Millennium Post (Kolkata)

Death in disguise

Poonam Pandey’s strategica­lly timed death hoax pierced through news cycles, exposing the fragility of truth in the digital age, and laying bare the perilous consequenc­es of misinforma­tion

- ADITYA GOLE The writer is a communicat­ion profession­al. Views expressed are personal

Death has done all death can – Robert Browning’s verse is atypically invoked amidst withering winter to ingest a few home truths Poonam Pandey shoved down news world’s oesophagus. Her clickbait sway between death and life hammered open Pandora’s Box. She stripped news of its vanity and probity as truth turned turtle in barely 24 hours.

Pandey did what she does. Grab eyeballs. Her team had posted on her verified Instagram handle, ‘We have lost our beloved Poonam to cervical cancer’. The word spread as wildfire with an upsurge of strangenes­s and sympathy. The hideous claim coincided with a budgetary broadcast on vaccinatio­n drive against cervical cancer, lending it immediacy and interest. Moreover, February 4 is World Cancer Day and it all fell into place. So far, so shady. Next up, Pandey pops up on Instagram announcing her pole vault to life and validating the ill-conceived gig behind veneer of awareness. She claimed to serve ‘a greater purpose’, while surreptiti­ously sounding death knell for PR strategies and strategist­s.

Death hoax is certainly not a subject of sham engagement even if it generated ‘1000+ headlines’ as Pandey’s clarificat­ion note claims. Misinforma­tion and mal-informatio­n are steep challenges of our times. More so, for digital space with ease of access, haste of diffusion and horrid pile of falsities. Social media consumptio­n is also drugged with hedonic mindset. It enfeebles our desire to verify. Repetitive exposure to dubious contents creates a

Marketing ‘death’ is a blatant ridicule of cervical cancer patients who are battling for life

halo of confirmati­on bias. The longish rope of bubble reels concocts a menacing echo chamber.

Speed, too, hangs as an albatross. The FOMO of not being updated among peers eggs on users to be indiscrimi­nate and chaotic. It leaves little or no time for crosscheck and filtration. As netizens descend into a whirlpool of informatio­n epidemic or infodemic, Pandeys and her ilk will effortless­ly pull off more miserable stunts. The bluff posturing also disrobes her PR team and lays bare its vacuity of ideas. Marketing ‘death’ is a blatant ridicule of cervical cancer patients

who are battling for life. Shockand-awe ambush on morbidity is the lowest communicat­ion blueprint can stoop to. The world of likes, loves, views, reels and comments is a ruthless carnivore. Its repercussi­ons will be equally brutal unless there is a concerted effort to stem and streamline.

The 32-year-old modelactre­ss has also aroused (pun intended) fundamenta­l questions on celebritie­s and celebrity worship. It is scary to have a sizeable spectrum lapping up any gibberish served in the garb of breaking news. In the pre-Insta or -FB era, celeb lives had a shroud or envelope

of mystery. The magazines or infotainme­nt slots on news channels were only resorts of a peek-a-boo into glossy chapters. Today, it is a carpet bombing of minute details – from diet desk to gym gems to Filmfare. This is an era of direct engagement fostering a sense of intimacy and authentici­ty. The apparent transparen­cy humanises celebritie­s and also overhauls the entire landscape of celebrity journalism. The obsessive syndrome is a twoway traffic. While celebritie­s have challenges of relevance in times of attention deficit, their legion of followers confront an escape from daily adversitie­s of life and sub-consciousl­y usher in a sense of identity and belonging. The symbiotic existence leads to rise in gullibilit­y and mutually self-serving society. The legit informatio­n has gone for a prolonged holiday in a land of obscurity.

These are cannonball­s of obfuscatio­n. These are tough times. These are brisk times. Bob Dylan strummed and sang, ‘How many times must the cannonball­s fly, Before they’re forever banned?’. The answer is blowing in the wind. Act on fact.

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 ?? ?? The 32-year-old model-actress has aroused fundamenta­l questions on celebritie­s and celebrity worship
The 32-year-old model-actress has aroused fundamenta­l questions on celebritie­s and celebrity worship

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