The Petty Tyranny of Social Media Page Owners

[N.B. I originally posted this article on the Society of Southern Gentlemen blog. I don’t plan to maintain that site, so I am merging all the posts there onto this site, but keeping the original timestamps.]

One of the open secrets of social media, especially groups or pages on social media platforms, is that whoever creates a page becomes the petty1dictator of that particular piece of virtual estate. They are fief holders in a greater online empire. This applies for websites as well, but usually with a website, there is a clearer indication of who the particular owner is (the founder of this site, should it be unclear, is Jeremy Blevins, although he [I] would love to have it become what it was envisioned to be) [N.B. Thanks to the Wayback Machine, there is an copy of this page]. Nonetheless, the petty dictator of a particular web presence can either be benevolent, neutral, or malignant.

Such is the case of a particular Facebook page earlier this week. A discussion was started as to creating a lapel pin for the pseudo organization and one of the members of the page (in full disclosure: me) submitted a graphic for consideration for the purpose. The owner of the page, whom I had collaborated shared with when he was setting up the page, took umbrage with my claim to the graphic, which was in no way unique, given it was based on traditional elements, and I was “called out” to give credit where credit was due, the other fellow being of the impression that he’d created the particular graphic. I posted proof I’d created it a couple years prior the page being set up, and awaited the fellow to realize his mistake and issue an apology, as surely a gentleman would. I suppose I will be waiting until eternity because injudiciously and without notification, I was kicked out of the group. Another gentleman who was a member of the group engaged the fellow in discussion on a different issue, and when the fellow was unhappy with the course of that dialog, he kicked that gentleman out of the group as well (this I cannot provide a first-hand account of, as I had already been kicked out of the group, but the other expelled gentleman shared the story). I have to be honest, were it a real organization with real people who met in person, I might take greater offense to my integrity being called into question, but it goes to prove a greater point: the relative security and lack of recourse provided by online forums exposes dictatorial tendencies, which I believe are more natural to human nature than forced and artificial egalitarian and democratic ideals.

To elucidate the point: the fellow who created the page didn’t like that I’d countered his challenge to my integrity, so he deleted me from the group like I didn’t exist. That is how dictators react. Dissidents through the world, and especially in countries like North Korea, to cite a modern example, are silenced when they speak out against the dictator.  Only a benevolent dictator allows dissidents to speak, and unless that dictator is well regarded (and strong), such speech poses a great threat to the authority of the dictatorship. I’m not insinuating the fellow with the Facebook page is a bad guy, I really don’t know him well enough to make such a claim. I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt. The fact remains, however, that by deleting me from the group, he has asserted dictatorial control over the message. He could still be accusing me of “stealing” the paltry little graphic, and I have no recourse to defend my good name.

So the moral of the story is this: don’t give too much credence to online communities (this one included). If you really want to associate with likeminded individuals, find a way to meet in person and share a human experience. Online forums are great, but they make us lazy and give us a feeling that we are more powerful than we truly are. Don’t hide behind a keyboard, be willing to stand up and be accountable in the real world with real men.

1In the medieval sense, i.e. “Of lesser importance or rank; subordinate: a petty prince.” (The Free Dictionary)

Nothing New Under the Sun

[N.B. I originally posted this article on the Society of Southern Gentlemen blog. I don’t plan to maintain that site, so I am merging all the posts there onto this site, but keeping the original timestamps.]

That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which it may be said, “See, this is new”? It has already been in ancient times before us. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come by those who will come after.

Ecclesiastes 1:9-11 (ASV)

We’re often told how irrelevant the Bible is in modern times, and while I hold the Bible to be truth, I think there are threads that run through it that are common to all mankind. The Founding Fathers referred to those threads as Natural Law. I hold firmly to the fact that there is an Intelligent Designer of the Universe, who is known imperfectly by various names throughout the history of humanity, such as EL, Brahma, Ahura Mazda, the Great Architect of the Universe, and so forth. I’m not advocating that all faiths lead to Heaven, just that there are hints of truth in some of their early teachings. I’m off on a tangent, but I say all this to lead into an interesting article published in the MIT Technology Review.The text begins thus:

Back in 1995, Kurt Vonnegut gave a lecture in which he described his theory about the shapes of stories. In the process, he plotted several examples on a blackboard. “There is no reason why the simple shapes of stories can’t be fed into computers,” he said. “They are beautiful shapes.” The video is available on YouTube.

Vonnegut was representing in graphical form an idea that writers have explored for centuries—that stories follow emotional arcs, that these arcs can have different shapes, and that some shapes are better suited to storytelling than others.

