The Great Firewall of China and Washing of Brains

In my day job I regularly go to China, an interesting experience to say the least. On my travels there I typically visit Taiwan, Hong Kong as well as the China mainland. One thing that always gets me is the stark difference in information accessibility between China and these other places. Probably because I use the internet for so much of my work. Once you are in China mainland you can’t get on Facebook, wikipedia is a joke and google doesn’t work well because the government owned telecoms literally monitor and control the information flow in and out of the country. Now I’m not saying that there aren’t ways around this firewall, but even those are constantly shored up by the Chinese propaganda machine. You can for example get around the Facebook and google blocking using a VPN, but they are temporary and have to change all the time to stay ahead of the ministry of information control. If you don’t find an alternate path to the information you will never learn about Tiananmen Square or the freedoms that other countries take for granted. Travel outside of the information controlled by that government though and it is a few keystrokes away from discovery.

The rulers of China also understand one of the more subtle concepts of brain washing, something so simple that you hear it in every sales approach. The concept of repetition. They would get POWs to repeat simple phrases over and over, small little ones that weren’t that bad (like the US makes mistakes), but then over time push for stronger and stronger phrasing to the point that when these POWs returned they would tell you that the communist regime had “done a fine job” in China and even vilify the US for their actions towards others in the world.

By controlling the information that people have access to and by getting those same people to consistently repeat the propaganda you want them to they can keep a nation of 2 billion under control. These are powerful techniques, they are also techniques that religions use to do much the same thing, to get their members to act and do what they want them to. I think this experience I have had several times in China might have been part of the reason I recognized similar things in my own religion that lead to my eventual disbelief. For example.

In the LDS conference this weekend an apostle said:

“Next, read the testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Pearl of Great Price or in this pamphlet, now in 158 languages. You can find it online at LDS.org or with the missionaries. This is Joseph’s own testimony of what actually occurred. Read it often. Consider recording the testimony of Joseph Smith in your own voice, listening to it regularly, and sharing it with friends. Listening to the Prophet’s testimony in your own voice will help bring the witness you seek.”
– Neil Anderson

To paraphrase, Read Joseph’s own words from his own testimony…then read Joseph’s words out loud in your own voice and record it…then listen to the recording of yourself repeating JS testimony over and over and over and over…it kind of reminds me of how conservative republican mormons were all wound up about some grade school kids singing something nice about Obama, that is evil brainwashing, but this is good stuff!1

They would seem to be saying that truth comes from repeating things, I think truth comes from questioning things. One of those two certainly fits the pattern of brain washing.

brain washAnother repeated them has been to not research any information on the church outside of the media that they control. How is this any different than the great firewall of China? When I first started reading much of the information about the history of the church that lead to my doubts I searched all over the current websites for explanations and none were there. This was a big read flag to me because 95% of the history that had caused my doubts in the first place were in the churches own history books. Why would the journal of discourses not be available in its entirely on LDS.org? It is a record from the 1800s that is much the same as the Ensign today. Such a big deal that there are thousands of references to it in the talks on the same website.

The only reason imaginable is information control. Of course you can find those documents elsewhere using the internet, just like you can find the truth about China by circumventing the restrictions they put in place. But the fact you can find the information doesn’t mean they aren’t trying to control it. I hear this argument all the time from believers when I point out some fact that you can’t find in the current official statements of church leaders. They seem to think because you can find it on a website outside of the churches control that they aren’t hiding anything.

I say current church leaders because much of the more upsetting historical facts you uncover if you start looking come from past church leaders making very official statements in their day and age. Things that today are not to be found by any official means, if you do find them on an apologetic site or other place and bring them up, well that old stuff doesn’t count anymore because they were just opinions. But if they said it was doctrine then and they have turned into opinions decades later how can we have any confidence that what is declared doctrine today isn’t gonna be opinion in a few more generations?

Nothing drove home more the fact that this editing of information without general knowledge of the followers was condoned that discovering this talk.You see back when I was in high school there was a conference talk given by Elder Poleman, one that apparently didn’t give the church enough credit so it was edited and rewritten. It was even re-video taped and saved in the record in place of the original. Due to the miracle of modern day information we can look at both. 2

Here is the original(look for part 2 in the sidebar on youtube):

Here is the official tape approved by the church’s ministry of information:

If you’d rather just read the differences in text look here. I personally preferred the original at the time I discovered this, it fit far better with my then view point that religions are primarily constructs of men. But the content wasn’t the thing I had to shelve. It was the deliberate act to mislead people that trusted the leadership as divine. Did God really need his seers and revelators to edit and re-edit his words? And if it was just because they were human and screwed up, then why hide the fact? It was all very disconcerting.

