“I said I was amazing/Not that I’m a mason”: A Dramastic Analysis of Anti-Masonic Conspiracy Rhetoric in Hip-Hop Culture

I.  Introduction: Are There Underlying Messages In Hip Hop Music?

“I said I was amazing / Not that I’m a Mason” (A-Z Lyrics Universe).  Thus are the words Shawn Corey Carter, better known as Jay-Z, raps in his musical collaboration with Rick Ross, “Free Mason.”  Here, the supposed Freemason could be rapping this in an attempt to dispel rumors that he is a part of the mysterious and secret fraternity.  Listening to lyrics such as these could prompt possible questions, such as “Is there more to hip hop than the surface image?”  As some insinuate, there are indeed more in-depth meanings and even subliminal messages than the common public are aware (Jay-z the freemasons and the new world order).  Symbols such as the eye on the back of the dollar bill, a reference to the supposed symbol of Freemasonry, are presented in various artists’ music videos and lyrics (Occult Secrets of Jay Z, Kanye & Nas).

The justification for researching this topic is the prevalence of analytical pieces created by those skeptical of Freemasonry.  An example of a Jay-Z music video that showcases controversial images would be “On to the Next One.”  In this particular video, characters featured are subject to criticism, even being labeled demonic (Vigilant Citizen).  Other artists accused of practicing Freemasonry include Rhianna, Kayne West, and Lady Gaga (Vigilant Citizen).

Another purpose for researching this topic is to examine Freemasonry in discourse along with the controversies surrounding it.  One aspect of the controversies surrounding Freemasonry in discourse would be the negative connotations associated with it.  The article “Death by Publicity: U.S. Freemasonry and the Public Drama of Secrecy,” by Joshua Gunn, confirms the existence of these controversies.  In this article, Gunn mentions that Hollywood has given Freemasonry negative images and depictions.  This can be credited to preexisting notions of Freemasonry being a “cultural fantasy” as well as being “negative” or “hostile” (Gunn, 245).  Other rumors include Freemasonry’s loyalty being linked to Satan and a commitment to launch a New World Order (245).

In order to fully comprehend the origin of the negative connotations attributed to Freemasonry, the history of this secretive fraternity along with the history of the anti-Masonic movement will be discussed.  In addition to this, an analysis of discourse claiming Jay-Z’s membership in Freemasonry using paranoid style, conspiracy rhetoric, dramatism and social mystery will be discussed as well.  This analysis was constructed to understand the motives of the creators of such discourse.

II.   The Beginning of It All: The History Of Freemasonry

Freemasonry can be defined as a secretive, fraternal organization that can be found in various countries throughout the world (Morgan 11).  According to the book Freemasonry by Giles Morgan, Freemasons “aim to improve themselves by learning moral and spiritual lessons taught within the fraternity, not only to develop and benefit their own characters, but also in order to contribute in positive ways to the fraternity and to wider society” (12).  A leaflet titled What is Freemasonry?  produced in 1984 by Freemasons says that Freemasonry is “One of the world’s oldest secular fraternal societies…a society of men concerned with spiritual values.  Its members are taught its precepts by a series of ritual dramas, which follow ancient forms and use stonemason’s customs and tools as allegorical guides” (Hamill The Craft 12).

Freemasonry is said to have originated from the Middle Ages (77).  The Knights Templar, the military order of warrior monks, started the organization.  1118 marked the year the Knights Templar was founded in Jerusalem.  In the beginning, they were known as the Order of Poor Knights of the Temple of Solomon.  Their mission was to guard pilgrims who were traveling on the road to Jerusalem after the First Crusade.  French knights Hugues de Payen from Champagne and Godfrey de St. Omer from Picardy were the founders. Both fought in the First Crusade.  Functions of the Knights Templar were both as a military force and a monastic order (79).

The Knights Templar gained immense power and influence in Europe.  With the growth of their organization came great abundances of property, land, and money to aid in their effort in the Holy Land.  They became the most noteworthy order of the crusades. Throughout Europe, the Knights Templar had properties and holdings.  They also were involved in manufacture and trade as well as an innovative banking system.  Pilgrims that traveled to the Holy Land were permitted to leave belongings or money at the Temple perceptories and receive reimbursable letters of credit.

Jacques de Molay, the Grand Master of the Knights Templar, went to France in 1307 to discuss merging Templars with the Knights Hospitaller as well as clearing the Knights Templar’s name due to numerous accusations of “gross impropriety” (81).  These accusations led to expulsions of many Templars in 1305.  Clement wrote to Philip IV of France to tell him that he grudgingly was planning to investigate.  Although Philip was not given any order to proceed, he had all Templars in France incarcerated and charged with sacrilege, sodomy, and heresy on October 13, 1307.  Philip also arrested Pope Boniface VIII for the same charges when Boniface planned to excommunicate Philip for infringing such authority.

Pope Clement, was bullied and forced to support King Philip.  Through inhuman torture, massive confessions of guilt were taken from the Templars in France.  One of the arrests included Grand Master Jacques de Molay.  Claims arouse that the Order worshipped the devil and every new recruit was told that Jesus Christ was not a real prophet.  Templars confessed to flattening the cross in a ritual joining the Order as well as performing obscene kisses on one another.

A particular confession that received an exceptional amount of attention was the notion that the Templars worshipped a false idol named Baphomet (83).  Forms of this idol varied from different shapes, a cat as well as some sort of head.  Templars were rumored to wear cords around their waists that had brushed or touched Baphomet.  Other confessions included Templars being materialistic, selfish and only wanted wealth for themselves.  They were also blamed for the losing the Holy Land and siding with the Muslim forces.

Pope Clement ordered the arrest of all members of the Templar along with abduction of its property.  Jacques de Molay retracted his confession given to the Pope, stating his confession was made when he was being tortured.  Others in the Order retracted their confessions as well.  This, however, put members under the jurisdictions of secular law and sentenced to be burnt to death.

When Pope Clement declined condemning the Templars, he was informed by Philip that the same charges that were brought on the Order would be brought on him.  Yet, he remained unwavering in his decision.  In June 1308, Clement travelled to Poiters to hear confessions of 72 Templars sent by Philip and due to being under pressure, complied with opening additional inquiries into the Order.  Around the same time, 58 members of the Order were burnt to death as relapsed heretics under the order of Philip.  In 1311, Clement issued a papal bull that disbanded the Order and said that the property of the Templars should be given to the Hospitallers.

