Biased Reporting. Et tu?—Even Us?

“The strange dynamic that is reality in “news” today is that if you are a member of a cause, you are biased and thus not reliable as a source.” This I wrote here, and it attracted an answer:

This is more and more true as the world gets more divided, more partisan, and more nationalistic. Pride in one's own cause, nation, religion or ideology causes one to be more apt to defend one's POV with bias, and condemn, with bias, those of an "opposite" POV . It happens to the best of us, and by that I mean that there have been several documented examples even within and among our own religion. 

I have learned to live with it, and perhaps even acquiesce that it must be that way. Of course, I don’t know what examples this person may have in mind, but...

Do you think I can persuade anybody that the (largely) atheist anti-cult movement is behind our woes in Russia? No. It is all the machinations of Babylon the Great is all anyone wants to hear. We are so hung up on Babylon the Great that we do not recognize that she is mostly licking her wounds these days, and a powerful atheist faction has arisen that would eradicate everyone clinging to worship of God—us no less than they. Yet we still, in the main, carry on as though publishers in Judge Rutherford’s day, announcing that religion is a “snare and a racket.” It is, but here in the West, it does not play as the most timely theme. The atheists and the skeptics perch above it all and ridicule the different religionists calling each other false. As rude as some trolls are here, I see brothers equally rude on social media with regard to tweets mentioning religion—appending insults that have little to do with the topic under consideration. Do they think themselves witnessing? It doesn’t leave a good impression. I could wish that we got training about social media besides the refrain to “be cautious” of it.*

Trained, we might be able to do some good with it. The articles posted on JW.org lately—about coping with anxiety, safeguarding children from the horror of world news, adapting them to “distance learning,” and so forth? These are excellent contributions—exactly what is needed today by anyone wishing to preserve sanity. It would take so little for ones who know how to use social media to judiciously spread this all over the internet, to the benefit of countless people. But we are advised to be cautious as to our use of it. We are not trained, and most of those who venture there with the idea of witnessing are horribly clumsy—saying outrageous things, oblivious to what their audience potentially might be.  It could be used to such powerful effect, but it is not in a nod to “caution.” 

Still, maybe the fixation on Babylon the Great, and turning a (it seems to me) blind eye to the atheists and skeptics is what one must expect of Bethel. They, more than anyone, strive to be “no part of the world.” Over time, they get to know little about it. They live primarily in the world of Scriptures, and the scriptures say that it is in the skirts of Babylon the Great (not the atheists or skeptics) that is found the blood of all those who have been slaughtered on the earth. Primarily, the sin is one of omission, not commision. Had religion not neglected to teach the Word of God, there would not be the bumper crop of atheists and skeptics of today. So who can say that Bethel is wrong to keep on harping over false religion—that picture is the overall picture, and the skeptics are but a resulting subset—even though (someone said to me) “the denunciation of Babylon the Great was needed at that time because religion was still powerful. Today it is not needed any longer.“ The way that I have phrased it is: “Why kick the old lady when she is down? We kicked her while she was up.”

Another area of seeming bias is how we speak of ex-members—as though they are all train-wrecks, and will remain so until they come to their senses and return. This is a point of great ridicule among ex-Witnesses, who take bows before each other each time one emerges who is not a train-wreck. I mean, it really does seem an example of “confirmation bias” on our part.

Still, the Word indicates that those who leave after knowing the truth are like Vic Vomodog, whose name I changed from Vomidog to please @anna, who didn’t like the image. “A dog that returns to its own vomit” is how Peter puts it, so from there comes the notion that the world will “chew one up and spit one out.” If the brothers find someone who says it in exactly those words based upon his own experience, they eat it right up and cannot relay it quickly enough. 

It used to drive me nuts. It still does, a little, but it does so less. The brothers don’t know because they obey the Bible’s own counsel to not go where they might find out. “Keep an eye on those who cause division and stumbling and avoid them,” says Romans 16:17. So they do avoid them, and thus the only window they have to look upon them is that of scripture. 

Ah, well. I would like it if they didn’t do that, but who is to say they are wrong? It’s a little like God declaring that Adam and Eve will die the day they disobey. It the long run, it makes little difference whether that “day” is one of 24 hours or 1000 years.

...
*You settle in social media like FB and Twitter just like you would settle in a physical neighborhood. As you interact with your “neighbors,“ by degrees people come to know of your faith and what makes you do what you do. I wish we did more of this, but in fact we do almost none. When we “friend” only those we personally know, whatever witnessing we do, barring some fluke, reaches only the brothers. 

I rather like it that the hour requirement of pioneers has been suspended, and yet people are still being appointed as pioneers—which begs off the obvious question of...well, you know what it is. Counting time inevitably leads to curious notions of being “on duty/ off duty.“ I don’t mind seeing it suspended, in favor of witnessing that is seamlessly integrated into our lives—sometimes distinctly “on duty”, sometimes, for the most part, “off duty,” but generally so seamless that it is hard to tell.