Vonnegut mapped out several arcs in his lecture. These include the simple arc encapsulating “man falls into hole, man gets out of hole” and the more complex one of “boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl.”

Vonnegut is not alone in attempting to categorize stories into types, although he was probably the first to do it in graphical form. Aristotle was at it over 2,000 years before him, and many others have followed in his footsteps.

However, there is little agreement on the number of different emotional arcs that arise in stories or their shape. Estimates vary from three basic patterns to more than 30. But there is little in the way of scientific evidence to favor one number over another.

Today, that changes thanks to the work of Andrew Reagan at the Computational Story Lab at the University of Vermont in Burlington and a few pals. These guys have used sentiment analysis to map the emotional arcs of over 1,700 stories and then used data-mining techniques to reveal the most common arcs. “We find a set of six core trajectories which form the building blocks of complex narratives,” they say.

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601848/data-mining-reveals-the-six-basic-emotional-arcs-of-storytelling/?utm_campaign=add_this&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=post

As many of us who’ve watched movies in the last couple decades can attest, this seems like a pretty reasonable statement. We can recognize this. It is formulaic.

Also, there are examples of lost technology that is more advanced than anything that we had up until the past 100 years. A perfect and recent example of this is the Antikythera Mechanism:

More than a hundred years ago an extraordinary mechanism was found by sponge divers at the bottom of the sea near the island of Antikythera. It astonished the whole international community of experts on the ancient world. Was it an astrolabe? Was it an orrery or an astronomical clock? Or something else?

For decades, scientific investigation failed to yield much light and relied more on imagination than the facts. However research over the last half century has begun to reveal its secrets. The machine dates from around the end of the 2nd century B.C. and is the most sophisticated mechanism known from the ancient world. Nothing as complex is known for the next thousand years. The Antikythera Mechanism is now understood to be dedicated to astronomical phenomena and operates as a complex mechanical “computer” which tracks the cycles of the Solar System.

http://antikythera-mechanism.gr/project/overview

To give an idea of how complex this machine was, take a look at this video:

My point is this: it has taken us quantum leaps in scientific advances to recognize we’re not as much smarter than our ancestors than we believe we are. For those of us who allow ourselves a modicum of humility (which I am often accused of not having), we understand from Ecclesiastes (written thousands of years ago) that there is “nothing new under the sun”. No, Solomon didn’t have a rocket ship to Mars, our ancestors were as intelligent as we are, they just didn’t have the sum of technology to build upon that we do… or did they, and we just haven’t found record of it yet?

Sovereign Magistral Order of the Temple of Solomon

Sometime back I wrote about the curious case of the king of Mann, and it has been brought to my attention that “prince David, king of Mann, is involved with another quasi-monarchic entity. Apparently now there also exists the Sovereign Magistral Order of the Temple of Solomon, which claims to be the true, for real, honest to goodness, continuation of the Knights Templar. This is not be be confused with the Masonic Grand Encampment of the Knights Templar, nor the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem, nor the Knights Templar GCKT International, nor any other number of “Templar” organizations either claiming to be the true continuation of the Knights Templar or just ascribing to the goals of the original. None of these organizations, to my knowledge are backed by a true monarchic fount of honor, whether current or of the deposed ruling family of a current republic.

So what of the Sovereign Magistral Order of the Temple of Solomon? Their website claims:

  • Judiciary recognition as a nation-state subject of international law
  • Full ecclesiastical authority in its own right
  • Recognized and in full communion with the original Holy See of Antioch
  • Recognized through official United Nations (UN) non-governmental organization (NGO) registrations

I’ll attempt to dissect these claims as best I can.

Judiciary recognition as a nation-state subject of international law

I am no scholar in International Law, so let’s take a look and see who recognizes the Sovereign Magistral Order of the Temple of Solomon as a nation-state:

What I can conclude is that those who make up the Sovereign Magistral Order of the Temple of Solomon are subjects of nation-states, in whatever nation-state their particular citizenship lies (Americans aren’t subjects of any earthly ruler… I know, I know), and thus subject to International Law, and the Judiciary of whatever country they are citizens of surely recognizes this.

Full ecclesiastical authority in its own right

And what self-created religious entity doesn’t, especially one based in a free nation???