In the same year, Pope Clement declared Grand Master Jacques de Molay and three other significant figures of the Order were announced as heretics outside the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris as well as sentenced to incarceration for the rest of their lives in jail.  Jacques de Molay claimed that the Templars were innocent of charges made against them supported by Geoffroi de Charney, the Preceptor of Normandy.  Geoffroi too recanted his confession.  However, Philip rapidly reacted swiftly against the older Templars in order to prevent any possibility of improving its reputation.  Jacques de Molay and Geoffri de Charney were sentenced to death at the stake.  Before his death, Jacques de Molay protested the innocence of the Order and said that Pope Clement and King Philip be called upon to “appear before God before the year ended” (86).  Ironically enough, both Pope Clemet and King Philip died within a year.

Freemasonry is said to have two main phases upon developing.  The first phase is the founding of the craft guilds of operational stonemasons who seems to have had somewhat effortless rituals correlated with their organizations.  The second phase is the progressions towards exploratory Masonry where individuals from outside the profession of stonemasonry began to be accepted into the lodges (93).  Information about lodges grew around Scotland around 1958 and 1959 due to the records written about lodges.

The year 1717 is a significant year in the history of Freemasonry and was when the Craft became a more publicly discernible and acknowledged organization.  By the decision of four London lodges of the Masons, one ‘Grand Lodge’ was created that became the head of all English Lodges.  On June 24, 1717 Anthony Sayer was elected the first Grand Master. In 1721, the title of the lodge became the Premier Grand Lodge of England.  The constitutions of Freemasonry was produced and published by Dr. James Anderson in 1723.  One of his most memorable revolutions in his analysis of the rules and history of Freemasonry was the alteration of the religious prominence of the Brotherhood away from a specific Christian doctrine.  Anderson also “paved the way” for modern Freemasonry’s more universal concept of a worldwide God with the notion that Masons should know ‘that religion in which all men agree’ and by establishing in written form the concept of a ‘Great Architect of the Universe’ which takes from the “inherent iconography of Freemasonry itself and the symbolism of building and design” (102).

Among other revolutionary causes during the eighteenth century, Freemasonry was linked to the Bavarian Illuminati.  The reason for the misinterpreted connection may be credited to the fact that the Illuminati drew a large amount of its members from Freemasonry

(110).  In addition to this, the Illuminati’s structure was similar to Freemasonry.  This structure contained three primary groups that developed in seniority of position.  One distinction between these groups was that the Illuminati did not require a belief in a God or Supreme Being.

Ironically, atheists were drawn to join the Order.  The Illuminati also believed in influencing revolution by ending existing world governments and exchanging them with a new order based on liberty and lenience.  The Order became effectively illegal in 1785 when Karl Theodor, who led the Bavarian government, moved to prohibit any form of secret society.  This ban applied to both the Order and the Illuminati (110).  However, Freemasonry still existed after as 28 of the 40 signers of the Declaration of Independence were either undeniably Masons or probable members of the Brotherhood.  Definite members include George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Blair, John Dickinson, Rufus King, Gunning Bedford Junior, David Brearly, Daniel Carrol and Jacob Broom (115).  More signers of the Constitution became Freemasons later.

In “What Freemasonry Is All About,” the history of Freemasonry as well as the rules and degrees of Freemasonry are explained.  Robert E. Winton writes,

The lessons of the Fraternity are most graphically demonstrated in the conferring of three “Degrees;” Entered Apprentice (the First Degree), Fellowcraft (the Second), and Mastor Mason (the Third Degree).  Receiving “The Third Degree,” has to the world, become synonymous with a police of parental interrogation, though Mason’s deny any similarity (Winterton 412).

Winton adds, “After becoming a Master Mason [third degree mason], a man is free to petition the Scottish Rite or York Rite for membership in either or both of those Orders thus receiving the 32nd Degree or becoming a Knight Templar.”

III.   The Rumors Begin: The History of Freemasonry Controversy

In “Death by Publicity: U.S. Freemasonry and the Public Drama of Secrecy,” Gunn explains that the notion of secrecy is essential to endure a public over time.  In the abstract of the article, Gunn also states, “An examination of the centuries old ritual and symbolism of the fraternity reveals a dynamic relationship between promise making and secrecy that has sustained Masonry for almost 300 years” (Gunn).  The author also explains about misconceptions of Freemasonry, including conspiracy theories. As mentioned before, Gunn explains that Freemasons were considered to have associations with Satan while attempting to establish a “New World Order” (Gunn 245).  In further regards to the rumors of Freemasonry, Gunn writes

The media attention of the past few years has been a mixed blessing for U.S.  Freemasons.  On the one hand, although the renewed exposure in the mass media is mostly positive, this publicity has nevertheless resurfaced many of the myths and conspiratorial fantasies that have plagued the fraternity since its inception (Gunn 245).

In addition to this, Gunn mentions that Hollywood has given Freemasonry negative images and depictions.  This can be credited to preexisting notions of Freemasonry being a “cultural fantasy” as well as being “negative” or “hostile” (Gunn 245).

“The Paranoid Style in American Politics” by Richard Hofstadter delves into the controversy regarding Freemasonry.  Part of the controversy can be attributed to the emergence of the Bavarian Illuminati.  Hofstadter describes the Illuminati as “another version of Enlightenment rationalism, spiced with an anticlerical animus that seems an inevitable response to the reactionary-clerical atmosphere of eighteenth century Bavaria” (Hofstadter 10).  Hofstadter continues by stating that although the order of the Illuminati was destroyed by persecution due to its native territory, its humanitarian rationalism has made a large impact in Masonic lodges.  Because of this, Hofstadter believes that radicals with a conspiratorial mindset found the link between Freemasonry and Illuminati appealing.

