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Saturday, January 05, 2008

How Masonic PR Backfires

First the NY Times accused the Masons of entering a "Spin Zone."

Comes now a snarky blurb about the Grand Lodge of New York hiring PR firm Dan Klores Communications on New York Magazine's website.

Freemasons Make a Deal With the Devil

Of the PR variety, that is. After literally centuries of mystery and subterfuge, the Freemasons have done the unthinkable: They've hired a publicist. According to the Times, a flack from Dan Klores Communications has been calling around trying to advertise Masonic locations in New York, in conjunction with the movie National Treasure: Book of Secrets. (Seriously.)

“We’ve gotten a lot of bad press over the years,” explained Thomas Savini, the librarian at the Grand Lodge of New York. “We reached a point we saw ourselves being represented as conspirators or useless old men, neither of which is an accurate representation of Freemasonry. For a couple of centuries, we sat back and stayed quiet and let our actions speak for themselves. But we decided to open up our mouths a little bit more and draw some attention to the positive role that Masons play in the public world.”

The magazine need not go all pissy-bitch about flacks, seeing as how the publishing business depends on those self-same flacks for leads on their hard-hitting coverage of Oscar hopefuls, the Wu Tang Clan, and the Giambattista Valli spring trunk show. Hiring a PR firm scarcely makes us out to be media whores. And as PR agencies go, it's tough to pick a better one than Dan Klores.

But just what is the right balance on the scale between carnival barking and public education for us? On the one hand, we're a bloody secret society! It's no longer like the old Howard Da Silva line about his friend being asked if he was a Communist: "Sorry, we're not allowed to tell." But we are supposed to have a certain discretion - says the guy who wrote a Dummies book about it.

On the other hand, we are living in a time when the world at large doesn't know who or what the Freemasons are. We get our aprons in a bunch worried about anti-masons, when poll after poll shows that the public has NO opinion of the fraternity. They don't know who we are, what we do, what we stand for, or why anyone should join (or how, for that matter). By the early 1800s, virtually everybody in America knew about the Freemasons, and that was true all the way up until about 1975. But it's not true anymore.

Unfortunately, in an age where sophistication is measured by how many cynical welts are raised in a column inch of pithy punches, our message seems anachronistic and creaky to editors and writers desperate to out-hip each other in "knowing" tones. And there's no getting around the fumes of desperation that hang around when a society as storied as ours tries to compete with Ashlee Simpson and Brad Pitt in the PR business. As the troubled Spears family will attest, such attempts at tooting one's own horn can backfire quickly.

And suddenly you're on the 6 o'clock news, strapped to a gurney.


  1. I consider it interesting that for all the anti-Masonic crap you find on the web, the anti-Masons are ignored pretty much to the same extent that the Masons are.

    In fact, you rarely see an anti-Masonic article in an American newspaper, but you do see Masonic stuff (disregarding for argument's sake its quality -- or lack thereof) there on a fairly regular basis.

    I'd be inclined to say that the anti-Masons in America are actually failing pretty badly.

  2. But if that's true, how is it that Jim Marrs' appalling piece of pap Rule By Secrecy: The Hidden History That Connects the Trilateral Commission, the Freemasons, and the Great Pyramids manages to routinely be the #1 book on the subject of Freemasonry on Amazon and elsewhere?

    The Freemasons, the Jooooz, the Illuminatti, the "elites" all detailed as the evil geniuses out to rule the world - ultimately descending into the deranged world of elite extraterrestrials. And the reviews usually go, "This is a really, really, really well researched book, and it's all absolutely true, even if I think the alien stuff is stupid."

    Yeah, I know... go explain how David Icke sells out every lecture hall he's at.

  3. The anti-Masons have quite a following on the evangelical church circuit. Jim Marrs' books stand proudly next to zillions of Left Behind titles on fundie-bookshelves across America.

    Widow's Son

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  5. Chris, interesting article!

    "On the other hand, we are living in a time when the world at large doesn't know who or what the Freemasons are." ... "By the early 1800s, virtually everybody in America knew about the Freemasons, and that was true all the way up until about 1975. But it's not true anymore."

    Does anyone else find that statement to be amazingly ironic given today's communication capabilities? It really makes me wonder how people who are so connected can be so truly disconnected.


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