How Introvigne got the Watch Tower Society
to sell his books for him

Miguel Martinez - March 2003

We have not been writing any new articles about CESNUR or Massimo Introvigne for several months. However, this time Introvigne seems to have found a wonderfully original way to sell a book he has written: turning the subjects of his investigation into active salesmen.

Introvigne has rewritten an already very mild book of his about the Watchtower Society (WTS), censoring out every possibly critical statement. The WTS was so grateful that their leadership actually “invited” the thousands of Italian Jehovah’s Witnesses to turn into militant buyers of the book, almost as if it were the latest issue of Awake! , although the customers this time were only members of the WTS themselves: there will be no solicitous Witnesses knocking on our doors with the book by the Turin lawyer and political extremist. However, the market is equally impressive: if even 20% of Italy's "publishers" (the active members of the WTS) take the strong hint of the organization, this would mean the purchase of 45,000 copies in a country where the sale of 2,000 almost makes a book into a bestseller.

To fully appreciate what this means, we must remember that it is simply impossible to write objectively about the Watchtower Society and not be considered an enemy. We are not talking here at all about so-called “anti-cult” criticism of the organization. Rather, we are referring to very simple things, like suggesting that the leadership of the WS might be subject to human failings; or that there might be problems or power dynamics inside the organization. In order to be even remotely acceptable to the leadership of the organization, matters like sociology or history or politics or psychology have to be thrown completely overboard . Something which, come as we have shown elsewhere, Introvigne is particulary good at.

In 1991, Introvigne published I Testimoni di Geova (Oscar Mondadori, Milan), a very bowdlerized book about the Watchtower Society. Carefully limiting himself to theological issues, never casting more than a fleeting doubt on the perfect nature of the Society, his book was still considered hostile: some years ago, Achille Lorenzi, a Jehovah’s Witness of Trento in Italy was put through a tough spell of interrogation by the Elders of the organization, and one issue that came up was that he had read Introvigne's book.

In 2002, Introvigne published a new edition, Testimoni di Geova: già e non ancora, (Elledici, Leumann, Turin). At a first glance, only the title had changed. However, Achille Lorenzi, who had since left the Watchtower Society, decided to compare the two editions. Coming up with a surprising result: While little or no new information had been provided, every sentence even moderately embarrassing to the WS leadership had been crossed out. The deleted references include changes of policy by the WS leadership; any notion which might appear offensive to a Catholic reader. Some of the changes are simply silly: Rutherford’s problems with alcohol turn into “health problems” (the full text of Lorenzi’s analysis can be found here, in Italian).

The most interesting fact that Achille Lorenzi discovered, however, was that on February 4th, 2002, just before the book came out, the Italian leadership of the WTS - the “Congregazione cristiana   dei Testimoni di Geova” in Via della Bufalotta 1281, Rome – sent out a unique instruction to their “press representatives”. We must remember that the WTS hardly ever invites its followers to read “worldly” material: there have been a couple of exceptions with highly apologetic texts, plus Introvigne’s book. Probably fearing that the instruction would fall into the hands of some “worldly” individuals, there is a disclaimer -   “We do not want to give you the impression that we wish to promote the sales of this book”. This is followed by specific instructions on how to promote the sales of the book. Even discounts for multiple orders are specified: the example mentions the discount on a single order for no less than 191 copies, apparently expected to be an average sized order. You can read the full text of these orders in Italian here, in jpg format.

“Those who wish to receive one or more copies should send us their order in the following manner. We will not notify the congregations directly, but we call on you to notify the elders of the congregations about the upcoming publication of this book. If they, in their turn, notify the publishers of their congregations, those who are interested will be given an opportunity to purchase the book.

  In order to order the book, you should proceed as follows. The secretary of each congregation can collect the orders from the various publishers and then send you the order with the quantity of books which the congregation wishes to order. Once you have collected the orders from all the congregations of the circuit, you must make out the parts in yellow. The order must be sent directly to the following address by priority mail:

Dr PierLuigi Zoccatelli

Via xxxxxx

10136 Turin

   Do not sent the orders to our office. The books will be paid on reception. Send only one order per circuit. Therefore, make sure you have received the orders from each congregation before passing on the order. The latest date for the order is March 15, 2002. Make sure you comply with the deadline.

  Of course, together with the order, the secretary of the Congregation must also give you the money to buy the book, including shipping costs. As you can see from the attached order note, the shipping expenses should be calculated on the basis of the number of books ordered. If the congregation does not send the money, you must not take their order into account.

It is up to you to decide whether the books should be sent to your address or to a local Association of the circuit. Once this has been decided, and after consulting with the president of the Association, you will proceed to make out the order note. Make sure you have made out every part of the order note.

   Once you have received the books which you ordered, notify the congregations so they pick up the quantity of books they requested.

   The press representatives of Piedmont, Valle d'Aosta and possibly Lombardy, or a part of Lombardy, may decide to pick their orders up directly and not receive them by mail. In such case, they must advise Dr Zoccatelli (cellular phone xxx; e-mail xxxx) about the order so it is not shipped by mail.

   We invite the co-ordinators of the press representatives to follow the issue, keeping in touch with press representatives assigned to each of them, in order not to create difficulties, and so that all the brothers, if they so wish, can order the book.

Do not hesitate to get in touch with us for further information. We send you our fraternal greetings.

Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses

Now, let us take a closer look at the whole affair.

  • The instructions were sent before the book came out: it seems rather obvious therefore that Introvigne submitted the draft to the WTS for approval.
  • PierLuigi Zoccatelli, the person handling all these orders, just happens to be a member of CESNUR and of the right-wing group Alleanza Cattolica, like Introvigne. And he also happens to be on the board of Elledici, the publishers of Introvigne’s book. And the WTS happens to have his home address, e-mail and even his portable phone number, which makes it rather likely that the author, the publisher and the WTS clients had come to an agreement before the book came out.
  • A question for those who know the inner dynamics of WTS politics. Would the Italian leadership take such a step all on its own, or did they do so on orders from the authorities in Brooklyn?
  • And a last question, of course – does this whole operation bear even a remote resemblance to scholarly procedures?

    In any case, it is nice to be able to count on militant salesmen. A new book has just come out by Introvigne, with the title Hamas. Fondamentalismo islamico e terrorismo suicida in Palestina ("Hamas: Islamic Fundamentalism and Suicide Terrorism in Palestine"), published as usual by Elledici.

    The cover price is 8 Euro, but the e-bullettin of Alleanza Cattolica - the angrily anti-Islamic rightwing movement which has Introvigne as one of its leaders - tells you that if you buy it through them, they will sell it to you for just 7.00 Euros including shipping costs.(Novita' sul sito di Alleanza Cattolica-Cristianita' ACList005/2003 (Periodo dal 23 febbraio all'11 marzo 2003).

    watch tower society headquarters brooklyn

    World Headquarters of the Watch Tower Society in Brooklyn

    Note: the main information for this article comes from Achille Lorenzi's website. We have however made a mirror of the relevant pages on our own website.

    You will find a French language translation of this page here.

    You will find a German language translationof this page bere..

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