Facebook doesn’t care about your community: why local newspapers still matter

If you live in a small town like I do, Facebook may be the de facto source of information for everything that’s going on. It’s how you see what’s happening at your kids’ schools. It’s how you learn about community events. It’s how you stalk friends and family to satisfy morbid curiosity. I mean, if you really cared, you’d call text or call them, or heaven forbid, actually visit with them in person. We think that Facebook is a valuable resource in the affairs of the community.

Have you stopped to really think about how Facebook gets all that information? It’s not because it is generating valuable content by sending reporters into your community. It’s because well intentioned folks like us feed the beast with all the things that we care about and the algorithms regurgitate that content back at us based on our browsing habits, whether on the Facebook platform itself, or other websites, apps, and so-forth, that share your data with Facebook.

Think about this: Facebook lets you use its services for free because you are the product. They make their money from selling ads that you see based on your interests. They’ve been building this profile on your for quite some time, not only from what you do on their platforms, but also data from other websites that is shared/sold to Facebook. This is why you get ads for things you’ve never looked for on Facebook while you’re using Facebook. All this information about you and your habits gets aggregated into a massive profile. Facebook, Google, and the other large social media companies know you better than your family does. They know the vices and predilections that you try to hide from everyone else but give away free to them.

[I]t makes billions via digital advertising, as Facebook has something that companies really want – access to billions of people around the globe who might buy their products or services. In fact, so many companies advertise on Facebook that in 2017, Facebook earned $39.9 billion from advertising revenue. All in all, the company earns about 85% of its money from advertising.

(O’Connell, 2018)

Let’s not just beat up on Facebook for a moment; let’s talk about those third parties who share data with it. How do they know which refrigerator it was that you were looking at at the store the other day? Maybe you stopped too long in front of it and that data was shared with Facebook? CIO Magazine published an article that explains how that can occur all the way back in 2013. Titled 5 Ways to Track In-Store Customer Behavior, it lists them as: (1) Wi-Fi Fingerprinting: Track Strength of a Signal, (2) MEMS: Create a Heat Map of Customer Activity, (3) LED Lighting: Use Frequency Emissions to Determine Customer Location, (4) Bluetooth 4.0: Use Smartphone Signals to Send Deals to Customers, and (5) Loyalty Programs: Track What Customers Buy (Brandon, 2013). That last one is a particular stab in the back, but its simple quid pro quo: in exchange for deals, the business gets to know your spending habits. When you aggregate that data together (I’ve said aggregate quite a few times already; there’s a reason) with data from other vendors, Facebook and others get that really clear picture of who you are and what you like.

As a Christian, I don’t have a problem with an omnipotent, all-seeing God knowing everything about me, because He is just. I do have a problem with companies like Facebook who are running in god-mode seeing all we do online (and in the real world) and aggregating that data for their own purposes. Herein lies the problem of modern, information-based technologies: they are neither good nor evil, but the humans involved in the process may indeed be evil. We’d never know, because they are like the great and powerful Oz: hiding behind a veil pulling the levers to make the machines work. We know from law enforcement, that “anything you say can and will be used against you…”, so think about this: how will what you’ve said, searched, or visited be used against you? You’ve given it away freely and probably didn’t even read the terms and conditions of how it can be used.

I could go on and on with other examples, but I hope you are getting the point. You are the product, and anything that Facebook does, or allows you to do, on its platforms is in furtherance of generating revenue. It’s what a business does. So without animosity, I restate my original point: Facebook, as a business and an amalgamation of machines, coders, and artificial intelligence, doesn’t care about your community. Facebook will continue to exist if nothing whatsoever is posted about you or your community.

Here’s another headline that should open your eyes: FTC investigates whether ISPs sell your browsing history and location data.

The Federal Trade Commission is investigating the privacy practices of major Internet service providers, and it has ordered top ISPs to disclose whether they share user Web browsing histories, device location information, and other sensitive data with third parties. ISPs also have to provide details on how they collect and use personal information to target advertisements at consumers.

(Brodkin, 2019)

Before I move on to the second-half of what I’d like to impart, I want to share a faint glimmer of hope. Facebook does provide a tool that allows you to see what information they have on you, and provides a way to turn it off. You can find out more about how to do that here.

Now that I’ve shown you some of the ways that Facebook and other platforms are tracking you, and not for your benefit, I’m sure you’re going to immediately delete your Facebook account and take control of all your personal data. Who’s with me? Bueller??? Bueller??? Bueller???

We’ve become so addicted to immediate access to information, we find it hard to walk away from it. Our brains have been re-wired for instant gratification in all aspects of life.

