"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


“The Masonic system represents a stupendous and beautiful fabric, founded on universal purity, to rule and direct our passions, to have faith and love in God, and charity toward man.”
— William Howard Taft

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Freemasonry in the Age of Woke


There's a disappointingly superficial piece on the Washington Post website today by feature writer Sadie Dingfelder about the George Washington National Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia. As I read it, I was immediately struck by a picture it paints of a growing number of Americans these days and how Freemasonry is seen by them. 

Here are some excerpts from Dingfelder's article, 'Unlock the secrets of the Freemasons - or at least gawk at their strange costumes':
“Is it usually pretty quiet here?” I asked the person checking me in, who later turned out to be my tour guide.

“It can get pretty busy in the summer,” he replied. In warm months, busloads of Masons visit the memorial, he said.

“I must admit, I don’t know much about Freemasons,” I said, which prompted my guide to launch into a short history of the group.

“It’s basically a fraternal organization,” he concluded. “They do a lot of service and charity work.”

“Oh, so it’s like the Rotary Club, but with costumes and secret handshakes,” I said...

[snip]

The memorial also houses a museum of Masonic history, and we’d just arrived on a floor devoted to that when a muffled voice emanated from my guide’s walkie-talkie. He rushed off to fetch a late-arriving tourist, leaving me alone in a room full of creepy mannequins attired in the costumes of various Freemason subgroups and affiliated societies, including Shriners’ fezzes, Arabic-looking turbans, militaristic uniforms and one costume with a jeweled breastplate, an imitation of vestments worn by ancient Israelite priests.

I found this to be a fascinating glimpse into a less-woke era, but I was disappointed that I couldn’t find any explanatory text about why these groups of (I imagine) white men wore Middle Eastern-ish garb, and whether similar costumes are still used today.
Some of the Freemason costumes on display struck this reviewer as Orientalist,
militaristic or just plain strange.
Scattered around the mannequins were displays of random club ephemera — plus a few inexplicable objects, including a jaunty bobblehead doll of the controversial Christian figure Jacques de Molay, a monk who fought in the Crusades and was later sentenced to death. De Molay’s medieval order, the Knights Templar, inspired the modern-day Knights Templar — a Christian-focused subgroup of Freemasons, my guide explained after returning with a mysterious man in a trench coat...
[snip]
If I’m right, he’s an increasingly rare breed. Freemason membership has been in decline since the 1960s, according to a chart on display in the museum’s basement. “Civic life declined as people spent more time alone in front of a television or computer screen,” the accompanying text explains. Fair enough, but I’m betting that the Masons’ fraught racial history and continued exclusion of women have also contributed to their diminishing relevance.

I mention this because the Masonic memorial may be on its way to becoming just that: a memorial to a bygone organization, where powerful men once gathered to socialize, plan charitable work and wear Orientalist costumes. Perhaps a lot of this is best left in the past, but it seems to me — a person who spends way too much time alone, in front of a computer — that there’s something here worth bringing into the future.

The benefit of resources like LinkedIn is that you can go and find out about the background of people whom you otherwise don't know at all, and Sadie's profile yields a few items worth noting. She's not a teenager or a college student — she graduated in 2001, so she's in her mid- or even late-30s. Sadie's a graduate of Smith College (a private liberal arts college for women only in their undergrad program), and she's been working as a writer for the Post in the Washington D.C. area in various capacities for ten years. She lives and works in the very city that a lot of Masons (and even non-Masons) regard as one heavily influenced by Freemasons from the past, and (if you believe in such things) filled with Masonic symbolism even in the street map. TV producers of programs about Freemasonry are obsessed with the idea. So it surprised me a bit to see just how little knowledge or awareness of Freemasonry she seemed to have when she walked into the Memorial — and apparently, how little she had actually learned by the time she left. After touring the place, she declared that Freemasonry is little more than a bygone organization.

