Paradox of Existential Reality


© Media Watch 12 (1) 3-6, 2021
ISSN 0976-0911 | E-ISSN 2249-8818

Paradox of Existential Reality

Jyotirmaya Patnaik, Ph.D.


No figure of speech other than “paradox” can encapsulate the chaotic confusion, uncertainty, and anxiety human civilization has been passing through since the outbreak of Covid-19. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS Cov-2) has proved how helpless human beings could be, all the scientific progress and technological advances notwithstanding. The paradox of existential reality till today continues to be as it is from the time of the dawn of curiosity in the cognitive domain of humanity. No sooner some intricate question or problem seems to have been figured out or fixed than there comes up something that reminds us how limited our understanding is and how ineffectual our actions are before Nature’s scheme of things. The latest instance is that when humanity is about to heave a sigh of relief for having developed pharmacological measures to tame Covid-19, new mutants of the microbe are emerging with more deadly and contagious characteristics. Irrespective of geographical location, racial distinction, financial position, everybody is subject to vulnerability. Instead of living a life, each one struggles to cope with the predicament human life has been thrown into.

What is more appalling is that even in such a profoundly morbid and disruptive environment where every individual’s life is under threat, there is no let-up in the mischievous potential of the human mind that borders on criminality and smacks of evil. Fakery, rumours, disinformation, and misinformation are further aggravating the unease, distress, and confusion. A tsunami of false news centering around Covid-19 has been inundating information vehicles, primarily social media. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has aptly called this inundation infodemic.

Rumours and fake news can be explained as unverified pieces of information. Though both are many times used interchangeably and characteristically overlap, a very subtle distinction separates them. Rumours are doubtful information that might carry an element of truth in it or might not; moreover, there is no deliberate intention to spread untruths. On the contrary, fake news is a product of the devil mind’s workshop conspiratorially conceived with vested interests to peddle pure lies. Uncertainty and anxiety combined with a lack of authentic information provide fertile ground for mushrooming of fake news. Information deficit most often occurs during wars and other crises like a pandemic. So, disinformation, misinformation, and malinformation fill the void.

Fabrication, dissemination, and consumption of fakery is a mind game that is being played out for ages and will stay put like other baser instincts. In normal times they stay relegated to the background. But in a heightened emotional state, they burst out to the fore, and all the education, reasoning, scientific temper, civility, lofty ideals, and value system are thrown into the wind. Advanced technology and gadgets have given faster wings to fake news, enlarged their range and deepened the intensity. The outbreak of Covid-19 has shaken the very foundation of human existence more than any war or natural calamity ever did. This resulted in frenzy and irrationality taking control of the mass psyche. Grotesque elements of the human mind have had a field day. Social media is flooded with disinformation, malinformation, and rumours setting off a chain reaction affecting every aspect of human existence.

The current issue of Media Watch carries several articles of scholarship and novelty. Two research papers give an insight into fake news construct, their modus operandi, and the way to counter fakery by sandwiching it in between truths and facts. Professor Kenix and Manickam, in their paper “A Missed Opportunity…” said that defanging fake news is not impossible. Fakery juxtaposed against facts becomes less potent. The ‘truth sandwich’ concept designed by linguist George Lakoff may prove handy to minimize the damage. The authors lament that American media, irrespective of their ideological leanings- conservative or liberal, did not care to carry out real-time experiments to test the efficacy of Lakoff’s proposition during Donald Trump’s presidency though the White House was alleged to have been turned to a breeding ground of fake news.  Abraham and Mandalaparthy, psychiatry being their field of specialization, in their article “Fake News…” have tried to explore the age-related psychological response to fake news and consequent behavioural pattern. Two other articles deal with evolving concepts like Crowdcoding and Ecospace. Authors of “Testing ‘Crowdcoding’ methods….” Gondwe and Some argue that both traditional and digital research and content analysis methodologies have their own typical shortcomings. Hence, trying to substitute one with the other would be a fallacy. Rather, they would better be used as complements to attain greater accuracy.   The article “In search of ecospace.…” scans the spectrum of ecocinema, a new genre in the seventh art, highlighting its inherent potential to develop a conscious awareness of the environmental issues that can lead to non-exploitative, non-utilitarian co-existence with the non-human world. Another article, “Patriarchal modernity and women,” takes a relook at The Apu Trilogy of Satyajit Ray not from the cinematic angle, but to make sense of the social milieu of colonial Bengal through feminist lenses. It asserts that the Bengal renaissance of the nineteenth century had predominant patriarchal streaks. The article on political cartooning eulogises cartooning as an art of giving a concerted commentary where irony, satire, wit, and humour roll into one. Given the sensitive and intricate nature of the message expressed through a cartoon that is capable of causing mental and emotional hurt, to be politically correct some media houses are banishing them from their menu. The authors bat for their continuance as cartooning reflects the degree of democratic freedom.