If I was to count all the time I spend on social media, primarily my own blogging here, in that case I have been special pioneering for many years. But the notion of counting time is a provision of the organization, so it is for them to define how it Is to be done. Since they are decidedly unencouraging on witnessing via social media, I count none of it.

 

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‘Using’ the Pandemic to ‘Recruit’ - Sheesh! What is it With These Nutcases?

It must really confound those who accuse the JW organization of being a cult that few people are behaving better these days, or more reasonably, with more of an eye toward the public good. That #CultExpert tweets about how Jehovah’s Witnesses manipulate people, and I reply that their followers put his to shame for vanquishing COVID. Jehovah’s Witnesses immediately transferred all gatherings to Zoom and issued strong counsel to observe government-recommended social distancing—which our people will observe because they strive to be obedient. But his followers? Some will observe social distancing, no doubt—probably even most, but is his mission statement ‘Freedom of Mind’ really compatible with obedience to secular authority? You don’t think some will use their ‘freedom of mind’ to tell the government to buzz off—‘We’ll party on the beach if we feel like it!?’—thus spreading COVID far and wide?

Doubtless they expected ‘scare-mongering’—‘using’ the present crisis to scare new ones into the fold—and in fact, there have been accusations of that. But you really really have to stretch the point if you go there. The lead post on jw.org is the most socially responsible contribution imaginable, replete with suggestions on how to cope with isolation and resulting loneliness. With people beside themselves with anxiety, unable to cope in many cases, you don’t think that is a valuable contribution, perhaps THE most valuable? After all, if your psyche breaks down, all the physical relief in the world does you no good.

It reminds me of the verse on muzzling the talk of the ignorant ones by doing good. To be sure, hostile ones are still criticizing—but in doing so,  they are also plainly revealing their ignorance, and in some cases, their hate.

In fact, I don’t quite go there with the CultExpert, for some of the groups he monitors really DO seem pretty strange—so I don’t go there, though I do think about it—I almost want to say: “LET them join a cult if it helps them get through this and save their sanity! What are you offering in lieu—that we should put our hope in the next crop of politicians? Haven’t we been down that road countless times before?”

Affirming some cult idiot’s charge that I am ‘using’ the pandemic to ‘recruit,’ (to anyone concerned about that, I reply that on the 200th contact I will ask if they want to convert and then they can say ‘no’—in the meantime, it’s just conversation—don’t worry about it) I have many times tweeted that lead post to persons, sometimes in response to a specific plea like with Mr. Fiend, and sometimes I just throw it out there—with good results in both cases. Sometimes the tweets are retweeted. Unless you are a snarling ‘ain’t-cultist,’ people do not misunderstand—they know that you are trying to help.

As always, you tailor your tweet to the person. To persons who appear secular, you say (this one was lamenting a suicide she had read about): “It is a terrible thing. Healthy people struggle when their routine is uprooted, let alone persons unwell to begin with. I sent this to someone who tweeted that he was frankly losing it. There is a spiritual component to it, but it is mostly on combatting isolation and loneliness”—and I attach the link.

To someone decidedly irreligious, you might say: “As a suggestion—nothing more—here is a series of posts on how to cope with isolation and loneliness. Upended routines are driving everyone up a tree. My turn is probably next. Like Bob Dylan: ‘The riot squad is restless, they need somewhere to go.’” I like to play the Dylan card—it doesn’t mean that you have to. You also don’t exempt yourself—hence the ‘my turn is probably next,’

My new pinned tweet is: “With #mentalhealth under assault and even balanced people buckling under the stress, I can’t imagine a better read than this one on coping with isolation and loneliness from #JehovahsWitnesses,” as I include a link to the post.

Note the hashtags. Ages ago my daughter said to me: “They’re hashtags, Dad, not crosstags.” Hashtags are fair game on social media, whereas tagging individuals directly is generally considered rude, unless you know full well that they will welcome it. Hashtags will draw in anyone else who monitors the subject—as an experiment, enter a hashtag anything on social media to see what comes up. You can even use it as your own filing system if you choose a hashtag unique enough.

It can, however backfire. If the hashtag is of any controversial topic, it can bring in people who want to argue, even insult. In the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, there are disgruntled former members—‘apostates’—that can be attracted—in fact, they almost surely will be. “Oh, yeah,” you can mutter. “They’ll come alright. As surely as flies to dung, they will come!” But you should not say this because, while you are comparing apostates to flies, you are also comparing yourself to dung—so you should seek another metaphor.

My #mentalhealth hashtag drew in some mental health people, some of whom expressed great appreciation. But true to warning, my #jehovahswitnesses hashtag drew in some ‘apostates.’

“The rather large elephant in the paragraph [about the comfort JWs offer] is the Jehovah’s Witness shunning policy.”

But I replied (in three tweets):

“There is hardly an issue here. Those who would trigger a ‘shunning policy’ are those for whom, at the present time, the last thing in the world they would want is to abide by the principles of those who wrote the article. Even so, they are welcome to take from it what they will.”

“The thoughts expressed in the article are non-denominational, offered freely to all, even those on the outs at present with JWs. It’s meant as a public service. One need not take it. One can always put trust in the politicians, medical staff, and economists to fix matters.”