This isn't a hit on Ms. Dingfelder, not at all. It's a comment on how diminished we have become in the collective American psyche. I thought we had reached rock bottom in that regard back before novelist Dan Brown put Freemasonry back on the map in the early 2000s. Since those dark days, cable television has had loads of programs about Masonry. Stacks of factual, intelligent, and truthful books (including mine and Brent Morris') got poured onto the market. Freemasonry worked its way into pop culture references like movies, music and TV shows. I had thought we had even turned a tiny corner and tipped the scales slightly back into our favor, at least as far as a basic awareness of Freemasonry was concerned.

Indeed, the Scottish Rite NMJ did a survey two years ago and discovered that a full 81% of respondents had at least heard of Freemasonry, even if they didn't know what it was. But as I think back over the last five or six years now, and reflect on my own contacts with the public about it, I fear more people are even less aware of what Freemasonry actually is than in the 1990s. In that same survey, less than 30% actually knew what the values of Freemasonry were. And the most common question I get asked by non-Masons under 35 these days once I get my basic elevator speech out of the way is, "But just what is it that you guys DO? What's the point?"

That shouldn't be a shock, since we are about one generation removed from the 1990s. The adults in 1990 were having children at that moment in time, and we are now encountering those former infants as adults today. Already by 1990, Freemasonry had been waning, along with a raft of other social changes taking place then. By 1990, the fraternity was already down in membership by more than 30% from its 1958 height. It was blatant that the Baby Boomers had steered clear of Freemasonry, just as they had so many other so-called "Establishment" ideals of their parents. Organized religious attendance was decreasing. Divorce rates had skyrocketed. Childbirths were down substantially, and most concerning, single parent households (usually single moms) were taking a major upswing. It was into this period that today's current Millennial adults now in their late-20s and 30s were born.


According to the Pew Research Center, fewer than half (46%) of American kids under 18 years of age are living in a home in 2018 with two married heterosexual parents in their first marriage - what is quaintly called a traditional family household. This is a huge change from 1960, when 73% of children fit this description, and 1980 when 61% did. At less than 50% today, it's certainly a dwindling tradition.

One of the most enormous shifts in family structure is this one: 34% of American children today are living with an unmarried parent—up from just 9% in 1960, and 19% in 1980. In most cases, these unmarried parents are single, without a live-in partner of any kind to help raise and educate the children. And by far, the largest number are single mothers.

When I wrote Freemasons For Dummies in 2004, there was still a reasonable chance that enough grandfathers had been Freemasons in sufficient numbers that their grandchildren had at least encountered the fraternity in their lives. But that percentage has done nothing but drop since then.

Fewer children today have full-time fathers than ever before in recorded history, and even fewer of them have a grandfather to pass along older traditions like Freemasonry and numerous other important values. 

(Interestingly, 5% of children are not living with either parent at all. In most of these cases, they are living with a grandparent—a phenomenon that has become much more prevalent since the recent economic recession.)

When you take into consideration all of this stew of statistics, it's clear that Freemasonry as a subject for observation by children has a pretty paltry chance of being passed along to the current and future generations by many fathers, grandfathers, siblings, uncles or other influential men in their lives. 

In other words, there's no statistically significant reason why Sadie Dingfelder would have encountered Freemasons in her family. She doesn't mention any sort of family connection to the fraternity, so the only way she knows anything at all about us is from what she picked up by cultural references she has encountered as a teenager and adult. Like going to the Memorial, poking around on the Internet, or catching a rerun on A&E or the History Channel. I suspect she may not have a single family member, friend or acquaintance who is a Mason, or was in recent memory.

Mull that over. And if she has children of her own today, what chance will they have as adults to inherit any sort of collective, cultural knowledge of Masonry in another 20 years?

