This is my grandfather’s (Alfred Dodd Starbird's) team sweater and running singlet from the 1936 Olympics. He finished 7th in the Modern Pentathlon. A German won gold, but the U.S. team would have won the team competition (finishing 2nd, 7th, 9th). Image
I learned today that the events of the Modern Pentathlon (running, swimming, fencing, pistol, equestrian) were chosen to simulate the feats of a 19th century cavalry solider fighting behind enemy lines.
A few years ago, when my parents had to move to an elder living facility, I inherited a box of family memorabilia. I found these shirts inside that box, in a plastic bag which hadn’t managed to protect them completely from the moths. My wife helped me clean them up & frame them.
Also in that box, were two of these belts from military dress uniforms, including one from my great-great grandfather, George Allan Dodd (who actually was a cavalry soldier): Image
I didn’t inherit much of the memorabilia from my mother’s side, but my maternal grandfather, Charles Leonard, also competed in the Modern Pentathlon in 1936 Olympics. He won the silver. Here’s a photo of him in the pistol competition: Image
In 1936, participation in the Modern Pentathlon was limited to military officers. My grandfathers both graduated from West Point and were young military officers in 1936. Here’s a photo of the team training for the games. My “gene pool” photo. My grandfathers are in the middle. Image
Anyone who ever saw me in a basketball uniform can tell that I take after the guy in the center, left. That’s my paternal grandfather. I inherited his femurs (among other things).
One thing I did inherit from my mother’s father are his letters home. They have some fascinating reflections on the geopolitics of the time. I’ve been hoping to digitize those and publish them. Maybe for 2024.
Here's one more image — this one of my maternal grandfather (Charles Leonard, silver medalist, 1936, modern pentathlon) collapsing at the finish line of the cross country event, after running a personal best. And yes, this photo is fraught (those are Nazi soldiers assisting). Image
Perhaps because this was a military competition, there were many German soldiers at the event. Hitler himself attended at least two events. Family story (likely embellished) is that my paternal grandfather intentionally splashed him after a false start in the pool.
Just a few years later, my paternal grandfather fought (possibly against some of these same soldiers) during the invasion of Normandy, earning a bronze star. Both grandfathers went on, as career Army officers, to become generals.
One last update here to explain how the families eventually converged. My parents met each other on a blind date. But my maternal grandmother knew both of my grandfathers well. Her father (BG Herman Beukema) was the cross-country coach at West Point.
Gen. Beukema was also an early expert in “geopolitics” — and had a particular (and critical) focus on Nazi Germany, leading up to WWII.…
My maternal grandmother (Beukema) grew up vacationing with my paternal grandfather’s (Starbird, the skinny one in the pool photo) family. But she met my maternal grandfather (Leonard, with the pistol above) while home from Vassar.
My mom writes: "She was his date for June week b/c the girl he invited couldn’t come at the last minute and [my grandma] had to come home for the week b/c she had a severe cut in her calf from falling thru a skylight on a roof at Vassar while doing an astronomy assignment. 😊💕"
The two had met (as kids) several years prior, through a friend. My mom: Jack brought Pop home from prep school for a weekend in Sept ’31. (She was 14, he was 18). She met them at Delafield Pond, swam out to their canoe & tipped it over. Pop wrote in his diary, “What a brat!”
The families were all Army officers and had many entanglements. My father’s father’s father’s family (the Starbirds) and my mother’s mother’s mother’s family (the Shaws, also Army) owned vacation cabins side by side in the early 1900s.
My mother confirms, via text, that at some point before the June week set up with my maternal grandfather (pistol photo above), my mother’s mother dated my father’s father (tall, skinny swimmer above).
And their families had met ~2 generations prior, when my maternal grandmother’s maternal grandfather (Col Henry Alden Shaw) was stationed in the same unit as my father’s paternal grandfather (BG Alfred Andrews Starbird) during the Spanish-American war.
Thank you all for encouraging me to keep this thread going! Through trying to explain how I managed to have two grandfathers who competed in an obscure sport designed for military officers, I finally understand how all the different lines of my family tree became entangled. :)

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More from @katestarbird

12 Jul
When I stopped by to see him, my <loved one> explained that he turned down my invitation to visit tonight b/c he needed to watch “the last speech by Trump before he could go to jail”. Later, he expressed confusion when I said there were videos of violence against police on 1-6.
All he does is watch “news” all day. How could he live in such a vastly different reality? I showed him a few videos of January 6 and he was so confused.
My <loved one> asked about my work and I explained how we were helping people see how content reached them, using the Seth Rich conspiracy theory as an example. <Loved one> pivoted the conversation w/ something about “redactions" & how that theory just might be true after all.
Read 6 tweets
20 Jun
For a 10th birthday my <loved one> gave my <loved one> 3 gifts: a small U.S. flag, pocket Constitution, & Ben Carson's biography, Gifted Hands. Any of these would be fine alone. Together, they reveal structural patterns & psychological effects of long-term exposure to propaganda.
On the same day, for an upcoming birthday, same <loved one> also gifted two copies of “Unrestricted Warfare” to two adults with upcoming birthdays. (I already received mine a few weeks ago.)
Current book on their mantle, for those interested in following whatever toxic Amazon/Fox News recommendations are guiding their choices: “Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t"
Read 4 tweets
18 Jun
Can’t they come up with anything new? This is almost exactly the same as the conspiracy theories about the Boston Marathon bombings that claimed they were a “false flag” orchestrated by “black ops” elements within the U.S. government. See our 2014 paper:…
We wrote two follow up papers that covered that conspiracy theory with more depth and from different angles:……
Here’s a tweet, posted less than a day after the Boston Marathon bombings, that contains the same core claim:
Read 4 tweets
21 May
Going into Election2020, researchers w/ the @2020partnership rapidly analyzed social media data to identify false & misleading claims meant to sow distrust in the election — now known collectively as “the Big Lie”. This is the story of one (of hundreds) of those claims. Thread.
@2020Partnership This story is from late Sept, more than a month before the election. At the time, the American public was experiencing what Benkler and colleagues referred to as a “disinformation campaign” — designed to create a false expectation of massive voter fraud.…
@2020Partnership For months, Pres Trump & his supporters had been pushing a range of false, misleading, and exaggerated claims meant to sow distrust in the mail-in voting process specifically and the election results more generally. Here’s a tweet from June:
Read 15 tweets
14 May
Per a researcher request, we’ve assembled a list of the top most-retweeted tweets in the # StopTheSteal conversation between Nov 3, 2020 and Jan 7, 2021. Some highlights below.
Most retweeted StopTheSteal tweet was authored by @realDonaldTrump on January 3. It’s a quote tweet about the January 6 protest, to which he adds: "I will be there. Historic day!” It was retweeted 51,137 times (according to our data).
@realDonaldTrump 2nd on list, ~45,000 RTs, realDonaldTrump (Jan 3): 'Georgia election data, just revealed, shows that over 17,000 votes illegally flipped from Trump to Biden.” @OANN This alone (there are many other irregularities) is enough to easily “swing Georgia to Trump”. #StopTheSteal...'
Read 14 tweets
6 May
Working on some visuals to help explain the dynamics of “participatory disinformation” and how that motivated the January 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol. Image
Let’s start from the beginning. We have “elites”, including elected political leaders, political pundits and partisan media outlets, as well as social media influencers who have used disinformation and other tactics to gain reputation and grow large audiences online. Image
We also have their audiences — the social media users and cable news watchers who tune into — and engage with — their content.
Read 22 tweets

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