I looked at the detractor’s profile and discovered that she was one who was trying to torpedo the JW organization’s status as a charitable religious organization, something that they plainly are:

“In fact, it is an excellent post for consideration of the @CharityComms, though not written for that reason. Look, nobody is everything to everyone. But they will recognize that we are well past the time for nursing grudges—not with C19 threatening the mental health of the planet.”

It shut her up! I couldn’t believe it! It is unheard of! ‘Apostates’ never ever EVER give up—I’ve had to block some—and yet she gave up. There is no finer proof of 1 Peter 2:15 than that: “For it is the will of God that by doing good you may silence the ignorant talk of unreasonable men.”

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

“Mr Fiend Wins Fine Language Contest!”

I can’t sleep. Ask me anything,” one person on Twitter said. It is a not unusual complaint these days—there is only so much upending of life that one can take. So I asked him what he thought of the post—the lead jw.org post—on coping with isolation and loneliness. I didn’t hear back.

Other times I have. “Seriously starting to lose my s**t here,” Mr. Fiend said. [**s mine] I sent him the same link. He thanked me, and said he would check it out. It was the second time I had contacted him specifically about the faith. The first was after he said that he didn’t know anymore just what was his place in life—a worrisome remark but by no means an uncommon one these days.

I sent him another link on what had helped me. But he was worried that I was trying to convert him: “Thank you Tom....My parents are both pretty Baptist-esque, though, so I don't feel JW is for me, although I mean absolutely no disrespect by that at all.”

The reply I should have made is: “On my 200th contact, I will ask you to convert, and then you can say ‘no.’ It won’t happen until then. Don’t worry about it,” and then fluff it out a bit to be less abrupt. But what I did say was: “None taken. I wish you the best. These are stressful times for all. Even in the best of times, upending routines is a source of stress.” Our best lines always occur to us too late. Still, the actual sent reply is not bad—it may even be better.

Am I trying to witness to him, or anyone, on Twitter? Not really. That’s not why I started my account. I started it as a platform on which to hawk my books and become rich. That way that ubiquitous drawing in Watchtower publications of a brother thumbing his chest with one hand and gesturing at his possessions with another—fancy home, flashy car, boat even larger than the home, and piles of money, that is not supposed to be an example for anyone—can be one of me. Since my two most recent books—Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia and TrueTom vs the Apostates! are labors of love and are free, there is a wrinkle in my business plan, but I may in time iron it out.

Naw, I just moved into the Twitter community as I would move into a home—in order to find a place to live—and only afterwards do I interact with the neighbors, occasionally finding an opening to witness, though that is not my primary aim. To someone who asked about my blog I said that it is not really a Witness blog. Rather, it is a writer’s blog. Writing is what I like to do. Since I am a Witness, that will form a large portion of my subject matter, but I don’t blog just for that reason. I wish more brothers did this. Instead, the few blogs I see. by brothers are quite plainly for the purpose of witnessing, with almost nothing thrown in to present a rounded person. I like to tell stories, is all. Most stories will be with some backdrop of the faith, because that’s where I am, but it is the storytelling that motivates me.

Mr. Fiend I began to follow for his crazy combination of attributes—really, you can almost not imagine them all in a single person. He is a lawyer—a support one, not a high-flying litigator—and he describes the work as a bit of a grind. He is a pianist who tutors students of all ages and who play Chopin—he has even been giving nightly concerts during COVID days. And he swears like a mobster—it is just so uncalled for and over the top that I am drawn in—it doesn’t mean that you have to be. I even called him on it once—‘it’s a shame he speaks so crudely because it spoils an otherwise appealing personality.’ Most people on Twitter will tell you to f**k off if you do this, but he said something to the effect of, ‘Yeah, I know—it’s just that the injustices and hypocrisies get me going.’ That’s an honest answer, I thought, and I stayed with him.

I throw quips about his salty language right back at him, pretending, for example, for him to have submitted one of his outrageous notes to a client by error, having mixed it up with his official reply. It is a fine exercise in creativity, building off what he has tweeted. For example:

He (recently): “Every morning, you know that *something* in the news is going to come right out of left field.  You just don't know what it's going to be until it happens.  It's completely and utterly unpredictable.”

My reply: “TOP STORY: MR FIEND WINS TOP PRIZE FOR FINE LANGUAGE CONTEST!”

His name isn’t actually Fiend. It is a part of his moniker and I latched onto it. Perhaps his real name is found in the rest of his moniker or perhaps not. One idiot ‘apostate’ thought he could use his real name, highlight some unflattering JW story that I supposedly stood by, and cause Mr. Fiend to upbraid me! What yo-yos these people are! Mr Fiend didn’t take the bait. He tweeted that such and such is a problem everywhere, not the exclusive property of any one domain, as this fellow would have had him believe.

You know, I was going elsewhere with this post, but I got sidetracked. Ah, well. I’ll get back on track tomorrow, or at least some time.