Scottish scientist John Robison’s 1797 book on the Illuminati only adds to the controversy of the organization.  Proofs of a Conspiracy Against All the Religions and Governments of Europe, carried on in the Secret Meetings of Free Masons, Illuminati, and Reading Societies includes factual information about the Illuminati but dives into fantasy in reference to the moral character and political influence of the Illuminati.  According to Robinson, active leaders of the French Revolution were members of the supposed “libertine, anti-Christian movement,” which was given to the exploitation of women, the development of sensual pleasures, and the violation of property rights.  Members of this organization also planned to create tea that caused abortions, a secret substance that “blinds or kills when spurted in the face,” and a “method for filling a bed chamber with pestilential vapours” (11).

Along with this was a book in London created by Abbe Barruel that had similar views to Robinson’s.  As one can see, it is apparent as to why the Illuminati had such a large amount of controversy attached to its name.  Similarly, since it was thought that the Illuminati and Freemasonry were linked, one can understand why Freemasonry was thought to be controversial as well.

Freemasonry has been said to have endured the impact of antagonism due to the secrecy of their rituals.  Some said that such rituals were blasphemous and extrajudicial oaths violated the Bible.  Thus, it comes to no surprise that a large portion of the antimasonic movement involved the exposure of such secrets (Griffin 397).

The controversy about Freemasonry further ignited in the late 1820s and 1830s with the anti-Masonic movement.  This movement mainly occurred mainly in parts of the northern United States and was considered altogether agreeable to popular democracy and rural egalitarianism (Hofstadter 14).  It was thought to begin with a significant amount of suspicion of the Masonic order with an underlying feeling against Illuminism.  Another factor that caused this movement was the disappearance of William Morgan in 1826.  This event is the supposed murder of William Morgan, a bricklayer who was a former member of the Batavia lodge.  A rumor was created that Morgan was scheming to publish secret signs, grips, passwords, and rituals of Freemasonry in a book.  Anger from the Masons was fueled and soon put into action.  The man of the printer who promised to distribute the book was attacked and efforts to burn his press were made.  In regards to Morgan, he was incarcerated on a false charge and was kidnapped by a group of Masons.  He was then driven in an enclosed carriage to Rochester and taken to an abandoned fort located on top of Niagara Falls.  It is last said that Morgan was locked in the castle of the fort and never heard from again (Griffin, 398).

Following this disappearance was an epidemic of related accusations against Masons including conspiracies to kidnap or hold those in false imprisonment.  After word of Morgan’s death spread, “indignation meetings” were held in numerous towns in the Genesee country.  Such meetings ignited the first media for Antimasonic speech.  The outcome of these meetings were the Morgan Committees, teams whose mission was to find the facts behind the Morgan incident and report them to the public.  In spring 1872, the pamphlet A Narrative of the Facts…Relating to the Kidnapping and Presumed Murder of William Morgan was published. Thousands of copies were issued in New York and other nearby states.  In a short amount of time, an anti-Masonic party was created in New York and soon became nationwide.  Consequently, not only was the first undertaking of the Antimasonic movement created but the geographical exposure was as well.

Legal investigation of the affair began while the Morgan investigation was still occurring.  In court, additional description of exposure was created. In a five year span, more than forty Morgan trials commenced.  Much of the forensic speaking of the antimasonic movement was caused by these trials.  The phrase “blessed spirit” became the slogan of the movement due to a reigning judge declaring that the anxiety to bring the kidnappers to justice was the indicator of such “spirits” (398).  This gained popularity at the very beginning of trials in January 1827.

Because of the secretive nature of the society, Masonry was thought to be a conspiracy against the republican government.  Others thought it was linked to treason.  For example, Aaron Burr’s conspiracy was believed to be created by Masons.  Masonry was blamed for organizing a “separate system of loyalty, a separate imperium within the framework of American and state governments, inconsistent with loyalty to them” (16).  Conceivably, it was debated that Masons generated their own authority, with their own responsibilities and penalties, including death.  Those in the anti-Masonic movement were intrigued by despicable oaths Masons were believed to take, summoning appalling retaliations against themselves if failing in their Masonic responsibility.  The struggle between secrecy and democracy was thought to be so simple that other innocent societies like Phi Beta Kappa were under attack as well.

It was also believed that the Masonic order abolished enforcement of regular law.  In addition to this, Masonic constables, sheriffs, judges, and others were all in cahoots with Masonic criminals and fugitives.  The press was controlled by Masonic editors and proprietors so news of Masonic malfeasance could remain hidden.  Hence, whenever a scandal such as the Morgan disappearance received little publicity, it was shocking to the public.

Oaths were also considered to have a somewhat mysterious and taboo nature to those of the anti-Masonic movement.  Oaths were thought to be blasphemous because they were deviations of a contract with God as well as divergent to civil order due to the secret patterns of loyalties conflicting with ordinary civil responsibilities.  In fact, at the first national anti-Masonic convention, a committee was in deep discussion for a large amount of time expressing that oaths were insubordinate and could not be viewed as binding promises.  Anti-Masons were also intrigued by the punishment inflicted if Masons failed with their obligations.  Such punishments were violent and of an inventive nature.  If failure with their obligations did occur, the mark master mason had to have his “right ear smote off and my right hand chopped off as an imposter.”  A royal arch mason also had his “right ear smote off, and my brains exposed to the scorching rays of the sun” (18).  A supposed ritual of the Masonic lodge required one to drink wine from human skulls since drinking wine from any other kind of container was considered sinful.

Despite the anti-Masonic movement ending, conspiracy theories about Freemasonry still continued.  The book Conspiracy: How the Paranoid Style Flourishes and Where It Comes From by Daniel Pipes also speaks about the New World Order.  1988 presidential candidate Pat Robertson echoes this belief with two theories (Pipes 8). The first theory Robertson has about New World Order deals with acquiring currency.  The second, however, concerns the Illuminati, Freemasons, and extreme New Age religionists who desire to destabilize the Christian Stable Order.  Robertson foresees the world ruled by “the domination of Lucifer and his followers” that “no human being will be strong enough to contain” (Pipes 9).  Robertson even labels Jimmy Carter and George Bush as “men of goodwill” but men who also brought on “this wretched future” (Pipes 9).

