The term “conspiracy theory” was coined in 1967 in response to the government’s Warren Commission Report on the Kennedy assassination, which nobody believed. Some did, of course—people too preoccupied with life or too uninterested to dig deeply—but to others, the finding that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in shooting JFK didn’t wash. The Cuban communists did it, the Mafia did it, the CIA did it, LBJ’s cohorts did it—all these theories floated about—I remember them all—in the days following the president’s death. It didn’t help that “an outraged citizen” with underworld connections shot Oswald the day after, while under police escort and supposed protection. Four of the seven commissioners harshly criticized the report issued in their name.
In response, The CIA began establishing the narrative that people were nuts to question the “official statement”—there was something wrong with them, and it might even be dangerous for so many loonies to be on the loose. This was in a 1967 internal dispatch to all field offices called ‘Document 1035-960: Concerning Criticism of the Warren Report.’
The document recommended techniques of countering these conspiracy “nutcases,” and it is not hard to see the same techniques used today with regard to any new conspiracy theory: declare that all the facts are in and declare that any new facts that should emerge are not facts at all but just the rantings of lunatics. Shout down any such theory the instant it appears. Use friendly media contacts to further those aims. Today there is the rise of the “fact-checker,” which serves to funnel the reader back to “official versions” of any “conspiracy theory” so as to gut that theory.
This dovetails so well with things I have already written that I find it irresistible—my own phrases such as, “Often things that are settled have been settled by decree,” and, “Many things proven have been proven by ignoring evidence to the contrary,” and even, “The trouble with conspiracy theories is that once a few of them prove true, you tend to swallow anything coming down the pipe.”
The source for the above, minus my own sayings, is a lengthy article from Iain Davis. He outlines intellectual undercurrents of decades past that finally manifest themselves in that CIA dispatch. He also touches upon “conspiracy theories” since, that he himself buys into—seemingly he buys into all of them, but most notably the official version of 911 and the demonization of “anti-vaxxers.” I don’t necessarily embrace either of these, but neither do I think them too ridiculous to mention.
Still, I don’t pursue it too much. This is because I have bigger fish to fry. All of Jehovah’s Witnesses do. They have uncovered the greatest conspiracy of all time—that of “Babylon the Great”—that religion, most notably, that of “Christendom,” thoroughly misrepresents God. Mark Twain said it best: “If Christ were here there is one thing he would not be—a Christian,” and “There has been only one Christian. They caught him and crucified him—early.”
The religion in Christ’s name betrays him at every turn. In ‘No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash,’ I muse on what Mark Twain might have said had he come across Jehovah’s Witnesses, which of course he would not have because he preceded them. Most church teachings cannot be found in the Bible. It is the attempt to read them in that causes people to throw up their hands in exasperation. Jehovah’s Witnesses cleared up those things from their onset. Twain is widely thought to have been atheist, but it is notable that he never had an unkind word for Jesus, however much he may have savaged what was done in his name. He probably would agree with Jesus’ own words that I have many times shared in my house-to-house ministry:
“Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the Kingdom of the heavens, but only the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will. Many will say to me in that day: ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ And then I will declare to them: ‘I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7: 21-23)
Since Jehovah’s Witnesses have landed the biggest conspiracy fish there is, why mess with the comparative small fry? Thus, while I may play around with the other conspiracy theories some, I don’t let myself become too distracted by them. Solve them all and the overarching conspiracy yet remains—the one that indirectly spawns all the others, for one aspect of Bible teaching that religion mostly ignores is that human efforts are not up to the task of ruling the planet—that is a task reserved for God’s kingdom.
But that doesn’t mean that one ought shout down these other conspiracy theories. It is surprising how many brothers do—as though to say, “Oh, no—things may be bad, but they’re not that bad.” As though to prove that they are responsible persons who would never buy into fringe ideas that the “loonies” originate. As though the kings of the earth struggle with the onslaught of the four horsemen through valiant and honorable means, and would never stoop to what is underhanded—for they are honorable kings who realize that the fight must be fair.
