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5 secret societies purported to be Illuminati fronts

Elite organizations tend to get conspiracy theorists going.

  • More than a few powerful men throughout world history have been part of the Freemasons and elite Skull and Bones society.
  • Organizations such as the Bilderberg Group and Trilateral Commission foster international cooperation, but stir discontent with the conspiratorial-minded populace.
  • Famous leaders and executives have routinely engaged with these groups, fueling only more intrigue over the years.

Leave it to the conspiracists to leave no stone unturned when it comes to the rich, powerful, and global elite. According to some conspiracy theorists, the Illuminati, New World Order or extraterrestrial satanic Zionist cabal — or what have you — has many international organizational fronts to further their conquest of the world and your mind.

Most of these absurd conspiracies sound like fodder for some hack superhero film plot. You can really only pity them, after all the Illuminati conspiracy started from a humble satirical book. Though, the existence of such organizations can't be entirely ruled out — people in power may very well scheme to stay in power.

This said, the following are the few organizations and secret societies that are supposedly involved in the shady dealings of the world's elite coterie. Some of their origins are shrouded in mystery or intrigue. Many famous leaders have cavorted around in their secret halls. For the most part, they're also not open to the public and have had a hand in major world historical decisions throughout the years.

Freemasons

Mural of George Washington in Masonic National Memorial Hall — Allyn Cox. Creative Commons Wikimedia

The Freemasons encompass one of the largest secret fraternal organizations worldwide. Spread through the conquest and advancement of the British Empire throughout the last few centuries, Freemasonry remains popular in countries that were once under British rule. Estimates of membership in this group number anywhere from 2–6 million. Anyone is allowed to join. If you're an American, you've most likely passed a Freemason lodge in your town or even went to some kind of local event there.

Freemasonry evolved from the guild culture that was flourishing during the Middle ages. As the name implies, it was originally for stonemasons and church builders. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the Masons began to take on a more religious and ritualistic role in their organization. It became a place for men to meet, philosophize, and deal with political issues. The first Grand Lodge opened up in England 1717.

There are numerous independent lodges around the world with millions of members. There is no controlling governance from a central lodge. While men like George Washington were Masons and held political sway back in the day, it's unlikely that the local boy scouts troop leader camped out in the lodge basement is involved with any elite plot of world domination.

The Bohemian Club

There are very few public comments about the the Bohemian Club from its many members. Mostly old Republicans and other conservative men. The existence of the club and its members is no secret. Every Republican president since Herbert Hoover has either been a member or visited the summer camp — the Bohemian Grove. It was said that in 1942, J. Robert Oppenheimer who headed the Manhattan Project, led a meeting in one of the clubhouses just a few years before the atomic bomb was set off over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The Bohemian Club was founded in 1872 and, in its earlier days, had more of a liberal and artistic flair to it back then. Mark Twain and Jack London were members. Over the years it's turned into what we know commonly know it as — a gathering where rich conservative men can let loose and put on bad theater… Supposedly, a number of low-level employees of the summer camp gave their experiences on the innocuous and somewhat boring retreat for the rich and powerful.

Oscar Wilde, who once visited the camp, snarkily remarked: "I never saw so many well-dressed, well-fed, business-looking Bohemians in my life."

Bilderberg Group 

Purported to be a wing of the shadowy world government, the Bilderberg Group is a secretive gathering where the elites of the world go to discuss a wider range of topics. An annual conference, the Bilderberg group was created in 1954 by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. The goal was to create a better connection between Europe and North America.

Big tech CEOs, heads of state and other powerful people of the world are routinely invited to the yearly conference.

Though members of the media are allegedly also invited, the inner dealings of the Bilderberg conference are largely private. This said, not much has been reported on their discussions in detail — including who said what. Though it seems little leaves the rooms of these conferences, we can get an idea of topics they discuss from their public agenda. For instance, the group's members purportedly talked about populism in Europe, Russia, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and the future of work, among other things, at last year's conference.

Bilderberg abides by the Chatham House Rule, which means that anyone attending the meeting can talk about the information gained there, but cannot disclose who said it. Aside from the usual run of the mill conspiracies, there have been some valid academic critiques of this kind of organization.

Skull and Bones

Yale University Secret Society Skull and Bones Tomb. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

This not-so-secret secret society goes a few levels deep in the elite cadre of the ruling plutocracy. First, it's only open up to undergraduates of Yale University. And it's only open to the best in class. . . or to those with an established tie to the group. Nepotism.

Founded in 1832, the Skull and Bones selects 15 members of the junior class to join. Once accepted, members are called "Bonesmen."

The late President George H.W. Bush and his son George W. Bush were members, as well as John Kerry and a number of other highly connected and powerful alumni. Of course this has led to the reputation of the Skull and Bones being part of the Illuminati conspiracy. Some people believe that the Skull and Bones controls the CIA and others think it has some kind of connection to the Kennedy assassinations.

The club was also immortalized by F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1925 when some of his rich East Coast characters were described as belonging to the highly selective group.

Adding to the intrigue, Skull and Bones members meet in a crypt-like building called the Tomb. The number "322" is part of their insignia and is said to represent the year 322 BCE, when Athens lost the Lamian War and their democracy was destroyed.

Trilateral commission

The Trilateral commission was created by every conspiracist favorite scapegoat — David Rockefeller. Conspiracy theorists often lump this group together with the United Nations, Bilderberg Conference, and the aforementioned hoax — the Illuminati. These fronts or wings of the super conspiracy all help guide along the world controlled by a couple of elites.

Founded in 1973, David Rockefeller's initiative was to confront the challenges that grew from the new dependence on foreign allies that included the likes of Canada, Japan and Western Europe. Similar to the Bilderberg Group, the goal was to encourage greater international cooperation.