According to Robertson, the New World Order is responsible for the Great Depressions along with numerous recessions.  Countries destroyed supposedly by this order include the Soviet bloc, China, Nicaragua, and several countries in Southeast Asia and Africa.  In 1991, Robertson wrote that recent incidents point to a “giant plan” in which everything is “perfectly on cue” (9).  He writes, “Europe sets the date for its union.  Communism collapses.  A hugely popular war [against Iraq] is fought in the Middle East.  The United Nations is rescued from scorn by an easily swayed public.  A new world order is announced [by George Bush]” (9).

Futuristically speaking, Robertson predicted an overturn of the United States government’s defense and sovereignty to the United Nations due to a financial collapse.  With this, the United Nations will enforce socialist and anti-Christian rules.  Then, a world president with infinite powers will rule humanity, establishing the New World Order (10).

IV.   Paranoid Style and Conspiracy Rhetoric

Richard Hofstadter describes not only the meaning of the expression “paranoid style” in his article but includes example of paranoia throughout the United States.  In regards of how exactly he describes paranoid style, Hofstadter writes, “I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the qualities of   heated  exaggeration,  suspiciousness, and  conspiratorial fantasy  that I have in mind.  In using the expression ‘paranoid style,’   I am not speaking in a clinical sense, but borrowing a clinical term for other purposes” (Hofstadter, 3).  In other words, Hofstadter explains that paranoid style is comprised of elements of things blown out of proportion, conspiracy and apprehensiveness.

Hofstadter continues to say that paranoid style is “pejorative” as well as intentional.  This style also has an attraction to bad causes rather than good ones.  In addition to this, Hofstadter states, “Style has to do with the way in which ideas are believed and advocated rather than with the truth or falsity of their content” (5).  To support his claims, Hofstadter speaks of a bill created after President Kennedy’s death to make federal claims tighter over the sales of firearms through the mail.  One of three men from Arizona protested it, claiming the bill was “a further attempt by a subversive power to make us part of one world socialistic government” and that it threatened to “create chaos” that would help “our enemies” to seize power (5).

In G. Thomas Goodnight and John Poulakos’s essay “Conspiracy Rhetoric: From Pragmatism to Fantasy in Public Discourse,” conspiracy rhetoric as well as examples of conspiracies that occurred in politics is exhibited.  To further explain paranoid style, Goodnight and Poulasko state that with the scandal of Watergate, lesser scandals unfolded involving the CIA, the FBI, the State Department, and even some members of Congress.  Goodnight and Poulasko continue by saying that paranoid style diverged from “ideological extremes to the mainstream of political life” (299).  The essay describes a struggle of conspiracy rhetoric that emerges from two sides of rhetoric. The first side is comprised of those who claim they are cognizant of a conspiracy and the other side who say such claims are “preposterous” as well as “malevolently inspired” (301).

Two reasons for the reinterpretation of conspiracy rhetoric are given. The first is that because the paranoid style can no longer be said to portray only political extremists, a theory of conspiracy discourse must explain for the effectiveness of the appeal to mainstream speakers and audiences.  The second is that since not all conspiracy discourse, even if it is labeled “paranoid,” essentially stays the only concern of few hyper-vigilant enthusiasts.  In regards to discourse, Goodnight states that all discourse outside of small and educated groups riskily indulges fantasy, thus skewing judgment, hides knowledge, and misleads action.  According to Goodnight, Lloyd Bitzer states that discourse is viewed as a response to a situation (301).  Rhetoric is used to find solutions, create knowledge, and construct community and affect change.  According to Bormann, however, with a fantasy perspective, discourse is more imagined and misleading.

Three parts comprise this essay.  The first, titled “The Possibility of Conspiracy,” state that conspiracy awareness starts by following the appearance of a rare event such as an unlawful act, a misfortune, or a noteworthy mistake with important consequences.  An event such as any of these mentioned is interesting because of the representation of human tragedy present or the opposite: a humorous retreat from the normality of public affairs.  Goodnight writes:

“Once the event takes place, rhetoricians move to explain and assimilate it within familiar parameters.  Those charged with the responsibility for the discovery of the causes, the assessment of the blame, and the administration of justice attempt to investigate, describe, and estimate the consequences of the event.  Next, the public is told that the event was random and therefore unlikely to recur, and is assured that appropriate actions have been taken to redress past errors.”

The second section of the essay, “Rhetorical proofs and social reality,” talks about how social reality is defined.  It is stated that social reality is defined by the uses of rhetorical proofs. As Goodnight states, “the question becomes how social reality is to be defined” (306).  He also states that in conspiracy rhetoric, both sides compete to gain the public’s belief.  The questions that defines social reality revolves around the nature of rhetorical proofs: evidence, credibility, and emotional arguments of the accused and the accuser.

In regards to evidence, the more the better.  With more evidence, greater confidence can be placed in the point being made.  Yet, more outlandish evidence will result in fewer audiences who will listen.  For credibility, the more highly regarded sources create more credibility, thus resulting in the probability of persuasion.

The third section of the essay, “Fantasy aspects of conspiracy”, restructures a depiction of the Nixon administration.  Goodnight writes, “Conspirators are portrayed as twisted, abnormal, and brutal, yet clever, human beings” (310).  It is also stated that this very description is alike to the clichéd representation of national enemies in times of war or national purge.  Conspiracy charges against unfamiliar groups have had a substantial influence on national policy.  For instance, the Bavarian Illuminati were charged with undermining religious freedom.

Towards the end of the article, five elements of a “fantasy world” being revealed to the public are given.  The first one is that “The particular motives of the secret group are never fully knowable” (311).  This means that if the source of corruption is clever enough to fool the public, then it can hide the control of the organization, which will protect “real power brokers” from being discovered.

The second element is as follows: “Motives which are uncovered are portrayed as twists or unchecked and unrestrained perversions of human emotions.”  This means that if one is uncertain of a particular act, one can assume that the general intention does not bring any good.  When one describes the idiosyncrasies of influential individuals, one’s imagination is not only stimulated, but two other functions occur.  The first function is that secretive motives are translated into human terms.  For instance, powerful people are shown to be twisted human beings as opposed to being demons with invincible powers.  The second function is that it focuses on the atrociousness of evil.