Rather than prove themselves responsible, I think they just prove themselves naive, and when those who shape opinion command that we put no stock in such “conspiracies,” they think it is their part to acquiesce. It is probably just as well that they do not embrace conspiracies because there really are a lot of nut cakes out there and it is impossible to know what is true and what is concocted. Still, so many appear to think it really is their duty to shoot these things down.
As for me, when I see the rot of human mismanagement, I assume that I am seeing just the tip of the iceberg. As with an actual tip of an iceberg, there is hardly a way of knowing what lies beneath the surface and so I do not devote much time to it. Unless I really have some relevant knowledge, I don’t go there, and even if I do have some relevant knowledge, I don’t go there much—but very likely whatever exists is substantial.
If we are to look at things from God’s point of view—that the 6000 year experiment of human rule is permitted so as to demonstrate its failure, then the more spectacularly if fails, the better. “Conspiracy theories” roughly correspond to “each one’s hand will be against his own brother”—total chaos. I see no reason to insist such things could not happen—though you may not want to contribute to it yourself—and that is why I will never be too critical of those who seem to think they must tamp such notions down.
From the Iain Davis article comes an entirely new notion—I hadn’t thought of it before—that those who advance “conspiracy theories” are a type of “extremists” It was best put by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron in 2014:
“We must be clear: to defeat the ideology of extremism we need to deal with all forms of extremism – not just violent extremism. We must work together to take down illegal online material […] we must stop the so called non-violent extremists from inciting hatred and intolerance.” He was speaking of those who question the official version of 911, but the idea has caught on and been widely applied in other venues.
Now, at any mention of “extremists,” the ears of Jehovah’s Witnesses will prick up. This is because in Russia, where Western conspiracy theories presumably command scant attention, the Witnesses themselves have been branded extremists! Jehovah’s Witnesses—the group that has proven throughout its existence that under no circumstance will they take up arms to kill—can such an “extremist” designation really stand? One would think that ISIS would have taught the Russian government what extremism is. But with this new definition—that of questioning the official version of things—well, nobody does that as Jehovah’s Witnesses do. They are unconcerned and neutral as to the lesser conspiracy theories that rock the earth. Their focus is on the spiritual “conspiracy theory”—the overall issue of whether humans can rule themselves or is it the Kingdom Jesus proclaimed that should rule.
Most everyone else in the field of religion accepts as a given that the earth should be carved up into 200 squabbling sovereign states. Most everyone else in the field of religion accepts as a given that God’s role, if he has one, is to somehow bless this hash of human devising so that it collectively adds up to “peace on earth.” No other religion of size points to how “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed. And this kingdom will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it alone will stand forever,” as stated at Daniel 2:44. No other religion of size recognizes as many aspects of the reality that “the whole [present] world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19)
Iain Davis identifies philosopher Karl Popper as one of the forerunners the thinking that would manifest itself in the CIA 1967 anti-conspiracy theory policy. He stated in 1945 that “increasing secularism had led people to ascribe power to secretive groups rather than the gods,” this per Davis’s phasing. As phrased by Popper himself: “The gods are abandoned. But their place is filled by powerful men or groups – sinister pressure groups whose wickedness is responsible for all the evils we suffer from.” Jehovah’s Witnesses have reinstated God and sent those sinister groups packing—do they exist or not?—it hardly matters since the greater spiritual conspiracy remains, and to obsess on the human conspiracies is to aim too low.
And so, in Russia, ordinary, hum-drum, work-a-day people—the sort who never show too highly on the radar of this world’s “thinkers,”—carry the label of “extremists.” Though the label makes no sense, it does fit into to the modern dystopian view of labeling anything beyond the “official version” as “extremist.”
I labored a year on the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin—Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia.’ It is, to my knowledge, the only comprehensive record of events leading to a ban of the faith in 2017 and its subsequent escalation. With limited experience and budget, I released it too soon. The first version contained an astounding amount of typos and glitches, as well as nearly two chapters of what has no Russian context at all, child sexual abuse allegations that have dogged virtually all large groups, JW’s included, whether they be religious or not. This material has been removed, to appear in a subsequent book where it does have context, ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!, that deals with opposition to JWs in the West.
