On his official blog ‘Bachchan Bol,’ actor Amitabh Bachchan recently lashed out at an anonymous troll who, he said, had written to him, “I hope you die with this Covid…” Bachchan’s response to the troll has raised a debate on use of social media power and following by celebrities. Is it the right way to tackle a troll by instigating violence against them? What kind of impact could it have, when a superstar flexes his social media following to intimidate others, even if on accounts of being harassed?

Bachchan replied to the troll in his blog, “Hey Mr Anonymous .. you do not even write your Father’s name ,.. because you do not know who Fathered you… if by God’s grace I live and survive you shall have to be ‘weathering’ the ‘swipe’ storm , not just from me , but on a very conservative level, from 90+ million followers… that extended family shall in the flash of an eye become ‘extermination family’ .. !!!! all I shall say to them is .. ‘ठोक दो साले को’.”

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Amitabh Bachchan’s Anger Is Justified, But His Expression Is Not

Because of that last line, netizens are calling out Bachchan for what sounds like a veiled threat that contains overtones of violence. Meanwhile, others, like me, are in utter disbelief that someone of his Shahenshah stature too is capable of such careless words on a public platform. Maybe it was an attempt at humour or drama, I don’t know.

But it’s a bit of a sitch, and one understands where Bachchan’s furious words are coming from. I’ve never been at the receiving end of a death curse or prediction, so I don’t know what it feels like. But I’m certain it wouldn’t feel nice, especially when one is bedridden with an illness. A Twitter user wrote, “It is most definitely unusual for a man with such enormous power… But I’d also consider his emotional state, after having tested positive to the virus during a pandemic + his age.”

Anger towards the troll is justified, but the way Bachchan chose to vent it is not. In reacting the way he did, he imitated the manner of a troll himself, who doesn’t know any better than to threaten a stranger with violence from behind a virtual account. The only difference was that Bachchan did it publicly, and in fact quite flamboyantly, on his blog that is read and followed by millions of people.

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Public Figures Should Be More Careful With Their Words

What’s most shocking is the dramatic turn the blog takes. It begins with a mention of sweet tears at the news of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and her daughter Aaradhya’s discharge from hospital, where they too, were admitted after testing positive for COVID-19. And unexpectedly, it ends with a string of wrathful words in Hindi and then in English – “May you burn in your own stew  !!” – directed at the troll who gave him a death curse.

With a career spanning more than half a century and life calculating far more, Bachchan is no ordinary man. Building his way up from the rubble, with Saat Hindustani in 1969 to Gulabo Sitabo in 2020, he has earned the status of a monument now. And his status warrants him a lot of power. But should he exploit the power of his legacy and of “90+ million followers” to issue a threat? Shouldn’t he realise the responsibility he holds as a public figure to be careful with his words?

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In Dealing With Trolls, We Must Not Become Trolls Ourselves

This is not the first time Amitabh Bachchan has come under fire for his social media practices. In the past, he has posted about homeopathy as a potential cure for coronavirus, and even shared an unverified claim of the March 22 Janta Curfew clapping sounds destroying “virus potency.” Granted, celebs too have full freedom to use their social media profiles as they like, but they must realise that whatever they post is reaching and influencing the behaviours of a large mass of people.

We’re all fed up with trolls and IT cells that propagate hate speech online. But the way to beat them is not by becoming them. If we stoop to their level, by resorting to violent words ourselves, then how does that make us any different? Aren’t we then contributing to the troll culture?

Everyone has a breaking point, with regard to trolls, and this was Amitabh Bachchan’s moment. But given his age and social media inexperience (as compared to the younger crowd), it is understandable that he may not be as adept at tackling online hate as much as he is at reprimanding Sonam Kapoor and others for not responding to his birthday wishes on WhatsApp. The best advice for him would be to just ignore trolls, whose only aim is to elicit a response from their targets, and choose his words wisely the next time.

Image Credit: Indian Express

Views expressed are the author’s own.

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