The medium is the messed edge
Another blogger comes out of the closet this week. In real life, the mono-nymed Radcliffe happens to be one of my best friends, and has been writing The Metaphysical Freemason for the last year or so. For reasons as yet unexplained, he decided to cast off the cloak of anonymity with the anagrammatically titled post “Edman named.” As it turns out, Radcliffe is really WB Dave Edman, Past Master of Friendship Lodge (voted “Best Lodge in Conn” by 33% of Connecticut bloggers). WB Dave joins the surprisingly small number of blogging brothers who publish under their real names, and I welcome him to the club.
Being an inveterate attention seeker and egomaniac, I fail to understand the hesitation which many of my brothers seem to have over such public disclosure – at least, under normal circumstances. I do understand that some brothers feel the need to publish anonymously, though. In the UK and other parts of Europe, Freemasons have come under scrutiny because of accusations of nepotism and favoritism in government and business dealings; and let’s not forget that Freemasons were actively persecuted in WWII. In the US, some Masons in the Bible Belt might be hesitant to announce their memberships because their neighbors, co-workers, or employers might belong to a congregation that looks askance at the Order, which conceivably could impact one’s job security.Some brothers are just new to Masonry and are shy and unsure of what they can write, for rear of ridicule from less their expressive brethren. And, unfortunately, some Masons even fear reprisals from their own, as last year’s events in West Virginia have showcased.
But these are exceptions. To me, the surprising thing is that 2/3 of the 100+ bloggers that I’ve counted choose to do so under a nom-de-plume. Bro. Radcliffe Dave writes something that echoes sentiments that I’ve seen elsewhere:
“[…] does it matter what a persons name is, does it cause less credibility or more, when one is attempting to move ideas. I would generally suppose that while of potentially little harm it probably causes even less good.”
The essential question that Dave – and others – poses is this: “What difference does my name make? What does it matter who I am? Why can’t you just evaluate what I’m saying on its own merits?” And on some level this is a perfectly valid issue: The truth – or at least, what one believes is true – really should take priority over who is reporting it. The value of an opinion offered should not change depending upon who is opining.
At one time in our society, you might have seen advertisements like “Try Doc Johnson’s Vit-A-Tonic. It adds pep to your step!” in magazines and newspapers. Those were simpler times, though. Marketing experts have long since realized the importance of adding some amount of authority to the context of the message in order to create a degree of verisimilitude in order to increase the attractiveness of the product. My grandmother would buy almost anything endorsed by Robert Young, the actor who played Doctor Marcus Welby, MD on a show of the same name.
But now, in our post-modern, self-aware society, the discriminating among us demand more than the patina of realism; we want actual authority in order to give meaning within the context. And while the desire for meaning within context is a mark of critical thinking, do we sometimes discount the validity of facts or opinions when they are divorced from the context? I would say that we do, especially in the internet world – but that we do so not without reason. The speed in which various internet hoaxes are passed around by the unaware is amazing, and the tenacity of these hoaxes (or rather, the belief in them) rival the faith that some people have in religion.
Don’t believe me? How many times in the last decade (yes, it’s been at least that long) have you seen emails promising money, free meals, or prizes (from a merger of Microsoft, AOL, Outback, and Disney, apparently) based on your propensity to forward it to as many people as possible. And almost every such email contains the phrase “I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s worth a try, isn’t it?” Newer versions, ironically, even contain such “authority” phrases as “My sister in law is an attorney, and she says it’s legal” or “My accountant says that this is binding” or now, the ultimate in authority: “I saw this on Snopes.com, so it must be true.”
Yet, the messages which some people would claim have merit even without a context, have certainly been created with some context; context that enhances the impact of the message itself. If I wrote an article about my concerns over publishing something critical of my Grand Lodge (Connecticut, one of the more progressive and forward-thinking states), it would not have the same impact as (for example) an author from West Virginia, knowing that some members of the Craft have been expelled for speaking their mind, and that their Grand Lodge has been actively seeking the authors of an anonymously written blog chronicling the issues involving the Past Grand Master Haas. Indeed, the words of both articles may be the same, but the knowledge of the environment of the authors impacts the sense of meaning that the reader develops.
I’m not suggesting that my brothers in self-imposed anonymity suddenly announce their names; they obviously have their own reasons, and I would never suggest that their reasons are not valid – at least, to them. But I do encourage anyone who can, to write freely about Masonry; to write about their experiences, their beliefs, and their education. In our post-modern times we have opened up our lodges so that non-Masons can see what goes on, in hopes of encouraging some of them to join our ranks. Maybe, by being more open amongst ourselves, we can encourage those of us in the ranks to help mentor and educate each other, as well as those who have chosen to follow similar paths.