Note her comments about Masonry being from a "less-woke era" (a colossally imbecilic adjective if ever there was one) and her pronouncement that our "fraught racial history and continued exclusion of women have also contributed to their diminishing relevance." Whether you believe that or not, that is one narrative being circulated about us today in this hyper-heightened period of describing every single subject on the face of the Earth in terms of gender, race, offense, privilege  and oppression. Young people are being taught a dramatically different (and arguably damaging) version of Western and American history now than older generations, and the values, traditions and institutions of the Founders and prior important historical figures are being derided or ignored altogether. The images of George Washington and Ben Franklin as Freemasons don't carry the sort of influence and impact they had even 20 years ago – some today would even argue that they are a negative.  And let's not even venture into the demographics regarding religious beliefs among Americans in 2018, or how religious Americans are almost uniformly portrayed in a negative light by the pop culture. 

None of this is an indictment of anyone, because there's no single villain we can isolate and counter, argue with, or shoot out behind the barn. These are simply the current circumstances we find ourselves struggling in. That's what we're facing going forward as we try to craft messages for the profane world, design our museums, and sit for interviews with the press. Once again, the culture has shifted under our feet, and this time, we find ourselves potentially tap-dancing on a minefield.

As bleak as all of this may seem, at its core, Freemasonry is and will remain important and relevant and needed as time marches on, but it's up to each of us to do our part to ensure its future by not hiding what's left of our light under a bushel and permitting ourselves to be ignored to death. Remember that even Sadie recognizes this, and concluded her essay with this thought: "Perhaps a lot of this is best left in the past, but it seems to me — a person who spends way too much time alone, in front of a computer — that there’s something here worth bringing into the future."

There is indeed.

22 comments:

  1. No surprise that Chris has provided a highly insightful analysis.

    The Memorial does not tell the story of the African-American Masonic saga nor does its board of course have a representation of the minority groups that are now becoming the majority. And debatable is how long can the organizations like the Scottish Rite, in states where gays and blacks and women and other groups are unwelcome in blue lodges, use that as a reason for being de facto segregated? The claim to being relevant is strained -- the endowment is small and the costs of such a colossal shrine are huge --a grim future.

    Washington now has a vibrant Native American museum, a highly successful African-American museum, a brand new espionage museum, a just opened extraordinary Biblical and Near Eastern museum, and several more major attractions on the way. Why would someone want to go to a museum from which their history is largely excluded?

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  2. The damage to Freemasonry really is seen in the senile culture within the Temple. "Basically a fraternal organization" with "a lot of service and charity work." Indeed.

    Jay

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  3. To answer your last question... there is a Native American museum near me that excludes the history of my European ancestors... so why would I want to visit since my history is “largely excluded”? Because I wanted to learn about Native American history? Same for all the other museums I’ve ever been to that had nothing to do with me personally. So what’s the problem?

    As far as blacks, gays, or women being unwelcome, you should probably travel more often if you are a mason. There are over ten lodges in my metro area and region... I’ve seen men of every shade of color, religion, culture, geographic origin, and sexual orientation... all sit in Lodge in harmony. As far as women, we are a fraternal organization... I have yet to see any groups of women pounding on the doors demanding to be admitted. There are co-Masonic organizations who do admit women, as well as organizations like the OES. And none of those women care to join the blue Lodge. So again, not sure what the problem is.

