Academics too predictable

HARARE - It is common practice within journalism throughout the world to source comments from academics.

Ordinarily, such academics will be specialists or researchers in the area within which the journalist’s story falls like politics or economics.

The journalistic animus behind sourcing such comment is to enrich the story with authoritative, objective and insightful perspectives for the ultimate benefit of the reader. 

Academics are thus entrusted with providing intellectual leadership in popular discourses.

The practice of sourcing commentary is premised on the assumption that academics uphold high ethical standards.

Such standards include honesty, objectivity and balance. When such ethical tenets are upheld, academics become unpredictable, enriching society with diverse opinions.

Regrettably, some of Zimbabwe’s academic commentary has become nauseatingly predictable, let alone banal.

Banal because some of the commentary barely passes for intellectual input when placed against the commonplace and partisan remarks of ordinary folk in the street.

Far more worrisome is what one could call “intellectual rigidity” (as opposed, perhaps, to intellectual integrity) that lends itself to predictability, the exact antithesis of academic orthodoxy.

Before picking up the phone to solicit comments from a particular academic, the journalist probably knows the response he or she will get. 

It is a source of disappointment that these “academics” never see “the other side of the coin” as it were.

These “academics” now serve editorial interests of particular media, affirming particular political and ideological positions with often essentially banal and predictable remarks.

The only “value”, if it all, is that whatever the comment was made by a doctor or professor so-and-so.

This media-academia relationship predicated on conformism to suit particular news frames is unhelpful.

These pliant “academics” are clearly in the wrong station; they reduce our institutions of higher learning to ridicule.

The intellectual rigidity that these “academics” exhibit runs contrary to the functions that they, as individuals, and the institutions associated with them ought to perform. 

Jonathan Moyo is one of the most odious political characters of our time.

But credit to him for relocating to exercise his political interests. Others may want to follow suit.

Ethical standards for institutions are critical in bitterly divided societies of which Zimbabwe is one.

Such division may not seem so because, thankfully, there is no war here.

But I believe the societal rupture with its potentially harmful effects has only, historically, been disguised by a pervasive fear of instruments of coercion and force.

Otherwise, this is a suppressed and grotesquely unequal society.

Thus, a superficial and deceptive peace abounds that, even in the face of record inflation, grinding poverty and lately, electoral malpractice, the aggrieved, seemingly inured to decades of injustice, sheepishly retreat to or continue with normal life routines.

In such divided societies, social institutions and their agents, like academics, can help with honest interpretation of events.

Media are held against the same yardsticks.

Churches too. Notably though, and rather regrettably, some religious leaders, as heads of what ought to be unifying social institutions, have also become aligned to particular political entities, sustaining division and injustice.

However, of the elements of a divided society, partisanship within academia is probably one of the most pernicious. 

Universities should be reservoirs of intellectual thought.

Academics, should, therefore be exemplarily objective, impartially perceptive and more importantly, unpredictable in order to uphold personal, institutional and intellectual integrity.

It is rather disappointing when academics routinely deviate from this fundamental social brief to serve political interests and consequently endorse social division.

Not that academics should actively function to heal a bitterly divided society, but as the adage goes there are two sides to every story; an academic should be able to offer fair outlooks.

The long and short of it is, I would like an academic who says Mugabe is right or wrong when he is, or Tsvangirai is right or wrong when he is.

Any academic who does not discern fallibility in a human being or organisation is patently dishonest.

Comments (4)

well put,very true.an analyst should be able to analyse a subject not just waffle loads of shit

Munhumutema - 10 September 2013

I concur with the writer's views on the so-called academics-cum-analysts most of whom are of dubious political allegiance. The best known of this ilk is Prof Jonathan Moyo because of his high profile. Apart from him, there is the trio of T Mahoso, V Chivaura and Charity Manyeruke (a lady) who are sarcastically called the three stooges due to their unbalanced views in support of ZANU(PF), a party to which they have self appointed as its staunch defenders. In fact to the sober ZANU(PF) leaders, the three stooges have become an embarrassment to the party as their views are puerile. Each time the three stooges appear on ZBC-TV and they spread their toxic views to the views they reduce the TV to a theatre of the absurd.

Rabison Nyundo (THE HAMMER) - 10 September 2013

The truth of the matter is that it is the journalists who are at fault. You want to advance your line of thinking by using the academics to prop it up. You even identify who will say what you want to hear, now you blame them again, imika imi.

chasu - 12 September 2013

Chasu, ma-academics acho should stick their ethics and refuse to be used by journalists! Make it difficult for the journalists by being truthful chete. Kana vamisquotwa, protest

spraga - 12 September 2013

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