So Andrew Mwenda is a pseudo-intellectual, an intellectual fraudster, imperialist agent and hypocritical! WHY? Because he, in his recent rebuttal published by Aljazeera, advised President Obama to mind his own business and to stop lecturing African presidents on matters of Human Rights and Good Governance, so the argument goes.
Whereas initially, I for one, would have gathered no interest whatsoever in responding or commenting on social media in the manner that I have, Bernard Sabiti’s reaction to Mwenda’s rebuttal provided a somewhat different dimension from all the other comments on the same, and the mood and attitude with which it was presented, inspired or rather prompted me to say something regarding his own line of argument. Admittedly, it is typical for social media users to express their opinions in diverse ways and many times out of context. But that should be expected because by its very nature, on social media, anything goes just the cafeteria style. Therefore, the reactions to Mwenda’s rebuttal against president Obama’s comments during his recent visit to Kenya a few weeks ago would not have bothered me and indeed I had read so many of the comments that various people were making on Facebook, and I had ignored them thus far because most of them were simply emotional expressions and attacks on Mwenda, absolutely devoid of objective content and hugely lacking in academic discipline and respect. However Bernard Sabiti’s ‘’Taking Down Mwenda’s Pseudo-intellectualism’’ was a little differently presented.
By ‘’Taking down Mwenda’s pseudo-intellectualism’’ I suppose that Sabiti presumably implied that he himself is an intellectual, and therefore irritated by Mwenda’s pseudo-intellectual ways was compelled to ‘take him down’. It is strictly on the basis of this that I want to respond.
Sabiti’s claimed analysis is indeed not a response to Mwenda’s argument, rather an attack on his person. But why am I saying this? To answer this question, let us subject his argument to a logical test; logical rules of inference and specifically the rules of deductive reasoning. Perhaps a little explanation about deductive reasoning is necessary here for those of us who may not be familiar with logic. Deductive reasoning is a logical process in which multiple propositions (premises) which are believed to be true provide strong evidence for another proposition (conclusion) which should by all means be true if the premises are true and vice-versa. It is impossible in deductive logic for the premises to be true and the conclusion to be false and the reverse is true.
If the premises for a deductive argument are true as well as the conclusion, the whole argument will be valid while if the premises are true and the conclusion is false, the whole argument will be invalid. In the same way, if any one of the propositions of a deductive argument (whether it is one of the premises or the conclusion) is false, the whole argument will be invalid. In deductive logic, however, arguments can be valid insofar as conclusions derive from the given premises but it is at the same time possible for valid arguments to be unsound as with regard to their content.
Having the above in mind, let us see whether Sabiti’s argument is valid or invalid by subjecting it to the rules of inductive logic. We shall begin by identifying the different propositions (premises and the conclusion) from his argument. Since the author has not given us any other reason for branding Mwenda a pseudo-intellectual other than the fact that Mwenda, in his rebuttal advised president Obama to mind his own business, let us see what logical structure we can construct from this type of argument.
- Premise 1: In his National address to Kenya during his recent State visit to the country, President Obama, in his speech talked a lot about matters of Good Governance, Human Rights and the penchant for African presidents to cling onto power.
- Premise 2: While responding to President Obama’s comments on matters of Good Governance, Human Rights and the habit of African presidents to hold onto power, Andrew Mwenda advised Obama to mind his own business since the State that he represents is not any better.
- Conclusion: Therefore, for Mwenda to respond like that, he is a pseudo-intellectual and a hypocrite.
Looking at an argument with such a logical structure, we can draw a few pointers.
- Premises 1 and 2 are indeed true.
- Whereas premises 1 and 2 are true, the truth value of the last proposition (conclusion) cannot, in strictly logical terms be ascertained. Indeed, the conclusion doesn’t seem to be deriving from the two premises. It bears nothing in common with the premises and appears to be coming from nowhere in the whole argument set-up. In addition, the truth or falsity of the conclusion cannot be appropriately ascertained-neither Sabiti nor any other individual can in logical terms affirm that Mwenda is a pseudo-intellectual since the word itself can be judged as a purely subjective opinion not a matter of truth.