The third motive, “The language of the in-group is secret, and talk to outsiders is doubletalk” is aroused from xenophobia.  In certain groups like Masons, Illuminati, and the Ku Klux Klan, a secret language is created in order to distinguish the inductee from the outsider.  The language of these groups may arouse curiosity due to the fact that the rites of initiation, secret ceremonies, and powerful symbols all establish an overturn of sacred symbols.  This only increases the concept of non-communicability because of the exclusiveness of the conversations – only initial exchanges make private communication conceivable among members of the society.  Those outside are those who are not aware of the secrets and are thus banned from important information unless they accidentally find out or intrude meetings of such societies.  Additionally, secret languages also distinguish conspirators who assume the responsibility of social respectability.

The fourth motive is that “The loyalty of the in-group is apparently complete and averse to the general interests of the public” (314).  Unlike scapegoating drama where class or national loyalty is linked to family or party origin, loyalty for conspiratorial discourse, particularly in terms of legality and illegality, is determined by one’s choice to live beyond the law.  .  Conspiracy demands unwavering loyalty and if one reveals the conspiracy’s presence, one will be punished.  Becoming completely submissive to leaders of the conspiracy is thought to occur as well.  As Goodnight writes,

Americans tend to believe that youth idealism may be twisted for the purposes of false ideologists by clever persuasion or brain washing.  The person who joins the secret organization, becoming its loyal soldier, is beyond influence.  Communication presumes some room for compromise.  Conspiracy rhetors portray the enemy as unable or unwilling to change.

The last and fifth motive is “The corruption of the conspiracy is widespread” (315).  Members of secret societies may seem like they are beyond influence but in actuality, they can influence others.  Certain conspiracies are said to hand down influence along family lines, thus preserving older, unfamiliar traditions.  Conspiracies are also believe to be preserved by the continuous recruitment of society’s outcasts.

V. How to Analyze the Discourse: The Theories

One of the theories applied to discourse discussing Jay-Z and Freemasonry is Kenneth’s Burke’s theory of dramatism.  This theory is “a method of analysis and a corresponding critique of terminology designed to show that the most direct route to the study of human relation and human motives is via a methodical inquiry into cycles or clusters of terms and their functions” (Burke, A Rhetoric  135).   In other words, dramatism is a method applied to language to exhibit human relations and motives through an analysis of terms and their purposes.

One can infer from these definitions that motive is the key term in dramatism (“the language of motives, motives in language, language as motive”) (133).  Of course, language plays an important role in dramatism as well since one’s motives are found in language.  Nonetheless, it is more complex than it sounds: Burke’s view of motives is not just the person’s individual verbal justification or explanation of his or someone else’s actions.  This instead shows a motive in regards to “language of motives” and “motives in language” (134).  Through this, Burke’s prominence on the cultural and structural bases for specific vocabularies of motive and process where verbal explanation was the appropriate justification for one’s own action or persuasion of other’s actions.

Dramatism is used to discover the human relations and methods through discourse.  This theory is also used for “analyzing human symbolic interaction” (Burgchardt 237).   Further explanation of this can be found in Michael A. Overington’s Kenneth Burke and the Method of Dramatism. As stated in the article,

Burke argues if there is a connotational relation between the terms which symbolize these things [language of motives, motives in language, language as motives], then the embedment of such a connotational relation in the linguistic structures of human mental processes is sufficient to influence people to translate this symbolic relation into action (by providing a sufficient justification, by making sense for them of the projected action) (Overington 134).

An example of such can be found in the word “murder.”  For instance, when one labels an incidence of death as a “murder,” this is to validate (or explain and motivate) the pursuit for the individual who was responsible for “killing.”  In another instance, if one loses or misplaces and item, to label the incident as “theft” insinuates that one needs to search for the thief responsible for the supposed crime.

Hence, one can realize that no matter what occurred, regardless if it was a death or murder, a loss or theft, calling the incident a “murder” or “theft” exhibits terminological relations which inhere that particular meaning of those words.  Since there was a “murder,” a “murderer” exists as well.  A “theft” requires the existence of a “thief.”  Regardless of what the actual act was, the search for a thief or murderer would go into effect, although such an individual may not even exist.  However, because of the terminology used, the search requires those to act.  As Overington writes, “It is not the fact of the act as murder, but the fact of calling it ‘murder’ which leads to the search for an international killer.  Language is itself the motive for the search” (134).  Thus, one can see that the theory of dramatism draws from individual’s language over the actual act of the person.

Also mentioned in Overington’s article is how dramatism address the empirical questions of how persons explain their actions to themselves and others, what the cultural and social structural influences on these explanations might be, and what effect connotational links among the explanatory (motivational) terms might have on these explanations, and hence, on action itself (133).  Stated differently, instead of merely justifying actions of themselves and others, dramatism explores how these explanations are explained and what cultural and social aspects might have influenced these explanations.  Dramatism tries to provide reasons for the motivational (explanatory) language of everyday discourse and its impact of human action and specific sociological language when used to describe human action.  Thus, one can infer from this that explanatory language has an impact on human actions.

The overall category of dramatism is dialectic substance, which treats of human motives in terms of verbal action” (Burke a Grammar 33).  This definition is not intended to restrict human motives to verbal action but instead “the dramatistic analysis of motives has its point of departure in the subject of verbal action (in thought, speech, and document)” (33).  To support this claim, Burke explains that a poem transforms the imagery of its metaphor to permit the readers to view the subject form different viewpoints.  This aids in viewing things in terms of some other (33).

In Burke’s A Grammar of Motives, he states that dramastically considered, “men are not only in nature” (33).  Symbolic communication is not just an external device but essential to men as agents.  Its motivational purposes portray not only the “human situation” but what men are “in themselves” (33).  Dialectic substance, which is dramatism’s over-all category, treats human motives in terms of verbal action.  Dramatistic analysis of motives departs when used verbally (ex. Thought, speech, and document).

Another one of Burke’s theories, “social mystery,” looks at social distinctions of class (ex. Rich and poor, leader and people, etc) (Burke A Rhetoric 115).  Burke says, “Over and above all the qualifications, mystery is equated with class distinctions…perhaps there would be no mystery, or any appreciable resonance, if distinctions of class were abolished” (122).  In other words, “Rhetorically considered, the acceptance of the ‘enigma’ as an element in a symbol’s persuasiveness has led us to note the place of ‘magic’ or ‘mystery’ both as a passive reflection of class culture and as an active way of maintaining cultural cohesion” (174).  Social mystery is essential to maintain not only social class but to maintain cultural unity.

