Beneath His Accent, Shashi Tharoor Is Just Your Average Fake-News-Spreading WhatsApp Uncle

Ashok Kumar

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor is lionized by India’s liberals for his English — they fawn over his vocabulary, they swoon over his accent, and they proclaim him an intellectual because he uses words that they need a thesaurus to understand. But beneath Tharoor’s veneer of linguistic sophistication might lie what you’d expect from someone of his age — the propensity to fall for the most banal of fake news, much like your average WhatsApp uncle.

Shashi Tharoor has once again found himself falling for fake news, and then sharing it with his 7.1 million Twitter followers. “Even for Times of India, isn’t this taking India-China relations a bit too far?!” he gloated today while sharing a Times of India clipping which said that Modi and Xi would “mate” for 24 hours. “Times Now standards are clearly infectious,” he joked, clearly pleased at his own put-down.

But it turned out that the joke was on him, because the clipping that he’d shared was not only very obviously Photoshopped, but already had been called out as so by Times of India last year. “A photoshopped image of our headline on the Modi-Xi meet is doing the rounds,” Times of India had tweeted in April 2018. “All our editions carry the correct headline. You can see the difference when the correct & fake headlines are placed together. The one on the right is the photo-shopped image with the word ‘mate’ tilted,” it had added.

Tharoor has since deleted his tweet, but this isn’t even the first time that the Congress’ most eminent “intellectual” has been bested by Photoshop tricksters. Just last month, in response to the Howdy Modi event, Tharoor had shared a picture of Nehru, claiming it was from the reception he’d received in the US. But a quick check revealed that the photo was from Russia, not the US, and Tharoor was forced to apologize.

And last year, Tharoor had fallen prey to yet another WhatsApp forward — that Raghuram Rajan had been appointed as the governor of the Bank of England. “Remarkable: India’s Raghuram Rajan has been appointed Governor of the Bank of England! With an Indian (NasserHusain) having captained the England cricket team already, all that’s left to complete a reverse colonization is for an Indian to be Prime Minister,” he’d proclaimed, before apologizing when his error was pointed out.

Tharoor is now 63, and it’s not unusual for someone in his demographic to regularly fall prey to fake news on the internet (as anyone who’s spent any time in a WhatsApp group with their relatives would attest). But Tharoor is thought among his supporters to be an intellectual, a modern renaissance man who holds forth on subjects like British history and international diplomacy. To see him share fake news like Sharma Uncle from downstairs has to be disconcerting for his fans — it’s getting harder and harder to do away with the notion that his supposed intellect might just be the biggest fake news of them all.

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