THE BLOG

PJ Harvey and the Today Programme Controversy

03/01/2014 11:20 GMT | Updated 04/03/2014 10:59 GMT

I will not recount some of the shrill responses to Polly Jean Harvey's guest editorship of Radio 4's Today programme, the media has already given them enough airplay.

What is interesting is the jaundiced, political relativism that has fuelled these attacks on Harvey and her guests, which included WikiLeak's Julian Assange, the award winning journalist John Pilger, and the prolific chronicler of British state crime Mark Curtis.

The consensus among the programme's critics is that the music-icon organised several hours of tiresome leftist drivel - the word left has been echoed again and again.

Behind this criticism is a stance that is both dangerous and ingenious at the same time.

It implicitly accepts that there is no singular truth out there which we can approximate with progressive clarity, rather there are only numerous, equally valid interpretations of reality, on which there can be no fact-based arbitration.

In this relativistic light we are invited to judge the likes of Pilger, Assange and Curtis on the basis of our political sensibility to the left or right, rather than truth or lie.

Without wishing to sound like a 'throwback' to the enlightenment, either the data they present in their reporting is correct, or it is wrong.

John Pilger was either right or wrong when he accused Western governments of being accomplices in the rise of the Indonesian dictator General Soeharto, and the blood-bath he inflicted on internal opponents, in addition to the peoples of East Timor and West Papua.

When Wikileaks published a large cache of diplomatic cables that evidenced systematic and widespread state crime and corporate corruption, these cable were either authentic or masterful forgeries.

No one, of course, seriously argues the latter, and rarely do people challenge Pilger's key factual claims, because they are supported by a range of compelling historical records and corroborating testimony. Instead, we are invited to treat truth as a lifestyle choice, you are either left, centrist or right, don't worry about the facts.

In so doing the critics of P J Harvey's editorship invite us to partake in the great malaise of our age, where the vital quest to approximate reality with greater accuracy and honesty is abandoned to a bankrupt world of relativism which invites indifference to truth, and ignorance of the great crimes that mark our age as one of the bloodiest known to humankind.

Relativism it would appear is one neat way to deny barbarity, without the need for supporting evidence.