Serious opinion writing has been threatened with extinction by many viruses, from growing boredom with the commentariat, or the ‘thoughter’ class, to the rise of the personal blog, to that weapon of the smuggest mass satisfaction: a Facebook ‘like’. Underlying all these threats is not the rapid change in the platforms in which opinion reaches you but that other pestilence: the wide confusion of well-argued opinion with what is called POV, or Point of View. When everybody already has a POV, how do you argue or put forward an opinion that looks at facts and draws a conclusion, even if as hypothesised?
Writings on the Wall is a metaphor I use for a different series of writings, from travels across India, mostly during elections. The logic is, wherever you go, you can read the mood, fathom the change, anticipate trends and ideas by reading what is written on the walls. But why repeat this as I write my farewell National Interest in the pages of this great newspaper?
It is because if you had walked into our buzzy, young, and somewhat overly colourful newsroom for many of these years, you would have seen a vinyl, now frayed and lost, sadly, that read: The left thinks we are right, the right thinks we are left. The unwritten footnote to that was, if we are noticed by both sides across the great ideological divide, and if we end up needling both, we must be doing something right. If you had read this banner, you would have known this is a seriously opinionated paper that loves to jostle for argumentative space, the more contentious the better, and then speaks its mind. As the paper’s editor for nearly 19 years, I have been the biggest beneficiary of this freedom and space, and
National Interest has run uninterrupted—or mostly so, barring some short periods of intellectual boredom. It is not my case that every call the column has taken has been right or righteous. It has gone wrong on occasion, most embarrassingly with a fact or name from political history, which, though extremely rare, is inexcusable, given how unforgiving Express readers are. Over the years, I have also been asked many tough questions on the somewhat unusual and unpopular positions I have taken, and some touching ones: why are you, and the Express, so obsessed with always having to take clear positions? Why don’t you