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Trump, the Dark Lord, and the Brawling Web Site—Define ‘Trump Derangement Syndrome’

The Dark Lord has made his appearance at the bad & brawling website and people who agree with him in many particulars are keeping an unusually low profile. It is probably because they do not want to inadvertently say something wrong and have him find their lack of faith disturbing.

Case in point is JimmyT. Normally, a mention of climate change will trigger a tirade from him as to how it is a masterful left wing hoax. Normally a negative mention of Trump will unleash torrents of praise for him from his corner. This time, however, not a peep. Well...there is a bit of cheerleading for Trump—you cannot completely erase the spots of a leopard—but he does not pursue it. He and another participant have happily squabbled at great length over both these topics. But he does not do it here with Darth Alan.

Do I blame him for this bit of cowardice? Not at all. He is in his senior years and he wants to live them out. He does not want to be accosted with endless taunts about how stupid he is. He does not want every syllable he utters to be corrected. He does not want to have to open dozens of dialogue boxes to recall just what it was that he said to earn the verdict that he is a moron. He does not want to shake his head in disgust that every other forum participant has learned to use those boxes properly, and only the Dark Lord is too enraptured with his own arguing to constrain himself to quoting just three lines of text that will faithfully reproduce without opening boxes. He looks at another challenger, who has had to triple her blood pressure medication, and decides that he wants no part of it. Who can blame him?

So I will carry his Trump ball for him—not as aptly as he would do it himself, for I am not so vested in it as he—but I will carry it.

In the midst of discussion, the Dark Lord reaches back into his quiver for taunts, chooses a old favorite, and hurls back at me: “Apparently you just make up "news" out of thin air -- just like your idol Trump.”

This is the fifth completely irrelevant reference to Trump since he began participation here, just two or three weeks ago. A moment later, he launches the sixth: “You're doing what ever-Trumpers do very well -- project their own faults onto their opponents.”

Six times he brings Trump into a discussion that has nothing to do with him. Each time it is like ripping a loud one in the concert hall. His audience surely must be among the most apolitical people on earth. Some of them, JW and non-JW alike, think it downright wrong to bring politics into a discussion of spiritual things. The DL knows this. He knows everything. So why can he not restrain himself from continually inserting that which he knows will fall flat with almost everyone and be positively off-putting to some?

It is because he suffers from Trump Derangement Syndrome. I had thought that JimmyT made up the term because he is the only one who has ever used it on the website—another testimony to the apolitical nature of both JWs and many who oppose them—but I see now via internet search that it is not so. DL has that ailment full-blown. He froths over Trump. He obsesses over Trump. He embraces those who every day since before his election experiences orgasm at some new bullet that will supposedly take him out. He inserts references to Trump everywhere, the same way that normal people insert “word whiskers” like “um.”

So what of this taunt that he hurls at me—ME, TrueTomHarley! 

Apparently you just make up "news" out of thin air -- just like your idol Trump.” 

Is he my idol? That depends. Politically, it is not likely to be so. Trump does the Make America Great routine. He pushes for his country, assumes that other national leaders will push for theirs, and if they don’t, it is all the better for him. On the other hand, as a JW, I look forward to “the kingdom”—a government from God that will eliminate national borders. Even now, visit Bethel, observe the huge globe, and take note that there are no national borders to sully it.

So no, politically he is hardly an “idol.” But that does not mean that as a man I cannot learn from him. I try to learn from anyone that comes to my attention—either through personal interaction or by their being in the news a lot. I even strive to learn from the Dark Lord. Nobody can be said to be worthless, for you can always be used as a bad example.

Politics aside, it turns out that I am very grateful for Trump. His election has vaulted 2 Timothy 3:1-5 to the position of the world’s year text—this year and every year. It used to be that if you read how people would be fierce, unreasonable, not open to agreement, backbiting, and so forth, and your householder did not agree that such was the case today more so than in prior times, there wasn’t much you could do about it. Plainly the verse is subjective. It always will be, of course—I expect that should DL ever have the misfortune to be executed by guillotine, he will ignore that unpleasant fact and his head will continue to insult onlookers as it is being carted away in the wheelbarrow—but with ever-Trumpers and never-Trumpers screaming at each other day and night, it becomes a much more difficult verse to deny.

I also take a page from Trump with regard to his communication skills. At first glance, he hasn’t any. Surely he is one of the most ineloquent public figures in history. And don’t come to him for spelling lessons. But at second glance, one comes to see that he is a master at pushing back at his barrage of opponents. After a brief period of supposing opponents would adjust to his presence, he decided that there was no way on earth that they could be placated, and so he redirects his efforts to defeating them. He does it in the most innovative of ways, taking full advantage of their weaknesses. Time and again, he draws them in as with hooks in their jaws, and just as they are ready to pounce, tasting certain victory, he pulls the rug out from under them.

Case in point is the brouhaha over his inauguration. ‘It was the most well-attended inauguration in history!’ he boasts. ‘It wasn’t!’ counter his enemies. He reasserts that it was. They dive into the archives to find photos of other inaugurations. Obama filled the quadrangle. Trump’s crowd is visibly far less. HA!, they shout in victory—surely now that they have caught him in a lie, he will fess up to it. He doesn’t! 

