A social media profile that appears to be connected to the man charged with the arson of a Masonic Temple in Vancouver claimed to have “cleaned up 3 satanic clubhouses.”
On Tuesday morning authorities in Vancouver and North Vancouver police were called to three separate Masonic Temples that had all been lit on fire. The fires were all near each other and took place within an hour. No one was injured in the fires but one of the Temples received a significant amount of damage.
On Wednesday evening, Vancouver Police announced that they had arrested Benjamin Kohlman, 42, and charged him with one count of arson and one count of assault against a police officer. At the moment he is only facing charges related to one of the three fires but it is expected police will lay more charges.
As first spotted by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network (CAHN), a Facebook account appearing to belong to Kohlman was deep into conspiracy culture and shared a wide variety of posts about various conspiracies regarding the Masonic Order, flat earth, and COVID-19. One of the most recent posts, which was originally posted at 8:07 AM Tuesday but since deleted, read “I just cleaned up 3 satanic clubhouses and nobody could do anything.”
The person behind the account seems convinced there is a secret order of rulers made up of FreeMasons, who he frequently posted about, and other malevolent actors that control the world. In December, the account reuploaded a three-hour “documentary” about FreeMasons. Some posts even stated the pandemic was a “depopulation event” tied to the FreeMasons.
“The radio said that they can vaccinate 33 000 per day,” it reads. “The 33 means it's a Freemason conspiracy. I bet those things are full of nano tech to spy on the whole world.”
A spokesperson for CAHN told VICE that they also found “a lot of QAnon inspired content” and added Kohlman’s alleged actions are indicative of a bigger problem.
“We're seeing an increase in offline actions by people caught up in these conspiracy belief systems, and there's no sign it's slowing down. Kohlman has connections to prevalent anti-maskers in Vancouver on social media, and is a key member of local flat earth groups,” the spokesperson said. “This cross-pollination of conspiracy and far-right thinking leads to offline, real world violence.”
Conspiracies about the Freemasons have been immensely popular for years and have recently made a large-scale return as the Masonic Order has been lumped into the massive QAnon conspiracy. Like many age-old conspiracies, at the heart of Freemason theories is anti-Semitism and the account tied to Kohlman was not shy about making that link. In one conversation he even declared that the Masonic Order was “a form of Judaism.”
“These Elite people are Jewish Freemasons who belong to groups such as the Illuminati, Builderburg, Skull and Bones, Bohiemian [sic] Grove, and other secret societies,” he wrote in another.
Almost all of the content the account posted was focused on conspiracy theories. In one post he even apologized to his social media friends for the sheer amount of conspiratorial content by saying “I'm sorry for going on about this conspiracy stuff, but there really are conspiracies going on all around you.” The person behind this account saw conspiracies everywhere including in a benign nature documentary about mountain lakes where the narrator said something peculiar 33 minutes in because “33 is very significant in Freemasonry and Satanism. “
While many have begun believing in conspiracy theories during the pandemic—because people latch onto theories during times of strife in an attempt to make the world make sense—that does not appear to be the case with the person behind the Kohlman account. Posts well before the pandemic focus on freemasons and other conspiracies. His Facebook posts show a person whose beliefs, over several years, evolved from more New Age holistic conspiracy theories into flat earth theories and finally into conspiracy theories about a nefarious group controlling the world.
Freemasons, especially those in Vancouver, are not part of a secret organization that is ruling the world. They are simply members of an old fraternal network of men who take part in, frankly, rather nerdy rituals. On their website, the Duke of Connaught Lodge No. 64 (one of the Masonic Temple's targeted in the arsons) describes Freemasons as “the largest and oldest fraternal organization in the world. Freemasonry proposes to make good men better by teaching with metaphors from geometry and architecture about building values based on great universal truths.”
Dave Goddard, a spokesperson for the Grand Lodge of B.C. and Yukon, told CTV BC that the Masonic community doesn’t believe that the arsons are indicative of Vancouver's opinion of the Masonic Order.
“We as Freemasons don’t outwardly express hate toward anybody. This individual obviously has issues he needs to deal with,” Goddard said.
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