To further reiterate this statement, Burke states that writers and philosophers Thomas Carlyle and Karl Marx specify a presence of “mystifying condition” in social inequality.  As a result, this can bring forth “God-fearing” attitudes towards agents and agencies that are not “divine” (123).  Both of these principles can make one more aware of expressions that both reveal and conceal a characteristic of “consciousness.”  Burke also states that if one were to read Sartor Resartus by Carlyle while thinking of The German Ideology by Marx, both indicate a relationship between mystification and class relationships. This fact is essential rhetorically since rhetorical analysis is placed “on the track of much courtship” that might not be noticed otherwise (123).

In regards to rhetoric and other theorists’ thoughts, Burke says, “Marx and Carlyle, taken together, indicate the presence of a ‘mystifying condition’ in social inequality; and this condition can elicit ‘God-fearing’ attitudes towards agents and agencies that are not ‘divine’” (123).  Social mystery is dependent on social classes and therefore will be nonexistent if such classes were eliminated.  In addition to this, social mystery is dependent on social inequality as well.

An example of social mystery can be seen through Franz Kafka’s, author of The Castle, personal life.  According to Kafka, social mystery occurred through anti-Semitism.  As mentioned in A Rhetoric of Motives by Kenneth Burke, “Where much liberalism prevailed even while the movement towards Nazism was taking form, the Jew’s social status was unsettled” (235).  Through this example, the notion of the insider/outsider is explained.  According to Burke, the person being “hazed,” or receiving the brunt of socially inequality, can only wish to be an insider.  She or he wishes such even while enduring ritual punishments that exhibit their status as an outsider.

Burke compares this to upper classmen inflicting tedious tasks to freshmen, or hierarchic codes for informing new members of fraternities or secret orders.  When such rituals are recognized formally and the “discomfitures” establish “reverence”, the contender knows where he or she is and understands what must be done to be “one” with the mystic substance.  Without formality in the situation, however, the insiders and outsiders do not recognize what is occurring. Burke adds, “Though the candidate is being hazed, neither he nor his persecutors recognize what is going on” (235).

Both these theories are applied to discourse regarding Jay-Z being a supposed Freemason.  The motives of the creators of the discourse are discovered as well as the explanation of social class between Jay-Z and the authors.  Both theories have aided well in the analytical portion of such discourse.

VI. Jay-Z and the Controversy Of Freemasonry: The Analysis

With the rumors and conspiracies created about Freemasonry, it should not come as a surprise that such fabrications are infused in popular culture as well.  Rumors about Freemasonry are pertinent not only to politics but to music artists’ work.  As mentioned before, the rapper Jay-Z is one of the prime examples of such conspiracies due to the discourse created about him.  By using both the theory of dramatism and social mystery, such discourse is analyzed to discover not only the motives behind the creators of the discourse but the distinction of social class as well.

In regards to popular culture, the Youtube channel Sentientmind created a music video analysis of Jay-Z’s music video “On to the Next One” that speaks of such rumors as well analyzes characters featured in the music video (Exposed).  For instance, Sentientmind states that the repeated chant during the beat of the song can be compared to Papa Shango, a witch doctor who put chanting spells on his opponents in the wrestling ring (Exposed).

Sentientmind also points out the constant appearance of the number three, claiming that it represents Jay-Z’s entrance as a Master Mason into the third degree of Freemasonry (Exposed).  The hammer featured in the music video that has blood dripping from it signifies “purity and enlightenment” and also correlates with the third degree of Freemasonry.  Other supposed objects included in the rituals of Freemasonry that appear in the video are blindfolds, the drinking of blood and the symbol of the skull and bones (Exposed).

Sentientmind talks about these descriptions in a way that is almost attacking Jay-Z.  For instance, Sentientmind states that Jay-Z is “boasting” about being a third degree mason and his purity (Sentientmind).  A prime example of this can be seen in the statement that flashes onscreen 6:27 into the video: “To further prove that Jay-Z is using symbols of Freemasonry to boast about his acceptance into the 3rd degree let’s look further.”  At 9:57, it states that Jay-Z is “reinforcing that he is on top of his game” which further proves that Sentientmind thinks he is boastful, or is portraying him that way (Sentientmind).

Sentientmind is saying this in order to expose Jay-Z and his supposed involvement in Freemasonry.  This is tied to social mystery because of the instinct separation Sentientmind makes from Jay-Z.  Since Sentientmind is analyzing Jay Z’s music video, it puts Sentientmind on the “outside” looking at Jay-Z.  Even the title, “Jay-Z ‘On To the Next One’ Music Industry Exposed” suggests that Sentientmind is unveiling something controversial that needs to be revealed to the public.  Sentientmind is thus looking down on Jay-Z.

This is rhetorically significant because it shows the difference between social positions of Sentientmind and Jay-Z. As Burke states, “mystery arises at that point where different kinds of beings are in communication.  In mystery there must be strangeness; but the estranged must also be thought of in some way capable of communication” (Burke, A rhetoric 141). Thus, since Sentientmind and Jay-Z are different types of human beings, mystery arises.  Sentientmind sees Jay-Z as a Freemason and thus “exposes” his secrets.  In doing this, Sentientmind establishes itself as an authoritative figure that has the power to show the real identity of Jay-Z.

The notion of establishing one authoritatively can be found inthe article “Kenneth Burke and the Inherent Characteristics of Formal Organizations: A Field Study” by Phillip K. Tompkins, Jeanne Y. Fisher, Dominic A. Infante and  Elaine L. further delves into social mystery.  Tompkins states that mystery is the “corresponding division” to hierarchy (Tompkins, et al. 136).  Tompkins explains, “That is, as we devise organizations with layers of authority, with long lines of reporting relationships, those ‘up’ become mysterious to ‘down’ and vice versa (130).”  Burke states, “Mysteries arise socially from different modes of life.  The king will be a mystery to the peasant, and vice versa (Burke, The Rhetoric of Religion: Studies in Logology, 308).