Night after night they run the two photos side by side on national news broadcasts, ignoring everything else. They point to the gaping holes in Trump’s photos that are not there with Obama’s photos. “These are FACTS!” they are close to screaming. “You cannot dispute FACTS!” He does. He doubles down, nearly to the point of saying: “No event in human history has drawn the attendance of my inauguration!”

Tearing their hair out, they invite his advisor on TV—Kellyanne. They rub her nose, and the noses of their viewers, into their two photos. ‘The FACTS show that Obama drew way more than Trump! Right here—look at just this spot! There is just bare ground with Trump and there is shoulder-to-shoulder people with Obama! FACTS are FACTS!

But Kellyanne says that the President is trying to draw attention to alternative facts. He is trying to draw attention to.........’ALTERNATIVE FACTS!! they are apoplectic. ‘THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN “ALTERNATIVE” FACT!!! A FACT IS A FACT IS A FACT IS A FACT!! THERE ARE NO “ALTERNATIVE FACTS!!” 

But the Advisor to the President insists that they are, and that the media ignores them. They consist of the fact of popular discontent with the “swamp” that propelled him to victory in the first place. Whatever Trump said to the ignored half of America clearly resonated with them, and it is being ignored by the mainstream media. Today he crows about the economy. Bill Clinton garnered adoration from pundits with his, “It’s the economy, stupid!” Today these same pundits will portray the economy as though an insignificant point.

As for me, I enjoy the spectacle, without taking any position as to whether he makes a good president or not. He may be a terrible one, but I like the way he turns the tables on those seeking to destroy him. I am not even sure that his numerous spelling errors are not deliberate. When he tweets that North Korea has launched its nuclear missels, people of common sense will run to take cover. People of the media will run to their keyboards to point out that the idiot can’t even spell the word right. 

Life is a continued term paper to many of these characters. They did well on term papers in college. They have grades from their professors to prove it. So they launch into the media that only attracts a certain type of people—those who imagine that ‘exposing’ problems is enough to fix them—and assume that life, too, will respect their term paper skills as highly as their professors did. They have little experience in actually doing anything. They are mostly wonks when it comes to government—and the fixes that their type of government can bring is their obsession.

As for me, I take note that if there is any new meme guaranteed to undermine traditional family life, these characters are all over it. If there is any new meme that will bend gender distinctions, for example, these characters are all over it. Gayle King dutifully appended the Q on LGBTQ before she even knew what it meant—I heard her say it. Did it mean ‘queer?’ Did it mean ‘questioning?’ She didn’t know. But she didn’t dare leave it out once the gods of media popularity told her to insert it. With this track record, anyone who can get these characters incensed cannot be all bad.

 

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Yikes! End of the Line for Bloggers?

When the world at last wakes up to a problem, it wildly overswings. It misses its target, who ducks, and hits square in the teeth the unsuspecting, innocent, and ordinary joe standing just behind.‬ Will this be soon be the case in the world of blogging?

Mr. Admin thinks so. He runs a big site. He will go down at the end of the year, he fears, “as will many, many bloggers and other small ad-supported websites due to onerous and draconian data privacy laws.”

He cites an article:

“The [California Consumer Privacy Act, to go into effect at year end] was supposed to curb the purportedly abusive privacy practices of internet giants (like Google and Facebook) and data brokers. Unfortunately, the law overshot this goal; it reaches most businesses, online or off. Facebook may have been the target, but the local pizzeria will bear the law’s brunt.” Cost of compliance to these new mandates, which carries a $20 fine per incident for any internet hit from California are so onerous that anyone not in the same league as Facebook will simply fold.”

“Well, if you are not in California and have no critical interests there, who cares if you run afoul of their law? What’s the worst that can happen?” I asked him. He continued to fret:

“I doubt development companies like IPS or Wordpress have dedicated anything to this problem. They were probably hoping Google would make it go away....Would you risk life changing fines “per incident” to make even $100 monthly profit? High risk + Low Reward = Find a new hobby for most small time publishers/bloggers/forum owners.”

Hmm. He’s not in California. But he doesn’t want to risk a trip to the mailbox to discover a letter:

Dear Mr Admin:

It’s “Hasta la vista” for you, baby!

Very truly yours

Arnold Schwartsnegger - Governor emeritus of California”

PS — I’ll be back!

Now, I hang out there quite a bit on the forum of Admin. I have written substantial portions of text there latter reorganized to comprise parts of “Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia,” and “TrueTom vs the Apostates!” I think his fears are overblown and that outfits such as he mentions will come up with some solution that they will use to justify a price increase—hopefully not too huge. Our worst dreams do come true, but they usually come true gradually, not all at once with a swipe of the pen.

There will be a gateway at the entrance of blogs, I predict, where ones who wish to participate will waive away privacy rights. Already I see such things. Or (better yet) there will be developed a firewall to ban anyone from California, and then the outrage of those persons will cause lawmakers to backtrack. They do not want to be like John Jay, who negotiated a treaty with the British so unpopular that he later wrote he could ride the road from Philadelphia to Washington at night, his path lit solely by the burning effigies of himself hanging every 50 yards or so. 