The book was a labor of love on my part, free since it’s released. But I will soon be putting a modest price on it—move now if you want the updated yet still free edition. Attaching a price may even spur circulation, for there will always be those who will say of a free book what Huck Finn said of a certain small-time traveling circus he stumbled upon: “It didn’t cost nothin, and it was worth it, too!” Neither ebook will ever be recognized by JW headquarters, off course. The best I can hope for is that there will not someday be an article about “certain well-meaning, but indiscreet, brothers, who are...”
I focused on the human connection in Dear Mr. Putin—the human reasons that the faith is outlawed—not so much the spiritual connection, because the book was not intended for Witnesses, though hopefully they will like it, but for whoever wants to keep up with things. I identified the human reason for the ban as the machinations of anti-cultists, who declare any “authoritarian” organization that would “manipulate” and “control” its member an abomination. That remains the prime human reason, but now it is time to focus more on the spiritual reason: in Jehovah’s Witnesses there lies a group that would challenge the “official” version of who is to rule the earth, God or man.
Do not think it of little consequence to reveal this spiritual “conspiracy theory.” The stiffest prison term yet has just been imposed upon sixty-one-year-old Gennady Shepakovsky. Is he not a little old for such harshness, especially when his “crime” is no more than worshipping God per the tenets of his faith? The judge of the case suggests Jehovah’s Witnesses (there are 175,000 of them!) go to a country where their faith is “more needed.” Such words dovetail with another recent verdict revoking citizenship of another Russian witness, an astounding penalty that would not be imposed on any mobster, and it recalls exactly the early disciples scattered from first century Jerusalem: “On that day great persecution arose against the congregation that was in Jerusalem; all except the apostles were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria.” (Acts 8:1)
I think of a certain local speaker with dramatic flair quoting Matthew 24:14, “this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth,” twirling the globe he had brought up front, putting his finger down upon a single spot, and quoting the local despot who would defy God: “This good news of the kingdom WILL NOT be preached here!” as he awards a 6 1/2 year prison sentence to a 61-year-old for obeying our Lord—a 61-year-old who admitted to no guilt, as of course one should not do for worshipping God.
I think too, of another passage from ‘Dear Mr. Putin—Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ of the “minor prophet” Amos, and how “religious enemies treated Amos of the Old Testament after he uttered words they deemed not patriotic. Priest Amaziah, ever close to the king, “sent word to Jeroboam, king of Israel: ‘Amos has conspired against you within the house of Israel; the country cannot endure all his words.’” It is the same with Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. Prominent ones assure Putin that the country cannot endure all their words.
“The answer Amaziah decides upon is to send Amos far away—outside the borders. It is the same answer once arrived at in Russia [and now arrived at again, it would appear]: ‘Off with you, seer, flee to the land of Judah and there earn your bread by prophesying! But never again prophesy in Bethel for it is the king’s sanctuary and a royal temple.’
“It is not just the high-handed command that rankles; it is also the insult, for Amos does not “earn his bread” prophesying, just as Jehovah’s Witnesses do not. He works to support himself, just as Jehovah’s Witnesses do. His is a humble line of secular work, as is generally true of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Amos knows the work that he must do. For some reason, the pre-eminent Amaziah and his bunch have not done it. No matter. Amos will. “I am not a [paid] prophet, nor do I belong to a company of prophets. I am a herdsman and a dresser of sycamores, but the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel,” he replies to the lofty one.They are humble people, those who God selects; they are not the bombastic bigwigs who love to hog the stage. Is it an absurd play in which herdsmen are the central actors? Yes. But just because something is absurd does not mean that it is untrue.”
It is the greatest conspiracy of all. And Jehovah’s Witnesses have uncovered it. Humans don’t necessarily care about our sort of conspiracy theory. But the devil sure does, the one operating behind the scenes—the one of whom Revelation 2:10 speaks: “Look! The Devil will keep on throwing some of you into prison so that you may be fully put to the test, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Prove yourself faithful even to death, and I will give you the crown of life.”