As reported recently on Brother Christopher Hodapp’s blog, the Sunday, October 11, 2009 edition of The New York Times Book Review will publish a review of Dan Brown’s novel, The Lost Symbol. This review is in large part an attack on Freemasonry by the review’s author, Ms. Maureen Dowd (pictured). That review is available right now on-line, here.
Ms. Dowd’s review is a badly written piece of trash that would have been poor as an op-ed piece (which is what she’s used to writing). She spreads rumors as truth, gives a highly skewed view of Freemasonry, and spreads total inaccuracies about millions of brothers in the Fraternity using such solid sources of information as her chats with her non-Mason father. (Given the two references to her father that appear in the review, which are apropos of almost nothing, I’d have to say that when she points to The Lost Symbol as having an Oedipal aspect, she needs to remember that old saying to the effect that, when we point a finger at someone else, three other fingers are pointing back . . .)
So: Ms. Dowd ridicules the Fraternity, spreads inaccuracies about it, and generally shows a prejudiced attitude that hides behind a snarky persona, where the ability to make a smartmouth remark is more important than getting the facts right.
And I thank her for this, from the bottom of my heart.
The many inaccuracies that Ms. Dowd spreads about Freemasonry are a superb opportunity to spread the truth about the Fraternity. I have started a new series on Discovering The Lost Symbol: The Blog, just to address the many mistakes about Freemasonry that Ms. Dowd makes in her lousy, badly researched review. To paraphrase the late President John F. Kennedy: It is better to write one blog post than to curse the snarkness. (The index post, which has links to all the posts in the series, is here.)
Is this all just much ado about nothing? Well, The New York Times has a daily circulation of about 1.1 million readers; the Sunday Book Review (a section of the Sunday edition of the Times) is probably the most important source of book reviews for the general reader published in the United States. Ms. Dowd’s review—inaccurate as it is, not to mention poorly researched, even prejudiced—will help form the image of Freemasonry held by maybe a million or more people, including many of the better educated opinion makers in the United States. To me, that’s important enough to justify doing something.
So, what might the Brothers of the Craft do about this? I suggest the following:
1. Read Ms. Dowd's review itself. You can’t defend the Craft without knowing the specific inaccuracies being spread about it.
2. Read my responses in my blog, Discovering The Lost Symbol: The Blog. Feel free to comment on my responses. Feel free to refer your friends to this blog, as well, should they bring up anything related to Ms. Dowd’s review.
3. You might wish to suggest to the powers-that-be at the Times that comments like Ms. Dowd’s belong more appropriately in an op-ed column than in a book review. Frankly, it is beneath a paper of the Times’ stature to publish badly researched pieces like this.
Correspondence may be addressed as follows:
- Editor of the Book Review: Include your name, address, and telephone number, whether you submit your letter by postal mail or by e-mail. (Neither your address nor telephone number will appear in print.) You may send postal mail to The Editor, The New York Times Book Review, 620 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10018-1405. You may send e-mail to this address: email@example.com .
- Letters to the CEO and Publisher (below) may be of any length, and will not be considered for publication. They may be addressed to the CEO and Publisher at the postal address given above (620 Eighth), which is probably the only way to be absolutely sure that your comments reach their intended recipients. Brethren who communicate only by fax or e-mail may take a chance on a somewhat iffier approach, and address their remarks as follows (in a separate message to each of the recipients):
Chief Executive Officer
The New York Times
Mr. Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr.
Chairman and Publisher
The New York Times
Points to keep in mind in your letters:
- Ms. Dowd is welcome to her opinion about the Fraternity. The problem lies in her portraying her poorly-researched, uninformed, and inaccurate opinion about the fraternity as fact.
- Ms. Dowd chose to attack Freemasonry in her review. In doing so, she was not only inaccurate in many important details (which I mention in my Dan Brown-related blog, should you care to mention specifics), but she also showed a very prejudiced attitude that would not have been tolerated in a book review if it were directed towards a religious or ethnic group. The same prejudice should not have been tolerated in being directed at Freemasonry.
- Ms. Dowd chose to attack Freemasonry—her journalistic right—but she did so in a book review, which allows those whom she attacked very little room for response. Her ‘review’ did not belong in a book review, but in an op-ed column, where there is more room available for those whom she attacks to respond.
[The image is a photo of Maureen Dowd taken by Denise Williams at the Democratic Debate in Philadelphia, PA on April 16, 2008. It was obtained from Wikimedia Commons, and appears here under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License.]
Copyright 2009 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.