Recognized and in full communion with the original Holy See of Antioch

This one takes a little more effort. If you read down on the Order’s website, it claims:

(5) From 1131 AD, the Holy See of Antioch as a Protectorate was vested in the dynastic royal line of King Fulk of Jerusalem (one of the 9 founding Knights Templar), which was directly conveyed by King Fulk to the Grand Mastery in 1131 AD, and reverted back to the King Fulk line with the persecution of the Knights Templar in 1307 AD;

(6) In 2014 AD, the Holy See of Antioch was reconnected with its original Royal Protection under the Kingdom of Mann, and reconstituted by a historic Protocol of Restoration, written and facilitated by the Templar Grand Master.

King Fulk died in 1143 AD, buried in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, evidencing his central historic importance to the Knights Templar. He was succeeded by his son from Melesinde (daughter of Baldwin II), King Baldwin III of Jerusalem (1130-1163), leading to a line of Kings of Jerusalem which ended with King Henry II of Cyprus, who was only the “titular” King of Jerusalem, with that merely honourary title being extinguished upon his death in 1291 AD.

The full dynastic Fons Honourum authority of the Kings of Jerusalem (higher than the mere “titular” honor that was extinguished) had therefore reverted to the other royal line from King Fulk’s first wife (Ermengarde of Maine, who died 1126). Fulk was succeeded by Count Geoffrey V of Anjou (1113-1151), the father of King Henry II of England (1133-1189), then King Richard the Lionheart (1157-1199), then Kings Henry III (1207-1272), Edward I (1239-1307), Edward II (1284-1327), Edward III (1312-1377), and seven generations later Prince George Stanley (1460-1503).

That surviving line then continued to the modern Royal Protector of the Templar Order, King David of Mann (in 2007), who worked with the Knights Templar to restore the Principality of Antioch as a Protectorate of the Order (in 2013), and the Holy See as a Protectorate of the Kingdom (in 2014).

In September 2014, the Order of the Temple of Solomon facilitated and implemented the “Protocol of Restoration of the Holy See of Antioch”, which was drafted and negotiated by the Templar Grand Master Prince Matthew of Thebes, with Cardinal Doctor Khern S. Oliver.

In this historic move accomplished by the Protocol of Restoration, the Independent Rite of Catholic Churches, representing the Old Catholic Church movement, was merged into the Holy See of Antioch as a historical institution. That merger fully reconstituted the Patriarchate of Antioch, re-vesting in it an accumulated 66 classical lines of Apostolic Succession by Canonical “laying on of hands”.

Thus, the Holy See of Antioch of the Apostolic Old Catholic Church was officially and legally restored as a sovereign historical institution under Canon law.

So… This has nothing to do with any existing churches actually in Antioch, such as:

Thus, this recognition appears to be of itself by itself.

Recognized through official United Nations (UN) non-governmental organization (NGO) registrations

My best guess is this claim comes from the organization’s “head of state” prince Matthew of Thebes being “an authoritative academic, leading historian and archaeologist for United Nations NGO organizations“, but I can’t find any references to which NGO registrations accomplishes such recognition.

So is it a Nation-State?

Not according to UNESCO. To be a nation-state, you really have to occupy a physical space, not just have a web presence. You can’t just be an online community that may perchance actually have its membership meet somewhere from time to time. In my opinion, Sovereign Magistral Order of the Temple of Solomon is no more a legitimate entity than one of the kingdoms that constitute the Society for Creative Anachronism.

What of its Knighthood and Titles of Nobility?

Yes, what of it? I have a strong suspicion no one outside of this or some other pretend nation would acknowledge it. One would as likely recognize The Count from Sesame Street or Count Chockula as nobility as one bearing a title from Sovereign Magistral Order of the Temple of Solomon. One might as well become a Scottish Laird. At least that country is real.

Parting Thoughts

Were it not for the seriousness of the matter, I would just shrug off the Sovereign Magistral Order of the Temple of Solomon as another online roleplaying exercise that spills over into real life. One of the things that concerns me is the name dropping the Sovereign Magistral Order of the Temple of Solomon engages in, without specific reference to whom they are referring. That to me smacks of a lack of credibility.

However, there is money involved and some people, through lack of knowledge or scruples, might be taken in by the notion of becoming a noble. I think that’s part of the draw of Downton Abbey. We all have this yearning to be one of the “Betters”, of the Upper Class. With the advent of the Internet, this is made readily available for anyone with a some spare change to drop on a meaningless certificate. I’m afraid to takes more than a certificate stating nobility to make it so.

Likewise, it takes more than a website to make a nation-state. On the bright side, I believe Bir Tawil is still looking for some inhabitants. I’m sure Egypt and the Sudan would welcome a pretend online crusader state in-between them.

