When you next read an opinion piece, think of what that writing attempts to do
Arnold Kling has a smart classification of writing on issues where people tend to hold strong opinions that fit with their ideology. Such writing can, he says,
(a) attempt to open the minds of people on the opposite side as the author
(b) attempt to open minds of people on the same side as the author
(c) attempt to close minds of people on the same side as the author
In the Indian context, almost 95% of the writing in blogposts, op-eds and columns is of the (c) type. The arguments are advanced to further close the minds of the people on the same side of the author. Some writers do it very well with hard facts and cold logic, like Arun Shourie, while others like P Sainath may rely more on emotional tugs to convince those on their side. And then there are poor imitations of Shourie and Sainath whose writings we suffer every day on various websites, newspapers, magazines and journals.
The ‘preaching to the choir’ style, as Arnold says, is the default state of writing for most people. Unless you are not consciously trying to do (a) or (b), then you will almost surely do (c). It would thus be an interesting exercise to identify Indian writers who have a very high ratio of (a) and (b) in their writings.
Each one of us will have her own choice of such writers but one name which comes at the top of this blogger’s mind — and most people will find it hard to disagree with that choice — is Pratap Bhanu Mehta. He is, by far, India’s foremost public intellectual.
Despite trying hard, I really can’t think of more names in that category. Go ahead and tell me in the comments if you think I have missed any.