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updated 6/19/2013 12:50:17 PM ET 2013-06-19T16:50:17

No one ever thought to question the military service of Cap'n Crunch, the mustachioed mascot for the cereal of the same name, until one foodie noticed that his rank and outfit did not sync up. What followed is a study in how social media has reached the point where we can get into Internet fights with cartoon characters designed to sell breakfast foods.

The Cap'n Crunch incident (as yet unnamed, although "Crunchgate" is as good a name as any) began on June 14, when Foodbeast writer Charisma Madarang had a startling revelation: Cap'n Crunch was no Cap'n at all, but rather a naval commander.

Madarang's proof was as plain as the stripes on Crunch's blue sleeves: while captains wear four stripes, commanders only wear three. Although she tried to justify the Cap'n's rank by suggesting he could be a French "capitaine de frigate," who wears only three stripes, her logic broke down when she realized that the disgraced Commander Crunch has never displayed an aptitude for speaking French.

Word spread fast, and an unlikely defender stepped up to protect Crunch's reputation: Cap'n Crunch himself. As it turns out, Cap'n Crunch has his own Twitter feed, @realcapncrunch, and he didn't take kindly to foodies impugning his years of service.

"All hearsay and misunderstandings!" exclaimed the ostensible captain. "I captain the S.S. Guppy with my crew, which makes me an official Cap'n." He also appended the #CrunchatizingRumors hashtag.

The letter of the law is actually on Crunch's side. In legal terms, a magister navis (shipmaster) has the right to be addressed as "captain" as long as he or she is a licensed mariner. Given the ship's name, the Guppy is probably not a vessel that requires a full-fledged captain, and his years of service to attain the commander rank certainly support his status as a licensed shipmaster.

Believe it or not, Cap'n Crunch has a thing or two to teach us about Twitter personas. Many users — especially corporate ones — present staid, sanitized images of themselves, careful to appease as many fans as possible without offending anyone. [See also: 10 Most Embarrassing Company Tweets ]

Cap'n Crunch, on the other hands, veers towards snark whenever possible. "They see me crunchin', they hatin'," he tweeted, "milk soakin', they tryna catch me crunchin' soggy." His tweets include jokes about wardrobe malfunctions, R. Kelly and retweets from a number of fans.

In fact, when other news outlets took Madarang to task for her failure to account for Crunch's de facto captain's rank, Crunch couldn't resist a bit of a dig. "Ah, the sweet taste of Internet justice," he said.

Cereal mascots have come a long way since the days of the TV ad, where conversations were all one-sided and "buy this food" was the only message. It's likely that Cap'n Crunch on Twitter is targeting a slightly older fanbase, but captain or not, this man knows a thing or two about maintaining order in the ranks.

Follow Marshall Honorof @marshallhonorof. Follow us @TechNewsDaily, on  Facebook  or on Google+.

© 2012 TechNewsDaily

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