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    1. Unfortunately your metro area is strikingly different than mine. Aside from one or two lodges, you had better be of the correct political persuasion and sexual orientation or you may just get frostbite. At a Wardens Conference hearing a seated Master stating that "I don't care how good a man is, if he's a faggot I'm not letting him in", or asking a beloved PHA Brother to your lodge and overhearing an older member mumble..."great, now we have Black Lives Matter visiting".......when confronted by their bigotry they defend themselves that they were members long before I/we/they ever joined so sit down or leave. I've been asked why I have been absent.....well at our last Past Master's Dinner I was greeted upon arrival thusly..."did you come straight from the picket line? You all should be fired"
      I understand and completely agree that many members of the younger generations are literally looking for reasons to be offended and the atmosphere of political correctness is stultifying and very often stands in the way of anything resembling civil discourse. However, when profanity and racial slurs are uttered on the lodge floor and the reaction....well there was NO reaction, as if that is acceptable, or having a Brother and his cohort repeatedly trying to remove the Qur'an from the alter....it's enough. The antifa and anarchists of the left no more tar all of us left of center than does Westboro Baptist and the Klan does of all Christians or conservatives. I'm expected to leave my politics at the door, and that was one of the reasons I joined, to converse with men who may not share all my views, but could meet upon the level and model civil discourse and philanthropy. I no longer feel like I belong to the lodge, I feel like I'm their token liberal who is tolerated so long as he keeps his mouth shut. Oddly enough, I don't ever recall asking our musician to play the Internationale or for the Brethren to join me at a union meeting or provide food to picket lines.
      And those two lodges that actually walk the walk? Mostly they are seen as an aberration and referred to scathingly by members of lodges with a more......traditional...membership.

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  4. The Fraternity needs to do a better job of being accepting of ALL men. It's an embarrassment knowing that I wouldn't be accepted in some GL in the United States because my GL not only has visitation rights with our local Prince Hall Masons, but are exploring ways with the Prince Hall GL to even allow cross-jurisdiction membership. The barriers that exist shouldn't exist any longer.

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  5. Thank you WB Hodapp for this article.
    Freemasonry is also a business. The major part of a business is marketing and requires research and a large budget. The statistics you cite regarding "household demographics" shows the need of a nationwide public awareness Marketing Campaign.
    The values of our fraternity are needed by all men... young and older.

    The comment by Paul Rich is valid and should be addressed by the National Monument Board of Directors. On the subject of lodges not accepting men of every country, sect, and opinion shows how "anti masonic valued" our organization can be. Masonry is a Universal organization and the universal tenets need to be shouted and adhered to by all Masons. Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth.
    Temperance,Fortitude, Prudence, and Justice. Faith, Hope, and Charity.

    Finally, We all have a duty to show our Masonry to the world. Bring it up in your conversations, wear masonic pins and most of all be Proud of your brotherhood

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  6. Several Masons in other forums have made the mistake of attacking the Post author of the original piece, deriding her lack of knowledge, attacking the newspaper itself as a source, etc. That's not the purpose of my article at all. The wider point I'm making is just how far off the edge of the radar we've fallen - not since the 1950s and 60s, but just in the last twenty years now.

    Masons are like a potted plant in an office cubicle, and every time a ray of sunlight comes our way or when someone accidentally pours a little water on us, we squeal in delight at the mention. "They noticed me!" (Remember the Masonic audience watching 'National Treasure II and Albert Pike's name simply got mentioned? You'd have thought the Beatles had just reassembled the band.) But if the article or TV show gets things wrong in our view, we go on the attack declaring the creators as wrong, morons, agenda-driven, lazy, anti-Masonic, or worse.

    The author of the Post piece WASN'T WRONG when she criticized the Memorial museum area for not telling our story properly to non-Masons. In 2018, the number of Americans who even know what fraternalism means is statistically insignificant.In the vacuum of information, how was she to know what she was looking at? Society hasn't told her what the hell a Freemason is anymore, and we do a miserable job of it ourselves.

    BTW, I DO find it risible that Sadie has her own 'wokeness' situation. She swipes at Masons for not admitting women and claims we've been diminished in society because of it it - yet she's a graduate of Smith College, an all-women liberal arts college (at least their undergrad program - grad students are co-ed).

    No irony there.

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    1. Brother Anzan, for example grand lodges in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Denmark will not initiate Jews. Große Landesloge der Freimaurer von Deutschland in Germany requires Christian allegiance but there have been reportedly a few recorded exceptions for Jews who are considered acceptable.

      Grand lodges recently like Georgia and Tennessee have recently affirmed the exclusion of gays, with one argument being made that since gay marriage is now legal it is possible to prove a married member is gay, previously difficult, and to expel him. A number of American grand lodges have voted down recent proposals to recognize Prince Hall.