There are three regional chairs for Europe, North America, and the Asia-Pacific region. Meetings are held throughout the year, with regional headquarters in Paris, Washington, D.C., and Tokyo. Its members includes influential statesmen, politicians, business executives, and intellectuals. Membership is, as you'd expect, by invite only.

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Maps show how CNN lost America to Fox News

Is this proof of a dramatic shift?

Strange Maps
  • Map details dramatic shift from CNN to Fox News over 10-year period
  • Does it show the triumph of "fake news" — or, rather, its defeat?
  • A closer look at the map's legend allows for more complex analyses

Dramatic and misleading

Image: Reddit / SICResearch

The situation today: CNN pushed back to the edges of the country.

Over the course of no more than a decade, America has radically switched favorites when it comes to cable news networks. As this sequence of maps showing TMAs (Television Market Areas) suggests, CNN is out, Fox News is in.

The maps are certainly dramatic, but also a bit misleading. They nevertheless provide some insight into the state of journalism and the public's attitudes toward the press in the US.

Let's zoom in:

  • It's 2008, on the eve of the Obama Era. CNN (blue) dominates the cable news landscape across America. Fox News (red) is an upstart (°1996) with a few regional bastions in the South.
  • By 2010, Fox News has broken out of its southern heartland, colonizing markets in the Midwest and the Northwest — and even northern Maine and southern Alaska.
  • Two years later, Fox News has lost those two outliers, but has filled up in the middle: it now boasts two large, contiguous blocks in the southeast and northwest, almost touching.
  • In 2014, Fox News seems past its prime. The northwestern block has shrunk, the southeastern one has fragmented.
  • Energised by Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, Fox News is back with a vengeance. Not only have Maine and Alaska gone from entirely blue to entirely red, so has most of the rest of the U.S. Fox News has plugged the Nebraska Gap: it's no longer possible to walk from coast to coast across CNN territory.
  • By 2018, the fortunes from a decade earlier have almost reversed. Fox News rules the roost. CNN clings on to the Pacific Coast, New Mexico, Minnesota and parts of the Northeast — plus a smattering of metropolitan areas in the South and Midwest.

"Frightening map"

Image source: Reddit / SICResearch

This sequence of maps, showing America turning from blue to red, elicited strong reactions on the Reddit forum where it was published last week. For some, the takeover by Fox News illustrates the demise of all that's good and fair about news journalism. Among the comments?

  • "The end is near."
  • "The idiocracy grows."
  • "(It's) like a spreading disease."
  • "One of the more frightening maps I've seen."
For others, the maps are less about the rise of Fox News, and more about CNN's self-inflicted downward spiral:
  • "LOL that's what happens when you're fake news!"
  • "CNN went down the toilet on quality."
  • "A Minecraft YouTuber could beat CNN's numbers."
  • "CNN has become more like a high-school production of a news show."

Not a few find fault with both channels, even if not always to the same degree:

  • "That anybody considers either of those networks good news sources is troubling."
  • "Both leave you understanding less rather than more."
  • "This is what happens when you spout bullsh-- for two years straight. People find an alternative — even if it's just different bullsh--."
  • "CNN is sh-- but it's nowhere close to the outright bullsh-- and baseless propaganda Fox News spews."

"Old people learning to Google"

Image: Google Trends

CNN vs. Fox News search terms (200!-2018)

But what do the maps actually show? Created by SICResearch, they do show a huge evolution, but not of both cable news networks' audience size (i.e. Nielsen ratings). The dramatic shift is one in Google search trends. In other words, it shows how often people type in "CNN" or "Fox News" when surfing the web. And that does not necessarily reflect the relative popularity of both networks. As some commenters suggest:

  • "I can't remember the last time that I've searched for a news channel on Google. Is it really that difficult for people to type 'cnn.com'?"
  • "More than anything else, these maps show smart phone proliferation (among older people) more than anything else."
  • "This is a map of how old people and rural areas have learned to use Google in the last decade."
  • "This is basically a map of people who don't understand how the internet works, and it's no surprise that it leans conservative."

A visual image as strong as this map sequence looks designed to elicit a vehement response — and its lack of context offers viewers little new information to challenge their preconceptions. Like the news itself, cartography pretends to be objective, but always has an agenda of its own, even if just by the selection of its topics.

The trick is not to despair of maps (or news) but to get a good sense of the parameters that are in play. And, as is often the case (with both maps and news), what's left out is at least as significant as what's actually shown.

One important point: while Fox News is the sole major purveyor of news and opinion with a conservative/right-wing slant, CNN has more competition in the center/left part of the spectrum, notably from MSNBC.

Another: the average age of cable news viewers — whether they watch CNN or Fox News — is in the mid-60s. As a result of a shift in generational habits, TV viewing is down across the board. Younger people are more comfortable with a "cafeteria" approach to their news menu, selecting alternative and online sources for their information.

It should also be noted, however, that Fox News, according to Harvard's Nieman Lab, dominates Facebook when it comes to engagement among news outlets.

CNN, Fox and MSNBC

Image: Google Trends

CNN vs. Fox (without the 'News'; may include searches for actual foxes). See MSNBC (in yellow) for comparison

For the record, here are the Nielsen ratings for average daily viewer total for the three main cable news networks, for 2018 (compared to 2017):

  • Fox News: 1,425,000 (-5%)
  • MSNBC: 994,000 (+12%)
  • CNN: 706,000 (-9%)

And according to this recent overview, the top 50 of the most popular websites in the U.S. includes cnn.com in 28th place, and foxnews.com in... 27th place.

The top 5, in descending order, consists of google.com, youtube.com, facebook.com, amazon.com and yahoo.com — the latter being the highest-placed website in the News and Media category.
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