Still, Admin is closer to this than me, and paying more attention. Maybe I underestimate the problem and his forum will indeed go down. If so, I will miss it. But I will also move on. I have used my time well there. Engaging with malcontents, villains, as well as some “avant-garde” brothers has served to hone both my writing and my thinking. In turn, I have used that to write larger collections that stand on their own, even if distribution methods themselves may change. Admin himself rebuked me long ago, and the experience served as a quirky introduction to “TrueTom vs the Apostates.”

It finally dawned upon the troublesome “Foreigner” that Mr. Admin is not a Witness, and he said that now he realized it.

He didn’t know that? Admin has said it often enough. “So here you come charging like a bull,” I told him, “upbraiding for apostasy anyone displaying the slightest deviation from the latest writing of the Witness organization, far in excess of what they would ever insist upon themselves, and you do it all before unbelievers, making Witnesses look ridiculous!”

It is nearly as absurd as (I have seen it) the spectacle presented when brothers tell each other on Facebook that so-and-so is disfellowshipped, and so be careful not to associate with that one. Since you can’t really know what is real and what is rumor, one sister even proposed phoning an elder in the person’s home congregation to ask if so-and-so was in good standing or not. All this before just regular folk who know or care nothing of congregation matters. I responded that if I were that elder, I might comply once or twice, being caught off guard, but after that I would say: “Enough! I have a family, a job, congregation responsibilities, and a life! Now you want me to police the internet? Stay off social media if you have to ask such questions!” The internet is not the congregation and cannot be made to behave like one. Do not venture online if you cannot get your head around this.

Another value to me of the forum (and online in general) that may tank—if it does, it does—is the discipline of addressing heavy, even controversial spiritual topics, knowing non-Witnesses might be listening in, and learning how to say heavy things without turning them off. I mean, they may not like the religion itself, and if such is the case, there is nothing to be done about it. But sometimes it is our own inartfulness that is the turn-off, and I have learned (relatively) how to be artful. It is no more that what Paul said:

“To the Jews I became as a Jew in order to gain Jews; to those under law I became as under law, though I myself am not under law, in order to gain those under law. To those without law I became as without law, although I am not without law toward God but under law toward Christ, in order to gain those without law....I have become all things to people of all sorts, so that I might by all possible means save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:20-22)

Most Witnesses are not good at this. When they engage with non-believers, it is strictly mundane, regarding business matters or the weather—OR they go into “witness mode” and tell them of the paradise, petting the animals, and how the Trinity is a crock. They don’t seem to know how to mix the two. I have learned to do that, and I credit sites like Admin’s with providing the needed practice.

It is a good skill to develop, I think. We won’t be described as so “insular” should we ever pull of that trick. But I think we never will pull it off.. “Insularity” is too close to being “no part of the world”—a condition that must be so for Christians, per James 4:4, for example: “Adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is making himself an enemy of God.”

If Admin’s worst fears are realized and his site goes down, other sites will go down for the same reason. That will kick out tons of “apostate” sites, and I have no problem with that. “I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it,” is the saying of Voltaire, not me. When it comes to trashing spiritual things, I’d just as soon they not say it. I can live with it should that become the new law.

None of this will affect the official channel, JW.org, that is not into collecting data in the first place, and when they do for the sake of log-in accounts, I think even already they require applicants to yield on such newfound concerns—and you should hear the apostates howl over that!

In fact, I think what Bethel will say with regard to the apostates who hang their hearts on the BITE model [Behavioral, Information, Thought, and Emotional “control”] is: “The idiots! They pressed their ‘victimization’ complaints to such absurd lengths that the asp came around to bite them in their own rear ends, knocking them all offline.” 

As for Admin, he will have to find himself a new hobby. They are offering pickleball lessons down at the Rec Center, I hear—a fine way for duffers to keep in shape. It wouldn’t hurt me were I to sign up myself, and maybe I will see him there. Maybe someday I will even see him at the Kingdom Hall—that is, if he did not get chased away by the hotheads on his own forum.

After that, in search of new things to do, I may even start to tackle more of Mrs. Harley’s to-do list. Say—you don’t suppose that it is she who spoke to California lawmakers, do you?

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Give My Badge to Anton

“You have been recognized as one of Anton Chivchalov’s top fans. Get your badge now,” Facebook told me.

What in the world is this?

Searching out the answer, I found: “Displaying your top fan badge publicly helps you stand out to Anton Chivchalov Blog and others. For example, people will see the badge when you comment on posts by Anton Chivchalov Blog.”

Oh, for crying out loud! Give the badge to him, if there are any badges to be given. I am indebted to him. I’m not about to wow him or anyone else with my “badge.” He is the one who is aggregating all reports of Jehovah’s Witness persecution in Russia, building an unequaled historical record of the dark days.

He keeps that light burning, and it cannot be easy for him because the subject is both depressing and endlessly repetitive. He assembles the raw data. He tracks each individual, and doesn’t just summarize events from time to time, as I and some others do.