      Chris is absolutely right when he states that the museum fails to tell the story -- it tells the story of a largely white diminishing group and ifs someone joins under the impression they are joining a universal brotherhood that they need to be told that is a lie and that when they travel they will not be welcome in some jurisdictions because of their color, gender, or religion.

      The memorial is perceived as propaganda, which it is, for a certain view of Masonry that is part of the reason for Masonic decline. Most Masons who visit Washington find the Smithsonian museums more worthwhile.

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    2. White the Grand Lodge of Seeden, and the Grand Lodge of Denmark themselves don't admit Jews (because they do not practice Anglo-American Freemasonry, but the Christian Swedish Rite), it is possible for Jews and other non-Christians to become Freemasons in certain areas under their jurisdiction. In Finland, the GLoS shares Jurisdiction with the Grand Lodge of Finland (Anglo-American), and in Denmark there are semi-independent grand lodges that use the Schröder Rite. In Germany, Jews can become Freemasons in the four non-Christian masonic orders in that country. I don't think it's entirely fair to compare Tennessee to Germany.

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    3. Yes Anonymouth, ou are correct that there are some lodges that under certain circumstances will consider a very small number of Jews in "certain areas" as you put it, but the higher degrees and offices will not. Most temples in the countries where Jews are usually not accepted do not offer those initial subordinate degrees you refer to that would permit a Jew to apply, and of course he could not advance into the parent hierarchy unless he repudiated Judaism and embraced Christianity. In the case of states like Tennessee being compared to Germany, it can be considered unfair if you feel there is a difference between a grand lodge which has for years excluded candidates and members ,and one like Tennessee or Georgia which has recently affirmed the policy,

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    4. To note: The GL of Finland has lodges in Sweden wich allows Jews and muslims.

      No lodge under the GL of Sweden can admit a non-christian to join.

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  7. Brother Hodapp you are like a voice crying in the wilderness. It's time we Masons (GET WOKE). Keep up the good work, stay vigilant, your light is shining bright.

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  8. This article by Bro. Lance Kennedy, a Texas Freemason, was posted by Bro. Fred Milliken on the "Freemason Information" site, just a few days ago:http://freemasoninformation.com/2018/11/freemasonry-is-dying/


    Bro. Kennedy makes many of the same points and cites the same data you mention, Chris, so I thought your readers might be interested.

    I'll mention just one of many relevant passages and try to make a couple of quick points about it: "We must come to terms with the state of our fraternity before we can discuss the reasons behind our demise and the means by which we can save it from the fate experienced by the Odd Fellows, Elks, Moose Lodges, and numerous other fraternal organizations."


    Point #1 is the amazing reality of our current situation is that so many Brethren are in virtually complete denial as to the condition of the Craft. There's a point approaching, absent some fundamental changes, at which the institution will no longer have the membership or resources to maintain itself in anything like the form it struggles to preserve today. Chris has recently illustrated just one aspect of that reality, with the pieces on Temple buildings, but the GL organizational structure and even our highly regarded charitable work are two other at-risk parts of the Fraternity.

    Point #2: There were reasons for the decline of "...the Odd Fellows, Elks, Moose Lodges, and numerous other fraternal organizations." Whatever the cultural and social realities were that led to that decline, they were, apparently, factors that did not, at that time, apply to Freemasonry. Now, we have allowed what it was that kept us relevant to slip away.

    If our efforts at "saving" Freemasonry are aimed at preserving the status quo, in terms of organization and current practice, I'd ask if we might instead be better advised to focus on "resurrection" rather than "resuscitation?"

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    1. The logical place for these issues to be thrashed out is the annual meeting of grand masters. So far that hasn't happened. Frankness about the handling of the situation with Jews, gays, women, African-Americans, Latinos is just not on the agenda. When the Shrine and other affiliates drop the Masonic connection out of a desperate need to find members, another nail goes in the coffin. Municipalities will be and are more reluctant to give tax breaks. Invitations to civic events have become more problematic. The failure to attract quality members from the professions and leadership constituencies is hurting. The destruction of archives and libraries continues. These are all in need of action by the grand masters.

