not being misused by undesirable organizations who “contribute to the propagation of nazi ideology and racial and/or religious discrimination”. These are the words of the UN's own resolution on the matter, not ours.

Furthermore, all the articles point to God's Kingdom! Does writing honest articles about the UN, showing how God's Kingdom will succeed where the UN has failed, make us a political partner with the UN? Does it mean we are guilty of printing “propaganda” to promote their “global agenda”? We believe the reasonable answer is firm 'no' and that the conspiracy theorists are reading into the evidence what they wish to see.

However, there are other statements in the magazines which opposers have highlighted. They say these statements show our Society has “condemned itself” in becoming a DPI NGO and that our Society has violated its own standards. What are these statements? Do the opposers actually have a fair point this time, or are these arguments also misleading?