Ideas & Debate

How intellectual dishonesty is killing Kenya

Some experts are not giving comprehensive analysis because they have a political agenda in mind. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Some experts are not giving comprehensive analysis because they have a political agenda in mind. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Over the past year, a troubling trend has emerged; the use of intellectual arguments to present a one-dimensional analysis of complex issues in order to either generate support for or discredit certain political positions.

It has become clear that many analysts and public intellectuals are using their knowledge base and expertise in a spirit of intellectual dishonesty.
The truth is that any topic being discussed has several dimensions to it.

It is my view that it is the role of expert analysts and public intellectuals to provide comprehensive, rigorous and apolitical analysis of issues so that Kenyans get a robust sense of the factors being discussed and the complexities therein, so that they can reach an informed conclusion.

For the most part, this does not seem to be happening. What is happening instead is public intellectuals and analysts creating incomplete analysis and narratives that service certain political agendas. This is problematic for two reasons.

First is the moral issue of intellectual dishonesty. All arguments have information that can both support or challenge a narrative. There is no single issue, especially when it comes to the political and economic reality of Kenya and Africa in general, that can have a single narrative and line of argument.

Honest intellectuals will present both sides of a given argument and then state that they support a certain side because of certain merits.

Instead what some public intellectuals seem to be doing is taking a given, one-dimensional political position and creating incomplete analysis to either support or discredit certain political agendas.

This is creating immoral intellectual posturing where experts know they are not giving comprehensive analysis because they have a political agenda in mind. This is the height of intellectual dishonesty and goes against the spirit of robust intellectual exercise and practise.

Second is the issue of misinformation. The truth is that most Kenyans are often not aware of the layers of complexities of issues when analysis is given from certain technical backgrounds.

As an economist I have the privilege of having a knowledge base where I can point out the holes in economic arguments. Most Kenyans do not have this privilege.

Thus, in analysts and experts knowingly providing incomplete analysis, they are actually in the business of misinformation because Kenyans will be of the view that the expert’s one-dimensional analysis is the only or best way to interpret a given issue.

I am not suggesting that analysts and public intellectuals should not have certain positions, they should; what I have a problem with is the fact that many do not point out counter-arguments to their position and thus lead Kenyans down the road of incomplete analysis and misinformation.

Thus, rather than analysts contributing to a culture of intellectual rigour and knowledge creation, they are contributing to a culture of intellectual deception and misinformation.

When knowledge and intelligence are used to beget bigotry rather than challenge it, what happens is that the nation creates a habit where narratives are not questioned and blanket statements are taken as the gospel truth.

Intellectual dishonesty begets intellectual laziness where arguments are not interrogated but rather taken as fact. This should not be encouraged.

It is time Kenyan analysts and public intellectuals took a long, hard look at their behaviour and decide who it is they serve. Are they using their knowledge to serve Kenyans or politicians?

The answer to this question will determine the nature of intellectual discourse in this country and for which Kenya will be known.