Stilgherrian Live, my live Internet program, returns tomorrow night, and I need nominations for this week’s “Cnut of the Week”.
If you missed the last two episodes, well, the segment “Cnut of the Week” is dedicated to the memory of King Cnut the Great, also known as Canute, a Viking ruler of England and Denmark, and Norway, and of some of Sweden variously from 1016 to 1035 CE.
Cnut is best known for attempting to hold back the tide. As 12th-century chronicler Henry of Huntingdon tells it, Cnut set his throne on the shore and commanded the tide to halt — but of course it didn’t stop. Cnut leapt back and said:
Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws.
He then hung his gold crown on a crucifix, and never wore it again.
This story about Cnut may not be true, and it’s really praising the greatness of the Christian God whom I do not worship. But I prefer the other interpretation: that Cnut staged the scene to rebuke the flattery of his courtiers, and to demonstrate that the forces of nature are mightier than any mere human.
In Stilgherrian Live, I nominate as “Cnut of the Week” people who futilely resist the forces of change.
I’m particularly interested in examples of trying to hold back the changes brought by the Internet, with its greater connectivity, transparency and democracy. And you get to vote.
In episode 7, for example, I nominated Senator Stephen Conroy for trying to filter “bad stuff” from the Internet, a sea cucumber (don’t ask!), NSW Premier Morris Iemma for being a Pointless Cnut generally, and the entire government of China for their oppressive censorship — with China as the clear winner.
In episode 8, commentator Greg Barns won with his call for Facebook, MySpace and other social media websites to moderate all of their content, beating consultant Dan Kaminsky who dared tell us that the Internet isn’t secure (fighting the tide of ignorance-is-bliss) and the commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, Mick Keelty, for persisting in the persecution of Mohammed Haneef in the face of an overwhelming lack of evidence.
So, who do you nominate this week, and why?