There oughta be a law
First, some background:
Back on April 1 of this year (note that date), I ran an article purporting to be a news clipping from the (now long defunct) Hartford Times about the proposed merger between the Grand Lodges of Rhode Island and Connecticut. The article explained that the reasoning is that our small states had too many Grand Lodge officers covering too few districts, and we needed to consolidate our resources. Masonic Education would be handled by videos made for Youtube, and both states would now be referred to as the Grand Lodge of Southern New England. To add to the verisimilitude, I created a website using the WordPress free blogging platform.
The Grand Lodge of Connecticut web site posted the article and linked to the new GL-SNE site for the day. Some of the brothers, both in and out of Connecticut fell for the joke (for which I wrote about a little while later), and everybody had a good laugh. “Oh, that Tom, what a joker,” etc, etc., and a week later (this being the internet and all) we forgot all about it and were now into The Next Big Thing, which probably involved the story about how a nun, a rabbi, and Chris Hodapp walked into a bar, and asked for a… well, as I said, this is the internet and even that is old news now. I pretty much forgot the Grand Lodge of Southern New England.
Until a few weeks ago.
Somebody forwarded to me something that had been forwarded from a friend, which had been in turn forwarded to them.The first forwarder (a brother who is not from Connecticut) wanted to know if this was true, and sent it to another person (also not from Connecticut). Somehow, they managed to figure out how to email a Mason in Connecticut, who thought the incident amusing enough to let me know. I checked, and sure enough, the blog stats showed a spike in readers over the previous several days.
Interestingly, for the next week or so, I continued to see visitors to the GL of SNE “website.” I learned that what had prompted the original question was that a re-print from the article in The Connecticut Freemason had appeared in another newsletter. Some of those readers mistook the prank for an actual new item, and then forwarded that news on to other brothers – and to some internet groups.
The other day, somebody else emailed me with another twist. Someone had posted to yet another group — an email list — the explanation for the merger.
The main reason the Rhode Island merged with Connecticut is that they were loosing members and they could not afford to keep a grand lodge going in there state. They were running out of money at an alarming rate to say the least.
For perspective, the original prank simply stated “Citing a budget shortfall due to a lack of membership and the bad economy.”
Anyway, the next few days saw even more spikes in the visitor counts, and several friends were kind enough to email snippets of some of the conversations of various lists to me. One of the people who had passed it along to several other groups was finally clued into the hoax. Apparently, he later admitted to falling for:
sadly it is a sick hoax written by a Brother as a April fools joke
Maybe I have become inured to the members of Friendship Lodge, but where I come from, a “sick” joke generally involves bodily functions, medical attention, and quantities of alcohol.
What another person wrote, though, underlines what is not only a problem in the fraternity, it’s also a problem that we see frequently in society overall.
Saw the rest of the posts but FYI this appeared in the May issue of the Conn. Freemason along with the disclaimer by the author as a separate article. Interesting that Conn. GL was totally silent & let confusion reign.
Maybe I’m reading too much into that last sentence, but it seems to belie the too-common attitude of “I don’t like what that person is doing. Let’s get somebody in charge to stop it.”
You see, the Grand Lodge of Connecticut was silent because, quite simply, the overwhelming majority of the members thought it was a funny joke — even those who fell for it. I wrote a follow-up article about those who were inclined to take the bait, and in it, I questioned why those people let their imaginations overtake their critical thinking skills. I mean, in the Masonic world, especially in the US, that would be big news. You can’t really imagine something that big happening without months of rumors and gossip beforehand.
But here’s where this whole situation pins the needle on the irony meter: Despite the fact that the only news reports of this merger were on my blog, despite the fact that the news item did not actually make any newspapers (and the Hartford Times has been closed since the mid-1970s), and despite the fact that no other Grand Lodge has sent out any kinds of notices to members, advising them of, for example, their status with regard to visitation, none of the people who passed on those rumors (nor those who considered it to be a sick joke) bothered to contact me. Not one.
So, why does this ping the irony meter? Because most of those brothers who passed this around — three months after the fact — were members of research lodges or education email lists.
Doesn’t the concept of “research” imply that one needs to do at least a minimum amount of legwork to determine the veracity of a concept?
Now, I’m not trying to poke fun at any of them. Just the fact that they are using the internet at all should probably be applauded. But perhaps I live so much of my life online that spending five minutes on Google to check something new has become second nature to me, and so I’m a bit embarrassed for those brothers who simply passed around the news, embellishing a little as they went.
The other thing that I don’t understand is why some of those brothers — the ones who were hipped to the hoax — couldn’t be bothered to drop me an email (being an attention hound, I’m not that difficult to find) to discuss their disappointment or dismay with the prank. A Facebook friend passed this on:
The substance has been passed, as fact, pretty much around the Masonic world and is will provide anit Masons great material to note how Masonry is declining
You would think that if somebody had that much of a concern, they might want to drop me a line and discuss it. In fact, I’m often disappointed to discover that despite our Masonic admonishment to “whisper good counsel in the ear,” too many of us find it much more convenient to rant and rail against something (or someone) with which we take issue. I wonder if we can make a law about that?