Hitler, Putin og Jehovas Vidner har alle én ting til fælles: én sandhed og brutale konsekvenser for at bryde med den.
Useful idiots require a propaganda apparatus – but every individual has a responsibility to be critical thinkers
Hitler, Putin, and Jehovah’s Witnesses – they all have one thing in common: one truth and brutal consequences for breaking it.
“We have the truth – what you hear about us from people outside is false speech, only meant to harm us.” The words sound like Russian propaganda, but they are not. They are uttered every single day in every country around the globe in the Kingdom Halls of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
History shows us the importance of a systematized propaganda apparatus if one wants to gain power over a group of people and control a particular narrative. If you succeed, and at the same time establish a hard-hitting apparatus for those who dare to ask questions of the accepted Truth, you can control even huge crowds. There are multiple examples of this, just look at Nazi Germany, look at Jehovah’s Witnesses and look at Russia’s propaganda that is currently separating families on the Ukrainian and Russian borders.
The last few weeks, we have heard several interviews from citizens in Ukraine who, with sadness and disbelief in their voices, reveal how their immediate family members – fathers, mothers, siblings – refuse to believe that Russia is bombing civilian targets and that a war is being waged against a country that has opted for independence and democracy.
Some Russians may be afraid that they are being surveilled, afraid of the consequences in terms of imprisonment and torture for speaking out against the Russian regime.
But the lack of believing even your own family member could also be a result of decades of brainwashing have become the truth they fully believe in. The mechanisms of the human mind are probably the same, whether you have for years been listening to indoctrination in a Kingdom Hall (the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses) or to a state-run propaganda apparatus in Russia.
You have probably experienced it yourself if you have tried to talk sense with a Jehovah’s Witness knocking on your front door. You think you are having a conversation, but what comes out of their mouths are carefully rehearsed answers they’ve heard over and over and over again. Similarly, Russians have listened to the same messaging on state television and are now being bombarded with the “truth” about what is going on in Ukraine.
Whether you have tried to have a conversation about blood transfusions, the inhumane disfellowship of members, their internal juridical system that covers crimes, the absence of celebrating any holidays, and the organization’s enormous cash flows, it is quite impossible to penetrate the well-dressed witnesses amour of smiles and rehearsed arguments.
Ukrainians who talk to their Russian relatives experience the same as you do when trying to point out even commonly acknowledged truths, with a lowercase t. Both are met with autopilot responses they have heard repeated indefinitely.
Jehovah’s Witnesses learn that they are doing good deeds by telling you what the world really is like. That the world is evil and that you can be saved if you become a member of their organization. The Russians hear on state television that Ukraine is ruled by Nazis and is full of drug addicts, and that Russia’s mission is one of liberation.
The question is what can be expected from the individual´s perspective. Are you completely exempt from responsibility for critical thinking and examining what is really going on as a member of a larger community? Because the truth does exist, all be it with a lower case t.
When the truth is revealed, can you just say that you did not know any better?
Is it enough that you were just a useful idiot in a larger system, where being critical meant consequences not only for you but also for your family?
No, you are not free from an individual responsibility. Nazi lackeys were held accountable after World War II, and Jehovah’s Witnesses and other religious fanatics cannot put their common sense into the hands of elders (male) and ignore atrocities committed against their members or deny basic scientific facts.
Nothing changes if the individual does not stand up for truth. Russian citizens have a duty, at a time when it is relatively easy to get news from uncensored sources, to familiarize themselves with what is really going on. Maybe it does not stop their dictator´s dreams of creating an empire and his propaganda apparatus, but at least they will not be his useful idiots.