Another example of discourse that discusses Jay-Z as a Freemason is found on the Youtube channel Salimumar.  In this video titled “Jay Z Song Lucifer Reverse”, a preacher plays Jay-Z’s song backwards, revealing the message “666, Kill Jesus” (Jay Z Song Lucifer Reverse).  Another source by the name of Vigilant Citizen analyzes Jay-Z’s videos “Run This Town” and “On to the Next One” along with other artists like Rhianna, Kanye West, and Lady Gaga.  In the analysis of “Run This Town,” Vigilant Citizen points out Occult symbolism from Jay-Z’s clothes to hand gestures as well as the use of the color black (Vigilant Citizen).

In the Youtube video “The Jay-Z Deception,” more analysis can be found.  The music video “Run this Town” is analyzed by this source as well.  In the fifth mini video of the series, Theforerunner777 points out that Jay-Z’s phrase on his sweater “Do what thou wilt” was first made famous by Aliester Crowley, “notorious Satanist” (Jay-Z Deception 5). In the fourth mini video of the series, Theforerunner777 also examines the main lyric of the chorus of the song: “We Run this Town.”  This source points out that “town” means also means “city” (ex. “Atown” is slang for Atlanta, which is a city).  The word “we” represents the Egyptian god Osiris-Isis-Horus, the god of the underworld (Jay-Z Deception 4).  The conclusion reached is that the song is about the devil ruling the world for eternity.  To support these claims, Theforerunner777 quotes Freemason Thomas D. Worrel’s essay “Our Ancient Friend and Brother, the Great Pythagoras.”  Worrel writes “In our Masonic adventure we encounter this great historical figure or his work more than once. The first meeting occurs in the Third Degree in the company of the Hieroglyphical Emblems” (Worrel 1).  Theforerunner777 uses this quote to show Egyptian undertones in Freemasonry.  These undertones are also found in the analysis of Jay-Z’s music video, like the aforementioned god Osiris-Isis-Horus.

As one can infer, the motives of Theforerunner777, Salimumar, and Vigilant Citizen all have the same motives as Sentientmind in terms of exposing Jay-Z.  All wish to expose the so-called demonic work Jay-Z is involved in.  This is apparent in the way the supposed symbolism is shown.

An example of this can be seen in Salimumar’s “Jay Z Song Lucifer Reverse.” The preacher who is talking claims that Jay-Z’s music not only contains hidden demonic messages but showcases him as a Christ-like figure (Jay Z Song Lucifer Reverse).  In doing so, the preacher establishes boundaries due to the different social class of him and Jay-Z.  By claiming that Jay-Z is demonic or partakes in such activities, he is labeling Jay-Z and a sinner and himself as a righteous being.  Thus, because the preacher is giving himself power to do so, he is claiming that he has more power and is less sinful than Jay-Z.  Hence, this preacher is looking down on and demeaning Jay-Z.

Both the motive to label Jay-Z as demonic in an attempt to ruin his career and the class distinction is exhibited.  Persuasion is also a factor in both the dramatistic and social mystery aspects of Salimumar’s channel. As Burke says, “Persuasion, thus roundabout, brings a mystery…into the very disciplines that are usually taken to be the opposite of mystification” (178).  Stated differently, the persuasion of the preacher in trying to expose Jay-Z shows not only his motives but his need to persuade, reiterating his power in a social class higher than Jay-Z.

In Theforerunner77 and Vigilant Citizen’s discourse, the motive to expose Jay-Z through his music video “secrets” is once again established.  In terms of social mystery, both channels make Jay-Z a scapegoat, or victim, of scrutiny involving Masonic conspiracy.  This establishes Theforerunner77 and Vigilant Citizen as a higher class than Jay-Z.  As Burke states,

Rhetorical analysis should always be ready to expose mystifications of this simple but ubiquitous sort (mystifications broadly reducible either to ‘unitary’ devices whereby a special group gains unjust advantage from the services of other groups, or to ‘scapegoat’ devices whereby an ‘enemy abroad’ is wholly blamed for untoward conditions due mainly to domestic faults) (178).

Thus, Theforerunner77 and Vigilant Citizen are using Jay-Z as a scapegoat to blame him for corrupting listeners of his music as well as viewers of his music videos.  Because of his “faults” (being a supposed Freemason), he is blamed for not only being demonic or involved in cults, but for encouraging his fans to do so.  This can be seen when both channels point out the supposed Occult symbolism in his videos (ex. The use of the color black, “run this town” translates to the world being run by the devil, etc).

The article “Counterknowledge, Racial Paranoia, and the Cultic Milieu: Decoding Hip-Hop Conspiracy Theory” by Travis L. Gosa further provides examples of hip-hop artists tied into the controversy of Freemasonry.  For instance, Gosa states that Jay-Z, Nas, and Kanye West are members of the Illuminati.  Examples of this theory include supposed Masonic symbolism seen in hip hop, such as the pyramid and “all seeing eye” found on the back of a one-dollar bill (Gosa, 14).  Gosa also exposes the motive of the conspiracy, hence bringing Burke’s theory of dramatism into play. Gosa states,

Through the analysis of rap lyrics, online videos and interactions taking place on the internet, I show how conspiracy appears in the form of ‘counterknowledge,’ a subversive racial reframing of social problems that is also meant to entertain.  The conspiracy theories discussed in this article may be empirically inaccurate, but they are important because they are rooted in an attempt to articulate inequality in an age of supposed colorblindness (Gosa 2).

Additional discussion regarding Masonic symbolism is also provided.  Gosa delves into the controversy revolving around Jay-Z’s music videos “Run This Town” and “On to the Next One” due to the supposed hidden occult symbolism in each.  Jay-Z’s signature hand sign “The Roc” is thought to bear a resemblance to the aforementioned Masonic symbol of the eye and pyramid (Illuminati Archives 2007).

In order to further exemplify more stipulations about Jay-Z, Gosa mentions the DVD Jay-Z: Hip Hop’s Master Mason.  The documentary claims that Jay-Z is a 33rd degree Mason, the highest rank of Freemasonry (Moore 2009).  The video also asserts that Jay-Z’s nickname, “Jay-Hova,” sounds like “Jehova”, a Biblical god (Davis 32).  This is suggesting Jay-Z venerates the anti-Christ.  In another scene, Jay-Z’s song “Lucifer” is played backwards, revealing the phrases “I can introduce you to evil” and “Murder Murder Jesus 666.”

