The Institute of Public Affairs has been an eager participant in History and Culture wars, vigorously assailing postmodernist notions of “multiple truths”. Plenty of people, including me, have made the obvious tu quoque pointing out that, in practise, truth for the IPA is whatever happens to be convenient at the time. Now the embrace of postmodernism is official, or at least as official as it can be for such a slippery and ambiguous doctrine. In today’s Fin, IPA Fellow (and, I think, former Liberal apparatchik) John Roskam writes
One doesn’t necessarily have to believe in the post-modern idea that ‘there is no such thing as truth’, to appreciate the difficulty of establishing precisely what was said, or what was thought to have been said, three years ago
It sure helps, though.
I think what I like best in this passage is the ironic use of ‘necessarily’, a fine appeal to the postmodern sensibility. It adds eloquently to the ambiguity of Roskam’s position, with the hint that his adoption of postmodernism is the result of aesthetic choice rather than necessity. Roskam goes on to articulate the postmodern notion of “socially determined truth”, arguing that the election outcome will retrospectively make Howard’s position true in the only snese that matters.
To take him seriously, if we suppose that it’s impossible to determine the truth of clearly-defined events three years ago, with multiple witnesses, and plenty of additional evidence (for example, as regards the truthfulness or otherwise of one of the key witnesses), we might as well admit that no historical fact can ever be known.
As I’ve said previously, it would be much more sensible for the government and its defenders to come straight out and say “We lied, everyone knew it, and we still won. Get over it”.
fn1. For example, the IPA assails anti-science opponents of GM foods, but denounces the scientific establishment as a left-wing conspiracy when it comes up with the “wrong” answers on global warming and the Murray-Darling.