Getting back to the second half of the title, what does the local paper have to do with any of this? Here’s my take: the local paper helps keep us tethered to humanity and our local communities. Large papers in major urban areas may not share this same phenomenon; I want to focus on the small town newspaper.

In rural America, and I’d imagine other countries, many of the small papers are still locally owned. The local paper for my community is the Northwest Alabamian, which is ironically owned by the local sheriff (Taylor, 2019). In rural America, this isn’t necessarily cause for controversy. When you take a look at the Northwest Alabamian’s website, you see near the bottom of the “About” page that Sheriff Moore has been the publisher of the paper since 1983 (Mid-South Newpapers, Inc., 2021). Much of what is published in the paper is pro- law enforcement, pro- Veteran, and pro- America. From my casual observations in the community, I’d say this reflects the majority opinion of the community rather well.

If you’re looking for instant information, you’re not getting it with the local paper, which, in my case, is printed weekly. That’s old news, you may say. Tell me this, of what you read on Facebook, how much do you retain two hours later? We read it on our screens and then immediately purge. We ingest so much information so rapidly, that we (or at least, I) seldom retain any of it. We value it less because there is so much of it; it becomes debased.

When I sit down with my weekly copy of the paper, I am first forced to unfold it to gain full access to its contents. I am greeted with ostentatious headlines such as “Outraged citizens bombard County Commission”. I have to turn to page 11 to finish reading “Outraged”. I’ve sat in on a couple of these County Commission meetings, so I find that headline particularly amusing.

Several years back the road I lived on at the time was washed out by a freak storm. This happened while my family and I were away on vacation and we were frantically looking online for a backroad to just to get home (which, by the way, did not exist). Fortunately, a kind neighbor had a dirt path along the edge of his pasture that connected to an adjoining road that he allowed the neighborhood to use for some time while the County repaired the large gully that had washed out. They weren’t moving along quite as fast as I would have liked, so I sat in on a County Commission meeting one week to see what was going on. I was frustrated at the meeting and expressed that frustration politely and professionally to the commissioners. Imagine my surprise in the next week’s paper to see my frustrated face in a photo squared off against one of the commissioners. The article was well executed, but those two photos were a great example of visual hyperbole. Facebook never takes the time to do that, does it? I thought the article was great, and it had the community talking about the washed out road, which after about six months, finally got fixed.

Lets talk about the ads in the local paper. They are targeted too, but they are targeted to the community and not the individual. The local paper isn’t data mining your intimate details. It’s selling ad spaces to businesses with a stake in the community. It’s amusing to me that the ads running across the top of the paper from 2017 is unchanged from the paper I got in the mail this week, with two major exceptions: Traders and Farmer’s Bank is now BankFirst, and the financial advisor looks a little older in the picture posted in his ad. That reflects the zeitgeist of my community rather well. We are a little slower to embrace change, which isn’t in and of itself a bad thing. It’s one of the reasons I moved here in the first place.

When I flip to the second page of the paper, vanity of vanities, there I am in a group photo in an article discussing the new park that we are planning in town. There’s a picture of the proposed design from a nonprofit organization called Design Alabama that sat down with us for the day to help us work on ideas for what to do with the vacant lot that was to be repurposed into a park. The local reporter was there, not only documenting the discussion, but taking part it in, because he is an embedded and valuable member of the community.

I can read about other activities going on in the community. On the front page, I read about one of the local towns working with its American Legion Post to build a new Veterans memorial. As I flip further back I see where another local Legion Post helped our a needy Veteran who was passing through. I can read about the dearly departed from the community. I can read about the local felony and misdemeanor arrests; the public naming-and-shaming. The local paper tells of the good and the ill that goes on in the community.

That brings us to the irony of the matter: paying for old information that we’ve probably already seen on Facebook for free. Why would a rational person do that? I can only tell you why I do that. I do it as an investment back into my community. I bought my subscription from one of the local high school Juniors who was selling them as a fundraiser. Yes, the paper got most of that money, but part of it helped out a local kid. My subscription helps pay salaries of newspaper staff who are part of the community. They shop at the stores in town and, in turn, put money back into the community. My subscription ensures that a (hopefully) unbiased recounting of events was presented to the community, as opposed to an emotional, and often irrational, rant being posted in haste on Facebook. I can focus on the text and images of the paper sitting in front of me as opposed to rapidly scrolling down my screen. It makes me slow down. These things are worth the subscription cost to me.

