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


Saturday, April 25, 2020

The British Press Strikes Again: Hit Piece Disguised As Puffy Story

by Christopher Hodapp

American Masons don't know how good we have it. 

An article in the Britain section of April 25th edition of The Economist magazine told a human interest story about the Masons in Lincolnshire, speaking with Brother Matt Felgate of the Provincial Grand Lodge, and UGLE's CEO David Staples. The story is about what local lodges and Masons are doing under the COVID-19 Wuhan Virus shutdown to help the community, and the brethren there are truly finding some excellent and innovative ways to assist their fellow citizens during Britain's nationwide shut-down. 

But before they talked nice about anything the fraternity was doing, the unnamed reporter had to start right in with the swipes. The article was entitled 'Out of the shadows:The freemasons want to be known for hand wash, not handshakes' with the additional cynical addition, "Covid-19 offers a chance for some good publicity." 

Not "a chance to help," or "a chance to do good," but just the snark about publicity. And British reporters are downright obsessed with our 'secret handshakes.' It keeps them up nights worrying about it.

The opening paragraph has to lead off with the usual claptrap about sinister allegations:
The freemasons, a centuries-old network of fraternal lodges, have long provided fodder for thriller writers and folk with overactive imaginations.
Note the stylistic difference in Britain that they won't deign to capitalize Freemasonry or Masons when the terms appear in print. All the better to diminish any sense of respect for the fraternity, despite the fact that all of UGLE's written material capitalizes them.
Suggestions of conspiracy range from the outlandish to the banal. Steve White, a former chairman of the Police Federation, a cops’ union, claimed they blocked reforms to the service. Masons roll their eyes at such claims. “There is ‘The Da Vinci Code’ and the keyboard warriors going crazy,” sighs Matt Felgate, a freemason from Lincolnshire’s Provincial Grand Lodge. “But much to my disappointment, it’s mainly about making yourself a better person.”
What a reference to Steve White's absurd and baseless 2017 yawpings about the Police Federation is doing in this human interest article boggles the mind. An angry ex-union leader who was about to be voted out of office decided his failures weren't his fault — no, it were those bloody Freemason cops. Read his pathetic story HERE. And then ask why The Economist stuck it in the opening paragraph of an article about Masonic charity.

The article finally gets around to explaining that, outside of the lodge, Brother Felgate runs a gin distillery, and he's converted his production line to manufacture hand sanitizer that's been in short supply. Brethren in Scunthorpe have made more than a thousand masks for caregivers. Other area lodges have purchased thousands of masks from China to donate, or are loaning parking facilities to nurses. 
For once, being able to call in favours from a network of contacts seems positively altruistic...
Another swipe. "Calling in favors" is one of those baseless allegations that the press has convinced the public we engage in to get ahead of the common rabble. "Sod the proles, Brothers, do me a favor because we're Masons! Shake my hand."
In Belfast masons managed to find some 3,000 packs of loo roll. “I got together with someone I knew who owned a toilet-roll factory,” says Leslie Weir of the local lodge. “It’s just nice to be seen. We may have some secrets but it’s not a secret society.”

Masons emphasise that such charitable efforts are nothing new. Indeed, they claim their brotherhood is the second-biggest institutional donor in Britain.
It's not a "claim," it's a fact. But the press can't let that go without seeking the real motive:
As well as being a good in itself, such public acts of philanthropy help to counter the brotherhood’s reputation for secrecy. 
The whole article is hidden behind a paywall, so I won't quote all of it here. In fact, they have a huge application form to apply for a license to reuse their content, so I suspect I'll be scolded even for just these excerpts. But you get the gist.
UGLE's David Staples is fighting an uphill battle in trying to counter almost 40 years of deliberately insulting and false coverage of Freemasonry in Britain. 

I suppose this article is pretty benign, in comparison to the usual spate of downright insulting, accusatory and mocking articles that normally dominate the British press whenever Freemasonry gets mentioned. In many ways, it's a downright victory that it set aside the majority of the tropes that have filled papers in England since the 1980s. There wasn't a single mention of rolled up trousers, arcane rituals, or a reference to those handshakes as being "dodgy." 

I guess that counts as a win.

But a hit piece wrapped in a soft, velvety glove is still a hit piece. And The Economist should be ashamed of itself.


  1. Financial figures, statistical data & charts, studies and ranking of the top charities in the UK are available for download. Cf. the Charities Aid Foundation www.cafonline.org and National Council for Voluntary Organisations https://data.ncvo.org.uk/. The total amount reported by registered charities in the UK is over 17 billion £ (26 billion $) for 2019.
    In the list of the top 1,000 UK Charities the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution is ranked 302th with an annual budget amounting 33 million £ ( 21 million $) or 0.1% of the above total for the country. While the Masonic Charitable Foundation https://mcf.org.uk/ has the most laudable aim to become one of the largest UK charities, looking soberly and realistically at the actual figures tells us that before getting listed in the top 10 or even the 100 UK charities, British Freemasonry still has a long way to go.

  2. Apologies - my yping error : 33 million £ ( 41 million $) not 21 million $

    1. The Masonic contribution to charity in the USA is much inflated by the Shrine Hospital figures. Many people give who are not Masons and in fact a large scale advertising campaign solicits from the general public. Moreover, income from endowment includes bequests from non Masons. Shriner charity is the largest portion of the Masonic charity figures, which are misleading.

  3. In reality the British (local) daily press comments often and favourably in relation with Masonic activities.Therefore your comment "downright insulting...articles that dominate the British press" seems to be a bit unfair to me, a "continental" Mason...

  4. All Shriners are Mason's. Period. And how many other "charities" take the money from their own pockets?... Try none!

    Freemasonry IS NOT a charity... but very charitable and have a look at most of the charities to find out just how many PAID FULL TIME EMPLOYEES they have. Also read up on Professional Fundraisers... they work on a percentage of what they "bring in" usually or by a large fee.


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