He is not even rewarded with “likes.” I mean, when he posts that some ordinary joe in Russia is assaulted and detained for reading the Bible, his property confiscated, do you respond with a like? Anything that you do say quickly becomes old, because the next day he posts another few examples.

Sometimes he gets a like, though. Like when he posts the photo of Dennis Christensen immersed in the letters he gets from around the world, thanking the senders, displaying pictures that the children have made, assuring all that they need not worry about writing in Russian or even Danish, for he speaks English. That one is easy to like.

Anton, too, speaks English. And Russian. And probably some other languages. He is “bringing his gift to the altar,” keeping his finger on the pulse. Give my badge to him.

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Blocking Trolls the Star Trek Way - I Didn’t Want to Do It

I blocked quite a few trolls yesterday. I didn’t really want to block them—it is a first for me—but the nature of trolls everywhere is that they do nothing but insist upon their own view. If answered, they just repackage and run it through again, and they get downright ornery when countered. Soon you find that they have taken over your day, because they will not let your counterview stand—they must demolish it.

They are not even wrong, necessarily, in the basic facts they may present—but they insist upon skewing them and imputing motives, invariably bad ones, to their former friends. It is like that job you left—either you quit or were fired, You are unlikely to speak well of it again, unless it clearly was a stepping stone job or a career change.

All their chums join the fray. In time, you are doing nothing else but countering these characters. They will not be swayed—as trolls never are. In our case, it is the verse: “Taste and see that Jehovah is good.” They have tasted and pronounced him bad. Are you going to turn them around in a few 280-character tweets? I don’t think so.

There is a part of me that will miss them, but they just will not behave. A writer needs a muse, but he also needs a villain. Social media is VillainsRUs, but you soon find that they are taking over your life—plus the neighbors begin to complain. It is like when you change to another genre and find trolls that insist Trump must hang for anything that has happened “on his watch,” and then you switch channels to find those insisting that Obama or Hillary must hang for whatever happened “on their watch.” Who can deal with that vitriol? We will know what is what when the fat lady sings—a reference that I soon will not be able to use due the latest development of political correctness—“fat-shaming”—although I did learn over the weekend that Brother Herd, who may not even know what political correctness is, will never reprove me for it.

When the time came, I cut them down like Captain Kirk used to cut down Romulans. I deliberately mixed up two Star Trek series so that they would tell me how stupid I was to think that Wesley Crusher was Dr. McCoy’s son. It is like when Trump tweets that North Korea has launched its nuclear missels toward the U.S. People of good sense run for the hills. Trolls run to their keyboards to point out that the idiot can’t even spell the word right. Whether they actually did it or not, I will never know—for they had been blocked:

“Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the StarShip TrueTom, whose mission is to boldly go where no one has gone before to tell us what’s out there! Report, TrueTom. What have you found in your valiant quest? What’s out there!”

“Roger that, Houston. I am afraid that the report is bad. It is a universe of trolls! Aren’t there any parallel universes around anywhere? They’re everywhere! In the cupboards, in the closets, in the toilets...mostly there. Let’s beam them over to the Klingon ship!”

“You have go-ahead, TrueTom. Use you digression.”

“Got it, Houston. Phasers locked. Fire at will! Mr Solo! Let’s take out the first wave of these vile aliens. Shields, up! There may be a second wave!”

“Captain, the engines—they can’t take it!”

“Suck it up, Scotty. What do you think I pay you for?”

“Mr. Spock, get Roy Romulan on the phone. Let’s patch up our little spat. He’s not such a bad guy after all.”

....

“Jean Luc, Wesley says that you are wuss for not staying to fight the trolls.”

“Tell the young snot to return to the helm. And tell him to try not to graze the side of the Ferengi ship this time. See if you can renew his learner’s permit once again.”

“Captain, are you certain that you should block all these Trolonians, like that hothead McCoy wants? I advise that we preserve some for study.”

“What! Are you, too, a Trolonian? Search and see that no prophet is to be raised up from Trolonia! Blast away, Jim!”

“Captain, one of those vile aliens exploded in my face! Look at all this green goo!”

“Wesley, you young idiot! Did you learn nothing from that “Men in Black” training video? Listen, ride outside on the wing for awhile until the stench wears off! I’ll tell your mom that you went fishing.”

“Captain, it isn’t logical that you should have put up with those trolls all that time.”

“Zip it, Spock! He was going for the StarFleet world record for Troll Endurance. Now that he has it—it came in the mail today—blast away at all those suckers!”

“Captain, the first wave has fallen, but it is as you said: “Kill a fly and 50 come to the funeral!” What can we do?”

“Hmm. What! Solo, you idiot! I said phasers! You have activated the tractor beam! Gasp! Are you a trolonian, too—et tu, Brutus?”

“Captain, the engines!”

”Oh for crying out loud! You are such a pain, Scotty!”