So the next time you’re scrolling through Facebook for some self-affirmation and a dopamine hit (Weinschenk, 2012), remember that you are the product. What you see is what Facebook thinks you are interested in seeing (or wants you to see). It makes money off what you see and what you click on. Maybe that will lead to some local business making some money. Your local paper, relic of a by-gone era that it is, actually employs folks from your community and advertises for businesses in your community. They don’t have some algorithm telling them what you want (or need) to see. They have reporters who are a part of your community reporting on things of interest in your community. Your local paper is focused on your community and surrounding communities. What is Facebook focused on?

References:

The Intergalactic Presence of the Blevins Clan

Often on my commute I listen to audio books. I bounce between books on history and religion, but occasionally I’ll listen to fiction. The fiction book I am currently listening to is Star Wars: Aftermath. I’m not here to write a book review, but to notice one passing reference that 99.999% of the world will pay no attention to: Captain Blevins. His only reference in the story is when a character named Sinjir Rath Velus recounts seeing Blevins dead on the moon of Endor during the battle that took place there in The Return of the Jedi. According to Velus, Blevins was a “bully and a braggart who had truly believed in the Empire’s ideals”[1].

While that may be sad for Blevinses who pulled for the Rebel Alliance, over the years, I’ve come to realize that the Empire were the good guys, but the victors get to write the history books. Captain Blevins died an unsung hero of the Empire’s effort to maintain order against the rising chaos. But I digress…

So where did author Chuck Wendig get the inspiration for Captain Blevins? I don’t know for certain, but my guess is Bret Blevins, a comic book artist, story board artist, and fine art painter[2]. According to Wookiepedia, Mr. Blevins has done art for some Star Wars comics[3]. In fact, Mr. Blevins has drawn quite a few recognizable comic characters in his career. He has some excellent examples of his art posted to his website.

We may never know if Bret Blevins is the namesake of the ill-fated Captain Blevins, but we can be certain that if there are Blevinses in a galaxy far away, then the name lives on.

References:

  1. https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Blevins
  2. http://www.bretblevins.com/
  3. https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Bret_Blevins

The allure of fake orders of chivalry

Caveat Emptor: This is solely my opinion; take it with a grain of salt.

Supposedly, the world we live in is full of equal people; surely we can see this when we look around. When I look around, unfortunately, this is not what I see. I see a world that is more akin to what we read of in the Parable of the Talents. Some men are blessed with more than others. Some men are able to do more with what they are blessed with. Some men squander whatever they have, no matter how great or small. Christ even teaches us that in His kingdom, he who thinks he is first will be last, and he who is last will be first. Even in this Kingdom, everyone has different abilities and different roles to play.

While this has given rise to a notion of “Christian communism”, We know that even the Lord Jesus recognized there were men of authority to whom his followers owed earthy allegiance. I’m sure I can quote the Christ’s command to the Pharisees to “render to Caesar the thingsthat are Caesar’sand to God the things that are God’s.” (Mat 22;21, ESV) and anyone reading this will understand what the Lord is saying.

I’m sure we all recall the story of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, and their mother, asking of Jesus that they (James and John) be granted a position of authority at the Christ’s right and left hands in his Kingdom:

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sonsand kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to herWhat do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sitone at your right handand one at your leftin your kingdom.” Jesus answeredYou do not know what you are askingAre you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We areable.” He said to themYou will drink my cupbut to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grantbut it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” (Mat 20:20-23, ESV)

We all know the lesson that Jesus was trying to teach, and we understand that James and John were asking out of pride and ignorance. One thing I’d like to key in on is that the right to essentially ennoble James and John was not one that even Jesus could give, in regard to this heavenly kingdom to come, it belonged to the Father. The LORD God, the great YHW is the fons honorum of the kingdom of Heaven.

Following that example, and hearkening back to Jesus’s statement that we are to render unto Caesar the things that are his, we recognize that God sanctions earthly kingdoms, and we are to abide by the laws of the land in which we find ourselves. In quite a bit of the world, that means we live in republics without a hereditary head of state; without a king, queen, duke, or so forth. Such states do not often retain some of the institutions that exist in monarchical states, and for the purpose of this monologue, orders of chivalry. A good source for this information is found on the website for the International Commission for Orders of Chivalry. The commission states several principles in determining if an order of chivalry is valid;