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  9. I would say that the Fraternity has issues because it is full of people with their own petty hatreds. I have attended Prince Hall Lodges and they are full of their own racial hatred and bigotries, just as mostly white lodges are. Predominately white Blue Lodges then to segregate themselves along political lines. I hear terrible comments in conservative ones and just as bad ones in the liberal ones. It is truly disappointing in my opinion and I have sat in 20-30 lodges across seven grand lodges this year.

    You really cannot reach out to the "woke" crowd. They come to the table with just as much hatred as most Klansman it is just differently directed. They will never be satisfied with whatever you put forward.

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    1. All institutions, no matter how well-designed or well-intended, are only so strong, over time, as the character of those who lead & are involved in them. Our constitutional system would be a case in point. Those "petty hatreds" are things that we all possess; the Craft fails not in accepting such people as members but in falling short of its own ideals, in the effort to improve those it calls "Brother."


      Groucho Marx once observed that he could never "be a member of any organization that would have me as a member." That's a pretty good starting point in recognizing the need for individual self-improvement!

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  10. It seems some brethren may tend to group the Swedish Order (rite) of Freemasonry with the intolerance of minorities, Jews, women, and gays they believe is present in certain areas of regular Freemasonry. If this is the case, it is wrong. Swedish Masons are just as much welcoming to foreign Masonic visitors as regular American Masons. The Swedish Rite developed differently than the American Rite.

    It is true candidates for the Swedish Rite must declare they are Christian in the First Degree, that it is the best religion and that they will never abandon it. All traits that I personally admire. So I confess I may be a little bias.

    But as a man and a Mason, I extend the same kind of admiration to any man and Mason who keeps his word no matter his religious affiliation.

    The Swedish Rite has limitations, but so does the American Scottish Rite and York Rite. And who can ignore the limitations of our many American Invitational and Honorary bodies?
    The Swedish Rite is one coherent Masonic system and it is a fascinating study. It is as much a part of Swedish Cultural heritage as American Freemasonry is a part of our great nation's cultural heritage. And (in my opinion) should be leveled the same degree of respect.



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  11. You are right that fraternal orders such as the Knights of Columbus, the Orange-Purple-Black with its degrees and rites, B'nai B'rith, and so on, are all indeed interesting -- but it is not disrespectful of them to note that they are not Masonic in the sense of a universal brotherhood --and it is not disrespectful to note that there is nothing of universal brotherhood to Landeslodges or the various Scandinavian Christian rites require that ask initiates to declare of Christianity that "it is the best religion" in your words and indeed in cases even maintain a separate degree system, and reserved officer roster as they do for exalting ordained clergy in the state or formerly state, Protestant church. To tell a candidate that he is joining a universal brotherhood when he not welcome and cannot affiliate in various jurisdictions because of either his race, religion or gender is duplicitous.
    He cannot move to Tennessee or Georgia and expect he and his spouse to be welcome if they were Masons in Massachusetts or New York. If he is a Jew, he cannot expect to affiliate in Stockholm or Copenhagen. if he is African-American he is not welcome in West Virginia. It is a fraud to tell candidates they are joining a universal brotherhood. They are in fact joining what is probably the last relatively large American organization to be segregated, to the shame of all of us.

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  12. I think the points about wokeness are really good feedback. But I don't think it's just about public perception, there is something very true being spoken here. You're right, Chris H., to not make a personal attack on the journalist. She is saying something, the full gravitas of which she is intentionally holding back or does not really have the right words or interest to speak it out loud. Nor are newspapers the right venue for this kind of discourse.

