Is fantasizing always diametrically opposed to the truth? Or does it tend to become an inherent component of reality – to blend with it, be superimposed on it – to the point that the two shape each other?
The recent Bugingo affair – involving a Montreal journalist who apparently invented a series of facts and situations to make his reports on international political events more attractive – is, in its way, revealing of the current status of news in society. The great liberties taken by Bugingo reveal what can only be called mythomania, given how enormous and flagrant his inventions seem in hindsight. He continued his fabrications for a number of years, and we may well wonder why no one sounded the alarm earlier. So, what happens to truth and objectivity when everyone shares the illusion? Obviously, Bugingo allowed himself to be overwhelmed by his success with a public reputed to be uninterested in international news, by gradually creating a life as a great reporter for himself. Such misbehaviour is symptomatic of the future of the news in a culture in which the spectacular, the immediate, and the “felt” exert pressure on the value of objectivity that is the foundation of journalistic ethics. Columns, essays, points of view, and even the experiences and emotions of the reporter in the field are increasingly invading the news, which is reduced to fragments repeated ad nauseam. Thus, journalistic ethics takes refuge in investigative reporting, which is gradually being starved of the means to conduct it.
Digital images play a pivotal role in the redefinition of the status of news. The smartphone has created the citizen-journalist, a purveyor of images taken on the fly in places and at times of insufficient journalistic coverage. Social networks, especially, allow for rapid circulation of an infinite quantity of images, contributing to the multiplication of points of view and the increasingly fragmentary nature of news. These images, however, are ambiguous – still weighted with their share of reality but now ballasted with doubt due to their manipulability. Perhaps this is why they must be constantly reiterated. And so, huge quantities of images are produced. Essentially, they are always the same images – images that not only redouble the world, but also redouble themselves. Such images no longer inform; they simply testify to a compulsion. What all the selfies, and all the TV reality shows that are the bread and butter of today’s media coverage, bespeak is the desire for a surplus of being. We don’t want images to tell us about the world or even to teach us something about ourselves. We want images to be in our image, for them to magnify us and allow us full access to the sphere of images. It is just like when we are tourists and demand to find in the real world exact reproductions of the idealized images that we have made for ourselves or that the cultural and tourism industries have fabricated for us.
Translated by Käthe Roth