Sunday, 5 December 2010
Wittgenstein couldn't have known about the internet in general and wikileaks in particular when he said this. But you guess he wouldn't have been surprised by Assange's persecuted little face in the papers this week, the man accused of letting the truth out on its way to the canal to be drowned. When Wikipedia, Wikileaks mummy, started out, it was thought pointless and stupid, insofar as it wasn't compiled by experts with corduroy trousers and posturepedic tenure. What were the chances, people said, of people honestly and without benefit to themselves, taking time out to upload elements of their expertise to an amorphous wuffle of global knowledge? It would be full of lies and sinister rubbish. Of course, this was written by journalists and academics, exactly the sort of people who couldn't imagine a page of content without an accompanying invoice. Turns out it's the people who fib who need paying for it. Truth comes out the way water will find its way out of a handbag. Wittgenstein was pursuing a more general, philosophical notion of truth, detecting that through the tracery of institutions, dogmas and human mediation, truth still seeped round the hinges and seams to be collected by those who who, like him, sat back and pondered life's immensities. Well, no need, Ludwig. Today we have truth seeping through the brickwork, bubbling up through the floorboards, lifting the carpet. Where once you looked at your tea-leaves for the truth, now 'America thinks you're an idiot' stares at you, both shocking and obvious, from every media. China's worried, U.S. call it turrismm, Turkey's angry and Saudi Arabia's embarrassed. Somehow, though, the more truth comes out the more the rest of us think as Wittgenstein did, that if we didn't know the particulars, we sort of knew the general principle.