  1. Every independent State has the right to create its own Orders or Decorations of Merit and lay down, at will, their particular rules. But it must be made clear that only the higher degrees of these modern State Orders can be deemed of knightly rank,provided they are conferred by the Crown or by the “pro tempore” ruler of some traditional State.
  2. The Dynastic (or Family or House) Orders which belong jure sanguinis to a Sovereign House (that is to those ruling or ex-ruling Houses whose sovereign rank was internationally recognised at the time of the Congress of Vienna in 1814 or later) retain their full historical chivalric, nobiliary and social validity, notwithstanding all political changes. It is therefore considered ultra vires of any republican State to interfere, by legislation or administrative practice, with the Princely Dynastic Family or House Orders. That they may not be officially recognised by the new government does not affect their traditional validity or their accepted status in international heraldic, chivalric and nobiliary circles.
  3. It is generally admitted by jurists that such ex-sovereigns who have not abdicated have positions different from those of pretenders and that in their lifetime they retain their full rights as “fons honorum” in respect even of those Orders of which they remain Grand Masters which would be classed, otherwise, as State and Merit Orders.
  4. Although, at one time – many centuries ago – private people of high standing could and did create some independent Orders of Knighthood, some among which came, in due course, to gain considerable prestige and obtained formal validity from the Church and the Crown, such rights of creation of Orders have long since fallen into desuetude and, nowadays, Orders of Chivalry as we understand the term must always stem from or be – by longstanding uninterrupted tradition – under the protection of Chiefs or of Houses of recognised sovereign rank.
  5. The recognition of Orders by States or supranational organisations which themselves do not have chivalric orders of their own, and in whose Constitutions no provisions are made for the recognition of knightly and nobiliary institutions, cannot be accepted as constituting validation by sovereignties, since these particular sovereignties have renounced the exercise of heraldic jurisdiction. The international “status” of an Order of Knighthood rests, in fact, on the rights of fons honorum, which, according to tradition, must belong to the Authority by which this particular Order is granted, protected or recognised.
  6. The only recognised Order with the style of “Sovereign” existing nowadays is that of St John of Jerusalem, called of Rhodes, called of Malta, whose international headquarters were transferred to Rome in 1834, and whose international diplomatic “status” as an independent non-territorial power is recognised officially by the Holy See and by many other Governments. http://www.icocregister.org/principles.htm

With these principles in mind, it becomes clear that there are several orders of chivalry floating around that are illegitimate, yet many people are drawn to them. Why so?

First, it is worth noting that very few people in the world will have heard of even legitimate orders of chivalry, much less give a hoot about them. Those who do are either royalists in a monarchical society, or sympathetic to monarchical causes.

Veering slightly off topic for a moment, as a Christian, I find myself claiming to be subject to the kingdom of Heaven; as a pilgrim and sojourner here on earth, and a citizen of the United States in this physical realm. The Constitution is my Caesar, not the President. When I joined the military at an early age, my Oath was to support and defend the Constitution, but to obey the orders of the President. Before taking office, the President of the United States takes this oath:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” (United States Constitution, Article II, Section 1)

Even the President is subject to the Constitution, but the Constitution has no provision making it the fons honorum of the United States. A document can’t be a fount of honor; it cannot bestow privilege upon an individual. How much easier it would have been had that power been reserved for the President, but it was antithetical to the minds of the Founding Fathers who had just years before fought a war to secede from the kingdom that they were born in. I’ll not get into that debate here, now, but suffice it to say the Founding Fathers did not make a full break from the notions of aristocracy, as can be observed in their actions. I am especially thinking of their proud use of heraldry, which I in no way condemn. So I resign myself to the reality that I’ll never be ennobled. I’m common, if such a notion can be expressed as an American. I recognize there are people better than me in higher stations in life. They come from families that have held those positions for generations. But they don’s exist in America. Families here may be richer, even generationally so, but the sons of those houses are common just like me. But I digress…

So of the fake orders of chivalry, with the advent of the Internet they are Legion. Many people may be innocently doing so because they do not know the old rules. They don’t understand the concept of fons honorum, that not anyone can stand up an order and it be legitimate. Not just anyone can revive and extinct order, either. This practice seems to have begun not long after the Enlightenment, when the humanists and deists were destroying the institutions of monarchy. These newly self-made men had no need of a monarch to make them a knight, they could do so themselves. And they still longed for it. We don’t want to recognize anyone else as our “Betters”, but we have no qualms with wanting to be better than others around us. I think this is ingrained in human nature, as evinced in the earlier example of James and John.

But I find myself reticent to be too harsh on those in their ignorance are drawn to fake orders because they are likely my allies in upholding tradition, they just don’t fully understand. Who in their childhood hasn’t wished to become a knight? The problem then lies with those who know better, and flagrantly defy the notion of a fons honorum and set themselves up as grand masters of some order. They wear medallions and capes and pretend their organizations are legitimate. The draw in others who buy their way to worthless knighthoods that are of no more reality than the kingdoms in the Society for Creative Anachronism, which in its own context provides a great outlet for those who yearn for medieval days. And the SCA holds public events where its knights melee and battle for their notoriety and fame.