    If one studies esotericism--or religious studies, or philosophy, or literary theory, or anthropology, or sociology, or the history of science--one does not have to take long to come across the work of Edward Said and the concept of "Orientalism." That is the issue here. It is a concept grounded in racism (and often, whiteness) but it's more than that. Reducing it to racism is an overly simplifying a complex issue and our complex history, and our complex relation to the issue.

    This article doesn't name it, and may not be aware of it, but it's an issue that Freemasonry needs to deliberately address if it is to move forward, at least on an institutional level.

    The article raises the question of regalia influenced by Middle Eastern cultures, broadly defined, and wonders whether men still dress up in these costumes. Fair enough. She should have asked, maybe the question didn't arrive to her until later.

    I can't speak for the tour, and I'm not specifically talking about the tour, but this needs to be addressed to the general public in 2018. Not just to say "trust us, we're not secretly Muslim" (an apology I'm sure some others have heard before) but rather what was going on in America, culturally, that made it look to the East, and own the history, and, I'd suggest, make it the starting point of addressing cultural racism and religious bigotry. Since those are values we often celebrate.

    We are a good example of an institution who could publicly and seriously engage these issues, and model them for the public in open and reasoned dialogue. It doesn't have to be the focus of Freemasonry. But it is a way of honoring our heritage and look to a future.

    I hope I am making sense.

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  13. I saw a Masonic speaker here in Minnesota several years ago who was a well-versed and celebrated author. I was curious to hear his opinions on the state of the Craft today.
    He advised us to prepare for the huge wave of curious men who would be knocking on lodge doors after the imminent release of a Tom Hanks movie based on another Dan Brown novel (which was thankfully never made.)
    Later, when the speaker was asked about why he got involved in a dubious television program (of the H Channel variety) that shows the Craft in a skewed, spooky light he replied that "their check cashed."
    Bad movies and bad TV?
    I still hold most of this author's work in high regard, but I felt as I left that trying to present anything other than superficial Masonic education through mass media was a fool's errand.

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    1. Ben, I believe that was me who made that speech. But it's possible someone else used similar talking points, because an awful lot of us believed it, and about a half dozen serious Masonic authors have been on these TV programs since 2005.

      Even though the movie was never made (and most probably never will be, since the book is so terrible), we did enjoy a brief, three year, substantial increase in new members. That has once again plunged back to even worse losses than before Dan Brown mania began.

      I don't believe I said I signed on for a TV show simply because "their check cashed," but it's possible I made such an offhanded and flippant crack during a question and answer session. It's unlikely since 90% of these programs don't pay interviewees a dime for taking days out of our schedule, undertaking major travel, and helping their production staff do research, find locations, secure permissions, and find others to interview for them. It's possible I was the one who said it anyway, but that was never why I was involved in any of these shows. I did them because they will interview someone eventually to fill their air time, and they have a lousy track record when the serious and honest Masonic scholars turn them down of finding rational and truthful people to speak with.

      Like it or not, these types of shows are the only mass media with any serious chance of being seen by more than a handful of people left in the world. And if we as Masons turn our backs on even this form of communication with the non-Masonic world, we are being deliberately irresponsible. TV producers demand to fill their programs with the spookiness and silliness because they believe it gets them ratings. I question that because of the success of the Inside the Freemasons multi-part series done in England by SkyNews that is running now on Netflix. It has done very well without the stupidity. Moreover, the ratings of that series demonstrate that the non-Masonic public does have curiosity about us, since so little rational information exists and they have almost zero personal experience in knowing who and what the Masons are anymore.

      Ultimately, if we are too stupid and inept and uncaring about crafting our public image and are content to let non-Masons do it, we deserve what we get. You are thankful Brown's Lost Symbol movie never got made? I'm sure as hell not. If Brown and associated Brown Mania hadn't put Freemasonry back on the cultural map fifteen years ago, we'd be statistically insignificant today already. We were already largely invisible in 1990, and the anti-Masons were also in full force, controlling what little public narrative there was. At least we don't deal with that in the US anymore.

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