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A Lot of Work to Syphon Out the Liars

As much as I hate "conspiracy" theories”

As near as I can tell, Jehovah’s Witnesses buy into conspiracy theories in no greater proportion than the general population. It is a little surprising, since they have become privy to the greatest conspiracy theory of all—that involving religion having deviated so far from its source

As for me, I find myself nibbling at the edges, and in some cases accepting them. If I follow anything on Twitter, I make a point also of following its polar opposite. Sometimes I find the polar opposite point of view to be represented much more persuasively than the common wisdom.

 

“...After a while, one can develop an entire framework of areas (and players) where such admissions happen more often than others. When the pattern of 1)position, 2)slip-up, and 3)method of backtracking to regain the original position becomes very predictable, then you are probably onto something trending toward truth.”

That’s a lot of work to syphon out the liars. 

That’s not to say it is not a good idea, nor that it is any more time-consuming than what I do. It is just that few people have that kind of time. Most people take news from one or two sources, often the evening TV news for people our age, and pretty well accept that they are being told the truth. Usually they are, but it is not “the whole truth and nothing but the truth”—which can completely turn things around.

At one pioneer meeting the elder conducting it was highlighting the importance of neutrality, and never to give the impression of taking sides. “Now we all know that Trump is crazy,” he said, “but.......” I would stake my life on it that his only source of news is the evening news of one of the three networks. 

I was relatively up in years before I discovered to my surprise that my (non-Witness) Dad cared hardly at all about politics. Many were the political discussions swirling around the dining room table, as I was growing up, when the extended family was gathered. However, it turned out that my Mom’s father was very much a GOP person and would crank on about it endlessly, and my Dad was just too gracious to tell him to zip it—it was his father-in-law, after all, who his wife liked.

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Photo: Evening News, by Vasilennka
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“Why so much foul language? I don't see how Jehovah can approve of that or the necessary disregard for many of the friends' consciences.”

Sorry, Tom, After spending a couple of hours reading your blog, I’ve changed my mind.

Not a problem, John. I appreciate your taking a look at it. I consider that everything that I write about spiritual things is loyal to Jehovah’s earthly organization, EXCEPT for counsel not to engage with some of the types that I do. Why I do what I do I have explained in several places, such as here. As an FYI, the elders of my congregation are aware of it, as is the organization, because I have written to them. What they think of it I do not know. I have written the 4 ebooks that I have and have never been given any feedback about it. Best to you in your service to our God.

Why so much foul language? I don't see how Jehovah can approve of that or the necessary disregard for many of the friends' consciences.”

It is for two reasons. One is because of the challenge of writing to two audiences—Witnesses and non-Witnesses. My books are not primarily for the friends, especially Dear Mr Putin and TrueTom vs. the Apostates. I hope they like them, but they are not the primary audience. They are written in the hope of changing perceptions of some in the greater world, especially those who may be able to afford us relief or mold popular opinion. The interested journalist and policy-maker class is who I am aiming for. With non-Witnesses primarily in mind, I think of the language as actually quite mild. If you use foul language all the time, as many do, it becomes just lazy, provocative, and disrespectful speech. But it you use it very sparingly, it becomes like the spice—occasionally something off-color is exactly the right terminology to make a point. There is one person I follow on Twitter precisely because of the contrast between the outrageous language he employs and the basic refinement and decency of the man himself. 

The second reason I go off-color sometimes is that “bad associations spoil useful habits,” and I should take to heart more what you say. I have no bad associations in person, but one cannot spend any time on social media without encountering massive quantities of it, and it rubs off. You are not the first one to point out what you have about language. The last one triggered my cleaning several instances of it up, but it sneaks back in again.

I think that the friends are on such a spiritual island—even if they think it a paradise island—that they have become oversensitive to what is not, in the greater scheme of things, an especially egregious sin. I also rebel at the thought that there will always be some who “strain out the gnat, but swallow the camel”—their language may be impeccable, but they do things that are far worse. But it doesn’t matter what I think. I am on that island, too, and I should not bring onto it what offends. I will be readjusted by you about this, and I will try to not go that way, and even take it out where it already exists. it is good counsel and I thank you for it.

Much of what I write about controversial things I have never heard anyone say before. Partly this is because that we are so much ‘no part of the world’ that we have forgotten how the world thinks, and are not good at answering it on its own terms. I read and write all the time—it is not really to my credit that I do this, but in this case it comes in handy—and I have gotten good at answering them on their own terms. I go on social media sites because I feel able to supply what some of the friends will find helpful, and to be sure, it is an interchange of encouragement. But I don’t really go online for the sake of making friends, for like most of us, I have a circuitful of real flesh-and-blood friends that I never have to wonder about who they really are.

Thanks, John. It is good counsel on language. I will take it to heart. Whether that resolve holds remains to be seen, but I will try to make it so.

....Hmm. You know, there is quite a bit to clean up. Did I really rebuke the National Historical Park Service with “It is history, dammit, get it right!” No more! Now I merely observe that history is their reason for existence—they ought to get the details right. And did I really say that certain opposers are “batsh*t crazy?” No more! Now they are “loony-tunes” crazy. I admit, I don’t like it as much, but it is not about me.

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Photo: Bats, by moleitau

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