This also brings up another concern: the diminished value of legitimate orders due to the change of focus in who is honored. Orders of chivalry were originally made up of men of reputable military service. Honorable men. Nowadays, many actors and entertainers make up the ranks of knighthood; men and women who have never served their nations in a military capacity and who may even publicly oppose the monarchic institution. Such appointments betray the honor of the original institutions. I’ll not be too harsh on the fons honorum who grants such appointments, however, understanding the great political influence that forces him or her to do so. Such is the problem with constitutional monarchies.

So in summary, one might find himself drawn to a fake order for a myriad of reasons. To even know they exist means the individual is likely of some royalist bent. The gentleman or lady (I’ll afford them that honor) realizes he or she will likely never be recognized in a legitimate order, thus concedes to seek recognition in a fake order. They then satisfy their desire to put on the mantle of nobility and be recognized in their group of pretend knights. In general I do not see where this creates any true harm, other than perpetrating fraud with little opportunity for damage, although in countries with legitimate orders, the person may be engaging in crime. Is that crime worth prosecution, given the greater violence occurring in the world today? Probably not.

Would I join a fake order to satisfy these cravings for nobility of my own? Absolutely not. Even though I live in a republic where I am free to associate with whomever I please and call myself whatever I please (although it wouldn’t be recognized by the state), I can’t in good conscience support such institutions. I cannot endorse a fraud even if no harm would come from it.

 

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.

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?

The state of the Alabama State Defense Force

Back in December, I stumbled across an article online that the Alabama State Defense Force had been stood down. Having once been an officer in the ASDF, I was a bit disappointed to hear that. Being a bit of a militia advocate, I’ve commented on “militias” at various points on this site, and I used to maintain, as “signal officer”, the website of Company C, 103rd BN, 1st Infantry BDE, ASDF (the site is defunct now, and the Way Back Machine didn’t capture snapshots when I was listed on it).

I’ll not be so harsh as to claim that “Alabama bureaucrats squander away Alabama State Defense Force” the way the article I am referencing did, because I can sort of see why the ASDF was stood down. My experience was, that while those who volunteered sincerely wanted to be of service, the ASDF either was not given, or did not have, the capacity to be effective. And to be honest, having been honorably served in the Armed Forces, I wasn’t comfortable being a uniformed militiaman in public. Having served, I wasn’t a wannabee, and I didn’t want to be confused for a has-been. We also weren’t doing things that I thought were the most effective use of my time. I was interested in the historic notion of a militia, and not the quasi search and rescue role it was being used for.

All this led me to write a letter Governor Bentley to express my concern in the matter. I wish I had saved my correspondence, but to paraphrase, it was something to the effect of sadness that it had been stood down, an understanding of why it might have been based on my experience, and my hope that the goal was to effectively reorganize it.

To my delight, I received this response from the Governor today:

January 8, 2014

Dear Mr. Blevins:

Thank you for your letter which I received today regarding the Alabama State Defense Force (ASDF).

Since its creation in 1983, the ASDF has been a part of the Alabama Military Department under the Adjutant General. For the past several years, the ASDF has been informally transitioning from its original role as a replacement for the National Guard in the event of a full National Guard mobilization to the more relevant role of a disaster response augmentation element of the National Guard. The ASDF’s Cold War era structure, their low strength numbers, and other challenges have hindered this important transition.

In September of 2013, the Adjutant General made the decision to formalize the transition of the ASDF to maximize the organization’s utility to the National Guard and minimize liability to the state. This will ensure the organization is organized in line with the needs of the Alabama Military Department and best postured to help meet the potential needs of the state. The first step in this process was to stand down the old organization while adjustments to the structure, mission, and manning of the future organization are carefully staffed. The ASDF has not been abolished or disbanded. Current members of the ASDF are in an “inactive” status until the future structure, mission and manning of ASDF are determined.

Again, thank you for your interest in the ASDF. We appreciate all the patriotic Alabamians whom volunteer to serve in the Alabama National Guard and the ASDF.

Sincerely,

Robert Bentley
Governor

RB/pb/sw

This is the response I was hoping to see. It tells me that the ASDF is taken seriously, and that an honest evaluation was made of its current organization. I hope the Adjutant General, MG Perry G. Smith, is able to reorg the ASDF into a viable, and valuable, service to the State of Alabama.