Here’s another gem from this recent conference:

“Studying the church through the eyes of its defectors is like interviewing Judas to understand Jesus. Defectors always tell us more about themselves than about that from which they have departed.” -Neil Anderson

The popsicle of the Fridge M. D. Lighted pointed out the deep meaning in this statement. It paints me as a defector. I am a traitor to the cause. The evil apostate that has nothing good to say ever. But why am I painted this way?  Because I showed you the man behind the curtain. In this post above I showed you with video evidence that the leaders of the church are completely willing to pass off an edited copy as the original while never letting on to you they are doing so. I am decried a traitor or defector for telling the truth.

I suppose that next time dear believer when you post a meme degrading the president of the United States for a cappachino salute, that makes you a defector from the US as well then doesn’t it?

Or do you think you are holding the ideals of the nation as a greater standard and judging the leader accordingly? Because if you do think that, then maybe, just maybe if you think about it a while when I say I tell you these upsetting facts of your religion out of a sense of integrity and duty to truth and honesty that I learned from that same religion. You just might begin to understand where I am coming from.

1. Do what is right; the day-dawn is breaking,
Hailing a future of freedom and light.
Angels above us are silent notes taking
Of ev’ry action; then do what is right!

[Chorus]
Do what is right; let the consequence follow.
Battle for freedom in spirit and might;
And with stout hearts look ye forth till tomorrow.
God will protect you; then do what is right!

2. Do what is right; the shackles are falling.
Chains of the bondsmen no longer are bright;
Lightened by hope, soon they’ll cease to be galling.
Truth goeth onward; then do what is right!

3. Do what is right; be faithful and fearless.
Onward, press onward, the goal is in sight.
Eyes that are wet now, ere long will be tearless.
Blessings await you in doing what’s right!

  1. Since I made an edit to correct my mistake of improper quoting, I got to thinking, why tell anyone I made the edit, why not just sneak it by like the church did with the talk in this article? I think it boils down to honesty, if you screwed up, admit it and don’t pretend it didn’t happen. This is a tough thing for guys to do that also tell their followers that God will never lead them astray. The very testimony that Elder Anderson is telling them to memorize is like the 6th or 7th revision of the telling of the story and is far more embellished than the original written by his own hand. Why not tell the members to read that one repeatedly?
  2. This seems like such a sneaky move that you would only make if you thought weren’t gonna get caught. I mean if you were a prophet and could see the future and knew someday both versions would be compared wouldn’t you have at least put a disclaimer on the modified one to give the appearance of being honest and open?

7 Replies to “The Great Firewall of China and Washing of Brains”

  1. Kinda reminds me of George Orwell’s 1984.Where Winston Smith’s job is to remake history by changing the facts and rewording it so what the party is currently saying is the truth and has always been the truth.With the world being so busy very few people remember what was said in the past and just accept what they are told today.Thats why its necessary for sites like this to remain intact and for people to be reminded what was said years ago has now been changed to suit the church’s needs of today.Thanks for posting

  2. I like to think that the Neil Andersen talk would be unsettling to just about everyone who listens to it regardless of their commitment to the Church, but deep down I fear it made all too much sense to far too many people.

  3. OP – Great article!

    I have only one criticism and that is if you’re going to quote someone, don’t include your own exegesis within the quotation marks (i.e. “over and over and over and over”). Those words were neither in the audio or the accompanying text. Though, in all fairness I never saw it live, so who knows what’s accurate ;).

  4. The quote about Judas is just blatantly incorrect, way beyond the “traitor” connotation. To say that people who’ve left an organization can’t have some valid insight into what the organization is about and what goes on inside it is very small minded, naive, and delusional. It’s also small minded, naive, and delusional to say that any member of an organization knows everything about the organization or that any organization isn’t going to try to down play or even sometimes deny negative things. It’s pretty basic social science.

    I also highly doubt that the LDS apply this “Judas” rule to those who’ve left other religions. Especially if those people left those religions to join the LDS church.

    But none of what Anderson said is anything new. The church has been making this “Judas” claim for many years. I’m around 50 and I remember hearing the same thing using slightly different words when I was a teen. Same speech, different analogy. The morg has blatant double standards. It always has. I think it’s just easier to record and point them out now in this age of digital media.

    Here’s another thing that makes me go “hmmmm”: I remember learning in seminary that Judas wasn’t actually a bad guy. He understood what needed to happen and worked with Jesus to bring it about. The whole traitor angle came about because others didn’t understand the whole story. Maybe that was just a seminary teacher going off on his own personal tangent, I don’t know. I think it adds an interesting angle into the quote.

    1. Random Enigma – Did your seminary teacher bring up the Gospel of Judas? It was one of the many apocryphal books written within the first 2 centuries after Jesus’ death. It makes pretty much the same argument.

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