My comments on Armed Forces Week

There’s nothing to stoke the ego quite like being interviewed for television. At an American Legion district meeting yesterday afternoon, I was asked to provide some comments for a reporter with one of the local television statements. I didn’t get to see the segment that was broadcast, but I was quoted online as saying:

Veteran Jeremy Blevins says, “I think its wonderful to see the City of Huntsville and the Tennessee Valley in general do for the veterans community and its active duty service members.”

 

Blevins does say while many attractions use this week to provide retired and active duty military free admission, that’s now what they look forward to when they choose to risk their lives for their country.

 

“Veterans are never asking for a handout, we always, we’d like to be recognized for our service to our country, but we didn’t serve our country to be recognized.” (Source: WAAY TV)

There’s nothing like stumbling through an interview that you haven’t prepared for. With my role in the Legion over the past couple years, I’ve had a couple opportunities to be in front of the camera, and the introvert inside me cringes every time it happens. I hope for the benefit of everyone who has to sit through watching me that I get better.

Imagine my surprise when another ABC affiliate in Florida posted the article to its website. Given that my commentary has now escaped the Tennessee Valley, I wish I hadn’t stumbled over the wording.

 

You’ve made it when Wikipedia links to you

I was browsing the stats for this site recently and I noticed a link coming from Wikipedia. To my surprise, an early American pioneer, William Blevins, was mentioned on the Long hunter entry. And in an even greater surprise, my comments on this William Blevins are listed as further reading on the topic. And on top of that, the link to my site was inserted over a year ago.

I did notice there is no actual page on Wikipedia for this William Blevins, so I’ll endeavor to create one in the near future.

The Dangers of DNA Testing

All my life I’ve been told I have Cherokee ancestry through my Knighten forebears. There are even a few interesting legends about how John L. Knighten escaped the Removal (a decade before he was born) and of family members visiting from the Cherokee “reservation”. I’ve even comments on them some (here). I’ve even commented on a possible connection to President Obama, who is purported to have descended from the first African slave in America though his mother’s line (here). I’m a natural skeptic, and though I wanted to believe my family stories, I wanted to substantiate the claims. Enter Ancesty.com’s AncestryDNA test. I spit in the cup, mailed it in, and impatiently awaited the results. And today, I received them.

Sadly, based on this DNA test, I can’t substantiate a claim to be anything other than a plain old white guy. I always thought I was a distantly-multiracial mutt, but I’m just a vanilla cracker. Here is what I learned from my results, based on Ancestry.com’s categorizations:

  • Europe West – 53%
  • Scandinavia – 13%
  • Ireland – 12%
  • Great Brittain – 11%
  • Iberian Peninsula – 7%
  • European Jewish –  <1%
  • Finland/ Northwest Russia – <1%
  • Caucasus – 2%

So based on my rank amateur genealogical research, I would have expected the Irish and British results, and I’ve even seen some information that is consistent with the Scandinavian blood. Having a couple of Scottish lines in my family could explain that, and possibly the Iberian markers, given the ancient migration of the Scots (and Irish) from the Iberian Peninsula. But over half of the genetic markers coming from continental Europe? That surprised me more than having trace European Jewish and Rus markers!

So my whole family legendarium is crushed. Not even trace amounts of Native American nor African genetics. I don’t even know how to broach the topic with my family now. I’ll stand as a heretic in their eyes. That Cherokee legend is so ingrained. I’ve had my suspicions over the past couple years, but like Santa Claus, I wanted the stories to be true. Maybe I’ll buy DNA tests for some of my aunts and uncles to see if they get different results. Is this the trap that Ancestry.com hoped to ensnare me in?

Are you from Dixie

I’ve been feeling some Southern nostalgia for the past couple weeks, and one of my favorite all-time, any-genre musicians is Jerry Reed. Mind you, I’m  not a diehard Country Music fan, but I go on Jerry Reed binges. I had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Reed at the Morgan County Fair several years back, to give a date to the performance, he was promoting his role as Coach Red Beaulieu in The Waterboy, which was about to hit the theaters. I have a hard time picking a favorite Jerry Reed song, with Amos Moses being pretty high up there, but today I want to talk about Are you from Dixie (‘Cause I’m from Dixie too).

One thing I didn’t know until I wanted to write this post about is just how old that song is. According to the greatest source of information on Earth, the song was written in 1915 by Jack Yellen and George Cobb. Here is one of the earliest recordings of the song:

I had no idea the song was almost one hundred years old. There have been several artists who’ve recorded a version of it over the years, but in my biased opinion, Jerry Reed’s rendition is still the best.