Politicians and political journalists have always had a symbiotic relationship; it's how hacks get their stories and MPs get their revenge. These kind of partnerships necessitate a level of discretion, but it's become apparent that some might be operating within a wider framework of secrecy, with the revelation that two Freemasons' lodges set up for MPs and political journalists are continuing to operate secretly at Westminster.
In an investigation by the Guardian , it was confirmed that New Welcome Lodge – which recruits MPs, peers and parliamentary staff – and Gallery Lodge – for members of the political press, known as the "Lobby" – both remain active, according to Freemasonry records. No members' names have been confirmed, but it is known that past members included former journalists at the Times, the Daily Express and the Scotsman, as well as several Hansard reporters.
David Staples, the chief exec of the United Grand Lodge of England, AKA the governing body for Freemasons in England and Wales, said there was no contradiction between the practice of journalism and being a Freemason. In fact, more Freemasons would declare their membership if only they didn’t fear the prejudice that’d come with it, he said. "There should be no conflict between an individual choosing whether to declare their membership or not with that individual’s ability to do their job well. But there is, because some choose to believe otherwise, and some of our detractors are doing so based on nothing other than blind prejudice," he added.
So, basically, powerful and influential men are having secret meetings and claiming that nothing is going on at them besides the aiding of British society. Perhaps this is perfectly true, but as with most Freemason news, the go-to conclusion is that members of the secretive club are more concerned with their own betterment than society's. And as one commentator on Twitter pointed out, if women were doing the same – setting up "a group that only they could attend, for their betterment, and then [trying] to keep it secret" – there’d be outrage.
The response from both politics aficionados and conspiracy theorists has been as colourful as you'd imagine.
Most Twitter users weren't shocked whatsoever, with one saying this revelation is about as surprising as a "silent Trump fart" and another adding that "journalism and politics [have] worked together to massage truth for decades". One astute tweeter said "it's actually the next Dan Brown novel", while another – a "spiritual activist" – added that "the reptile house is rotting to the core".
One truther popped up on Reddit to remind everyone that conspiracy theorists are only called "theories" to throw people. "We live in a day and age where the word 'truther' is pejorative. Think about that," they wrote. It truly did make me think.
Others didn't seem bothered that all these men have been meeting in physical spaces, what with the secure communications you can have on apps like WhatsApp, or the new favourite of dark net drug dealers, Wickr. "I love how people believe that the lizards who control the entire planet need to be able to meet up in club house for some reason," wrote one person on Reddit. "Like they wouldn't have privately encrypted connections or something like that to do all their conspiring without their no-girls-allowed-club-houses."
Loudly offering the low-down in Reddit threads were people claiming to be current Freemasons, or those with Freemasons in their families. They were insisting that nothing weird or untoward ever happens in those spaces, and that anyone who assumes that the bonds made there could impact working relations is ridiculous. "My grandpa was a Mason," starts one. "If their lodge is anything like his, they're just old men who want to get away from their families for a little bit so they can drink and do secret handshakes."
"Freemason here," announced another. "I can almost guarantee they don't talk politics or anything else controversial in lodge. They are talking about the planning of dinners/charity events and making votes on how to keep the lights on at the lodge, collecting dues and supplying napkins and food for these events. As far as the craft, they're pretty much just talking philosophy of how to be a better person." The Reddit user later added, "Also most freemasons hate politics" – a point that, in this case, is kind of void, considering the story is about Freemasons who work and have worked in politics.
Unsurprisingly, though, perhaps the most off-the-wall conspiracy theory the internet had to offer came from the political editor of The Sun, who tweeted: "If @guardian journalists know so much about a Lobby Freemasons’ lodge, perhaps they have a confession to make. First I’ve ever heard of it in 10 years in Westminster." Sounds a bit lizardy, imo.