- Back to our rules, since the premises are true and the conclusion is not, it is logically correct to infer that Bernard’s argument is invalid.
- Not only is the argument is invalid, it is as much fallacious. His supposed analysis is an attack on the person rather than the argument he advanced. This is a fallacy (error in reasoning) of attacking the person and not an assertion that they have made.This fallacy can take different shapes: it can be abusive, associative or circumstantial.
It is without much effort easy for any amateur logician looking at the author’s argument to see that the argument is heavy with content which is being spilled with an intellectual attitude and mood but which is nonetheless lacking in intellectual discretion and discipline after all. For a strictly intellectually active response would not require for the author to make lamentations about how Mwenda is not an intellectual. Any reader would not need to be told rather they would be able to learn for themselves as they interact with an argument.
It is too easy to detect from the choice of words that Sabiti uses. From his very Headline: ‘’Taking down Mwenda’s pseudo-intellectualism’’ right from onset indicates that the direction of Mwenda’s argument has been lost on Sabiti as he straightaway aims for the person. Whereas more intellectually meaningful words such as; Uncovering, Unearthing, Revealing, Unpacking, Disclosing could have been handy, the author chooses and I think rightly, ‘taking down’ as his preferred title which explains his immediate state of mind. He is charged, ready to take down his perceived threat. Taking is what happens in fights not discussions. He attacks Mwenda, the person when he should have aimed at engaging with Mwenda’s argument.
If the objective of the author was to show that Mwenda is not an intellectual that he ‘masquerades’ to be, it would have been inevitable that the author assessed his subject’s rebuttal against President Obama’s speech, subsequently giving us reasons drawn from the various areas in his argument where he lacks on the skills and qualities of a legitimate intellectual. Simply claiming that Mwenda is a pseudo-intellectual will not help someone seeking to understand why you are making such a claim as much than giving a justification for your assertion would which the author by-passed.
Sabiti concedes that Mwenda possesses a gift of oratory and as such he compares him with other renown orators such as Hitler, Winston Churchill, Benito Mussolini e.t.c. By such a comparison, the author is only attempting an insinuation that Mwenda does things that most people of such a personality as his do. Such argument is typical of the fallacy of attacking the person in which attention is shifted from one’s argument to their relationship, likeness or association with others. In a similar way, one can be accused of standing to benefit from the prevailing state of affairs. This is clearly seen when Sabiti tags Mwenda and ‘’his dictator friends’’ hypocrites who manipulate situations such that they work in their favour.
Sabiti claims that Mwenda employs Whataboutism, an old trick used by political propagandists in the former Communist Soviet Union. He uses this trick to evade reality. Whether this is something to believe or not, the most interesting in Sabiti’s argument is that he himself albeit I think unconsciously uses the same trick to drive his point home. In his last paragraph, he contends that Mwenda has changed from the person that he used to be. The present Mwenda is a political weapon (I think that is the insinuation) employed to protect and promote the interests of those who sustain him through his analyses. Ipso facto, the author is far too inside the territory of Whataboutism trick than he would have imagined. One may ask how? This is how; when Mwenda writes and demands that President Obama should mind his own business because he is no better position to lecture African presidents on the need for Good Governance, and protection and promotion of Human Rights, Sabiti retorts by saying: What have you to say hypocrite? You are an intellectual fraudster as well as a pseudo-intellectual. You do things to benefit your own interests and those of your bosses. You never used to be like this but now you have changed and exist for yourself and your dictator friends!!
How can such reaction be described if not Whataboutism? I will leave that question for the reader.
About James Ephraim Mundekyere: James Ephraim Mundekyere is an Assistant Lecturer at Makerere University. He holds a First Class Honours BA (Philosophy) degree from Makerere University and is currently an MA Philosophy Candidate at the same university.
Editors’ Note: Bernard Sabiti this morning published another response to Mwenda, this time concentrating on the issue of term limits. Read it here. This blog is interested in this discussion and we are excited that an author and researcher Bernard Sabiti and James Emphraim Mundekyere are making important contributions to what we view in the large frame as the definition of a Ugandan intellectual space, without the blog editor necessarily claiming to belong to that space.