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Something occurred to me a few days ago. Maybe a few years too late. But I think it is interesting. So some years ago I wrote a book called The Sceptical Patriot. 1/n
Which was basically a series of fun little fact-checks into popular WhatsApp forward-type statements of Indian greatness. Invented zero. Richest country before British came etc. 2/n
It was fun. And I enjoyed researching it. And except for Zero chapter, I think mostly the book holds up. One of the things I did for the book was to try to figure out first appearances of some of these facts. Especially the wrong ones or the mostly wrong ones. 3/n
Where did these first appear? And then get forwarded from? The majority of them, now that I think about it, came from the same source: websites of Indian students and professors in US universities. Or newsgroups they frequented. 4/n
These forward type things circulated there for maybe a decade and then kind of leaps in popularity on Indian websites from the early 2000s. From where they explode out into WhatsApp afterwards circa 2010 (??). 5/n
In fact some of these forwards can be traced back verbatim, word for word, typo for typo... ten or fifteen years. Quite fascinating really. So in some sense the first thing some Indians did in the US on getting a free website... 6/n
Was manufacture/massage pride-inducing facts. So what we are seeing right now in terms of forwards and fake news and so on... is just a very old tendency on steroids. And some of the 'smartest' people out there started it. Kind of. Fascinating for me. 7/7.
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