Returning to his room, Bjorn decided to look up Frederico and his empire thing on the web. The man had been charismatic and well spoken, and Bjorn was curious about his reach on the web. Was he as popular in cyber space as he was in the village? Bjorn was curious to know.
He turned on his PC and made a search for "the fifth empire" which immediately returned a varied list of references, some about the old Portuguese myth, and others about Frederico and his sect. There were links to blogs, including video blogs on YouTube, some in support of Frederico and others evidently attacking him and his ideas. But there were also quite a number of links to the old myth, including a few image links to a film with characters dressed up in 17th century costumes.
The top link was to an article on Wikipedia, and thinking this as good a place as any to start his research, Bjorn clicked on it.
He was immediately presented with an article relating to the myth. But Frederico's sect was mentioned right at the beginning of the article, and without spending any more time on the myth, Bjorn clicked his way to what Wikipedia described as the liberty movement. And this article in turn mentioned the myth in its initial description, underscoring the fact that the following was dedicated to the liberty movement and not the myth.
The article pretty much confirmed what Frederico had been saying. And, not surprisingly, it described Frederico's ideas as controversial. Although, largely in line with the ideas of earlier thinkers, Frederico's ideas made several unorthodox claims, not least pertaining to law and the notion of empire. Unlike previous writings on the subject, Frederico's claim was that the fifth empire is linked to the Portuguese people in a purely spiritual sense, and will not be a revival of the old empire.
"The fifth empire is not a rebirth of an old empire, but rather the coming to dominance of a political undercurrent that has been around since Babylonian times. The fifth empire will be one in which there will be no state, and where the cult of authority will be vanquished," it read.
"Basing his ideas on Biblical scripture, previous thinking pertaining to the fifth empire, writings on Portuguese culture, and political writings by prominent figures inside the liberty movement, Frederico has constructed for himself and his followers a complete belief system, containing both rational and occult elements," it continued.
Bjorn looked up from his PC to digest what he had read. It was broadly in line with what he had expected. And it was also clear that Frederico's ideas had quickly spread through the undercurrents of the web, propelling Frederico from obscurity to semi-fame in a very short period of time. Frederico's success was apparently not based on any novelty per say, but rather his ability to pull together a number of seemingly unrelated ideas to form a complete system with broad popular appeal.
Bjorn continued reading, noting the frequent references to the gentle anarchist, the golden rule, and private law, further confirming Bjorn's impression about Frederico's ideas. And when he came to the section about criticism, he read with interest that Frederico's ideas had not gone unchallenged.
Apart from purely scholarly criticism on the actual nature of the fifth empire, Frederico had already seen a lot of hard hitting political criticism by people strongly opposed to his ideas. Frederico's liberty movement had been criticized by both political opponents and many pro-liberty thinkers for being cult like, occult, and right out dangerous. However, Frederico on his side had been quick to point out that the fifth empire does not require any belief in any deity by its citizens, that citizenship is purely voluntary and can be relinquished at any time without consequence, and that the only rule that a citizen must adhere to is the golden rule.
"To claim that citizenship in the fifth empire is cult like, while simultaneously claiming that the social contract is a rational construct, cannot be taken seriously," according to Frederico. "The state and the cult of authority are clearly far more occult and dangerous than a purely voluntary arrangement that people can enter and leave as they please."
Other critics, while agreeing that the fifth empire could hardly be described as a cult, focused more on practicalities than principle, pointing to the sad fate suffered by many activists in the liberty movement. People eager to promote the idea of a stateless society have increasingly come under increased control and scrutiny by state agents, with loss of property, liberty, and in some cases even life as a consequence.
"The Republic of Venice, some early free state movements in the US, and several individual secessions in Scandinavia have all ended badly, and resistance to authority should therefore be more subtle and less confrontational," according to many of these critics.
However, to this, Frederico had only commented that he fully agreed with his critics, and that he does not promote heroism. Instead, he promotes small scale resistance, starting at the personal level, expanding to family and friends, while never confronting the authorities directly.
"The fact that the fifth empire has become widely popular cannot in itself be a reason to reject it," Frederico pointed out to one of his critics, "We will never promote direct confrontation. All citizens must act prudently within the limits of what they deem reasonable. However, as we grow more numerous, we can reasonably act more forcefully."
The article, full of links and references, had a list of related articles and topics at the bottom, including a link to the Blacklist, which surprised Bjorn since that website was less than a week old. There were also links to something called Ingunn's Niceland together with links to the Venetian Republic, various free state movements and other liberty projects.
And under a section called recent developments, there was a rather lengthy piece on Lundby with a brief mention of Pedro, who was described as an elusive billionaire, rumored to be the mastermind behind the corruption of the Portuguese ex prime minister. However, Pedro had so far neither been questioned on the matter nor charged with any wrongdoing.