There is always something slightly chilling about people or institutions that believe they have a special insight into the “Truth”. Philosophers approach the term “Truth” with caution, and the wisest or most acute philosophers of science of the modern era (like Paul Feyerabend) examined the concept only with skepticism, and modestly, with some trepidation. The Scottish Labour Party, however not only believes that its representatives have a special insight into the Truth (no inverted commas required – this is Truth Itself), they even have a “Truth Team” who’s special purpose is to root out their opponents and expose them to Labour’s special insight into the Truth and provide demonstrations of their opponents’ falsehoods. When you think about it, this requires an extraordinary, querulous, deeply suspicious, accusatory, blame-seeking, finger-pointing, dark turn of mind; to set up a group of activists or researchers or spin-doctors; critically not to defend policy, create ideas or put a positive case for the Union, but to examine everyone else, in order to seek out fault, decide the Truth or Falsehood, the honesty or integrity, the good or bad faith of anyone who expresses doubt about the Union, who promotes ‘Yes’ arguments for independence, or presumably even supports a ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum; and to bring them to some kind of accounting before public opinion.
Scottish Labour do this because they have appointed themselves Prosecution, Judge and Jury over the Referendum Debate. Scottish Labour, obsessed by an entirely spurious, unattainable aspiration for “certainty” and transfixed by their own certain Truth, clearly believe that their eyes alone are able to penetrate to the very heart of Truth, and unlike anyone else, they alone possess an unerring capacity to judge falsehood in others and have the entitlement to sentence dishonesty wherever it hides. At the same time Scottish Labour has no agenda, and is above political interest; it is the final arbitrator of Truth. Truth-seeking against the enemies of political honesty is thus a task fit for a specially prepared Labour Party “Team” – a “Truth Team”. Does this remind you of anything?
“… … the three slogans on the white face of the Ministry of Truth came back to him…
WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
… Only the Thought Police would read what he had written, before they wiped it out of existence and out of memory”.
This is Winston Smith, the protagonist struggling with thoughtcrime, face crime and newspeak in ‘1984’: George Orwell’s imaginative prophecy of the modern world, of political parties, of government, of spin-doctors. Smith’s job in the Ministry of Truth was to rewrite back-numbers of ‘The Times’ to correct Government mistakes or failed predictions with new predictions made after the event; “Winston’s job was to rectify the original figures to make them agree with the later ones”. All “history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as necessary. In no case would it have been possible, once the deed was done, to prove that any falsification had taken place”. How much like Britain today Orwell’s insight seems … …
And in 2014 in Britain, even out of office, we have the The Scottish Labour “Truth Team”. This is not it appears just a Labour “Truth Team”, but the Scottish Labour Truth Team. Orwell once wrote a review summarising Thomas Carlyle’s character, which by chance to me sums up Scottish Labour’s ‘peculiar temper’ as possessing: “the spleen of the unconscious egoist, the denouncer of this and that, the discoverer of new sins”. It chills the heart.
So lets look at just one of the Truth Team claims; the Scottish Labour website suggests in a short video that the SNP (and it is always the SNP, it seems that only SNP members will vote Yes according to Labour) is guilty among many apparent failings of “dishonesty” and the video freely advertises Daily Express and Sun headlines describing Alex Salmond as a “liar”. Labour insists “You Must be Told the Truth”; but the only Truth offered, verified by the authority of two tabloids, is that Alex Salmond is dishonest: Dishonesty is the Truth.
This is sadly typical of the intellectual low to which Scottish Labour has now apparently irretrievably sunk. So, how do we find out the “Truth”? To find out what the facts are; in Labour’s own words, to “Find out the facts and expose the myths”, a visitor to the Labour website is required first to click on ‘Get Started’. This option proves somewhat disappointing. Instead of the myths, facts (and presumably lies) being revealed in all their vast and lurid detail, what the seeker after truth discovers is that he/she must fill in an application form with personal details: “Sign up to the 2014 Truth Team and support the Scottish Labour Party”. I already feel a little like Winston Smith: on a list, under surveillance – trapped in a Web I do not understand. You work for them, or you are presumed to be the enemy.
This protocol is clearly not an access to “truth” that is open to scrutiny by anyone outside the Labour Party, or to critical scrutiny by non-Labour supporters, available to those outside the faithful – people who might not prove ‘reliable’; the Truth can only be seen by supporters of the Sect, presumably kept locked within some secret sanctum sanctorum: which suggests a slightly creepy interpretation of “Truth” and a degree of commitment that Labour are simply not entitled to assume every seeker after truth, every sensible elector with a modicum of common sense would, or should, be prepared to accept blindly. You must offer allegiance to Labour first, even to find out what is the “Truth”; now that really is creepy.
[Editor’s Note: after a long and mysterious disappearance the Truth seem to have reappeared. You can follow The Truth here: @2014TruthTeam]