Regarding the motive to the creation of this conspiracy theory, Gosa explains that entertainment plays a large role in applying theories to hip hop: “fans…can ‘connect the dots’ by playing tracks backwards and looking for secret Masonic handshakes in music videos…hip-hop’s use of the secret occult adds an air of mystery and wonder to an otherwise derivative and predicable cultural space” (Gosa 8).  He also states that such theories may be a response to recent complaints that “hip hop is dead” and lacking creativity.

Another motive of this theory is the notion of racial paranoia.  According to Gosa, Freemasonry delivers a “stand-in” for corporate control of black cultural production by whites.  The documentary Hip Hop and Freemasonry: Culture Creation & The Shape of Things to Come echoes this fact by alleging that a top-secret Masonic organization takes control of hip hop.  In order to achieve high record sales and fame, rappers such as Jay-Z must agree to corrupt the minds of black masses.  Gosa further explains that the motive behind the theory of prosperous rappers as puppets of the Illuminati (white power brokers) is to “wake-up and reclaim” hip hop as a device of black empowerment (Gosa 9).

Gosa’s article clearly explains the motives of those creating the discourse: entertainment and racial paranoia.  The latter of the motives is related to paranoid style as well as the third motive of fantasy (The language of the in-group is secret, and talk to outsiders is doubletalk”), which ties into xenophobia.  The theory of dramatism is applicable not only to Gosa’s article but to all examples of dramatism given.  One of the motives of creating such discourse are to promote talk and awareness of Jay-Z and other hip hop artists being Freemasons or part of an Occult society.  This is apparent not only how they display their information (it is displayed in a social media form that can reach a large amount of people in a short amount of time and is easily accessible) but in what they say as a somewhat forewarning to the public.  Another motive for such discourse is to find the motives of Jay-Z. An example of this motive is seen in the conclusion portion of Vigilant Citizen’s “Jay-Z’s ‘Run This Town’ and the Occult Connections.”  The author writes“some questions arise: has Jay-Z sided with the elite to succeed in the corporate world?  Is he used to promote NWO agenda?  Or is this an act to fuel rumors and to add a little “mystique” around his persona? (Vigilant Citizen).”

The reasons for these examples of discourse can possibly be fueled by paranoid style.  As mentioned before, elements of things blown out of proportion, conspiracy and apprehensiveness create paranoid style. Therefore, one could say that this particular discourse was fueled from fear.  Paranoid style is also the use of power for social evil, hence showing a manipulative side to creating this discourse.

Conspiracy rhetoric is also exhibited in this discourse, specifically the three moments that display the struggle.  These moments are displayed in “Conspiracy Rhetoric: From Pragmatism to Fantasy in Public Discourse.”  The first moment is awakening to the probability that conspiracy is accountable for certain events of social problems.  This is evident in Vigilant Citizen’s blogs about Jay-Z as well as Theforerunner77’s videos.  In Vigilant Citizen’s Jay-Z’s “Run This Town” and the Occult Connections, it is stated that “Jay-Z is asking you to ‘Pledge your allegiance’ to the new ruler and to wear black everything to honor him” (Vigilant Citizen).  Theforerunner77 claims that there are people, particularly influential people (Jay-Z being the “most influential rapper”), in the hip hop industry connected to satanic new world order (Jay-Z Deception 1).  Both sources are claiming that Jay-Z is corrupting listeners through his music, thus establishing supposed social problems.  This conspiracy is a “social problem” since a large amount of people are affected and listening to Jay-Z’s music.

The second moment of conspiracy rhetoric is the struggle between opposing parties claiming to be the real explanation of events.  This is evident in the various forms of discourse that state various “facts” about Jay-Z.  The third and last moment of conspiracy rhetoric is the capsizing of an earlier, consensually defined reality.  The various forms of discourse condemning Jay-Z and claiming he is a part of an Occult society is thus deconstructing a new reality and changing what was already known.  Each of these moments represents a stage in the process of redefining certain facets of social reality.  Yet, none of the moments are distinct in time (302).

Although it is not a theory per se, a few of the elements of the aforementioned “fantasy world” are applicable to the examples of discourse exhibited.  One of the elements is the second: “Motives which are uncovered are portrayed as twists or unchecked and unrestrained perversions of human emotions.”  Since the speakers of the discourse are not sure of the so-called acts of the Freemasonry groups, it is assumed that the general intentions of the group are not good.  With this comes the stimulation of one’s imagination that delves into evil.

The third motive of fantasy discourse is “The language of the in-group is secret, and talk to outsiders is doubletalk.”  As previously mentioned, this is caused by xenophobia.  In certain groups like Freemasonry a secret language is created in order to distinguish the inductee from the outsider.  Since those outside the group do not know this language, more curiosity is aroused and thus creates discourse about the secretive group.

VII.      What It All Comes Down to: The Conclusion

Given the history of Freemasonry and of the anti-Masonic movement, it is safe to say that negative connotations have spurred since the origin of the fraternity.  Despite the fact that Masonic conspiracy theories first appeared in the 1300s, new theories have emerged and have been applied to pop culture, especially with hip-hop artists.  The authors’ motives of discourse claiming Jay-Z’s membership in Freemasonry include not only attempting to expose this supposed fact but in cases, attempting to belittle or look down on him.

Since this is a relatively new topic to be examined (at least when pertaining to Jay-Z), I would suggest that further research be done on this topic.  One way to examine this subject matter would be to somehow interview Freemasons on the subject to perhaps gain input.  Another way would be to interview hip hop stars as well.  Interest in this subject is obviously conveyed dye to the fact that other forms of the media have been questioned for Freemasonic themes (ex. The movie National Treasure).

Is Jay-Z a Freemason?  There is no sure way to tell.  Perhaps he is and wants to show his membership through his lyrics and music videos.  Maybe Jay-Z just wants to stir controversy and, like Gosa said, “add an air of mystery and wonder to an otherwise derivative and predicable cultural space” (Gosa 8).  Despite the denial of such rumors with lyrics such as “I’m on my third six but the Devil I’m not,” Shawn Corey Carter, better known as Jay-Z, certainly knows how to get people talking, adding to his appeal (A-Z Lyrics Universe).

Bibliography here.


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