Babeş-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
The Possibility of Thinking in Mass-Media
Abstract: The present study is an enquiry into the ways in which ideology structures mass-media discourses and the possibilities to deconstruct its mechanisms in order to produce an authentic process of thinking. There are several principles of Western media and all of them construct in fact a fantasy which the viewer takes as reality. Traversing the fantasy (through a detection and an interpretation of the symptoms) seems to be the only possible way for an emancipation of the spectator.
Keywords: Ideology; Image pensive; Fantasy; Symptom; Emancipation.
Même rayé à mort,
un simple rectangle de 35 mm sauve l’honneur de tout le réel
0. The possibility of an “image pensive”
Balzac’s short story Sarrasine ends with the image of one of its main characters deep in thought. The phrase is short, and the ending seems abrupt: “et la marquise resta pensive.” Something seems to be left unsaid or at least the reader is informed that many other things will or could take place beyond the frames of the literary text. The reader will not know about them, but at the same time he has to acknowledge their existence and/or possibility. The image exposes a person in the process of thinking. The frames of the text close upon what paradoxically seems like an opening. There is an interpellation at work and the spectator is aware of it because of these double dimensions of the image: it informs us of a fact and it opens upon something else (an act, a consequence, a decision, etc). We will call this a thinking image (image pensive) and we will try to test whether our world, full of images of all kinds, is open to such an image and especially in the domain where images should always be related or defined through a certain ethics: namely in the mass-media.
Discussing this last phrase from Balzac’s text, Roland Barthes chose to focus on a textual mechanism, namely how thinking works in relation to a text: “la pensivité (des visages, des textes) est le signifiant de l’inexprimable, non de l’inexprimé.” An opening is contained and signalled inside the text. The narrative will not and cannot follow all of its implications, the entire web of relations that an event makes possible, but the text is careful not to appear closed. Barthes calls this “l’ouverture infinie de la pensivité.” As such, the text calls into action a spectator that is not passive, but, in the language of Jacques Rancière, an emancipated one. Emancipation begins when “on remet en question l’opposition entre regarder et agir,” when, in other words, the spectator understands the interpellation of an image (or a text) and starts to meditate on what he or she should do. The relationship between Barthes and Rancière does not stop here, as the latter’s book from 2009 ends with a chapter entitled L’image pensive, where the French philosopher goes back to Barthes’ texts (S/Z, but also La Chambre Claire) and delineates his own understanding of a thinking image. On the subject of the closure of Balzac’s story, Rancière considers that Barthes’ interpretation can be overturned: “Barthes voyait dans cette pensivité la marque du texte classique, une manière dont ce texte signifiait qu’il avait toujours du sens en réserve.” For Rancière, it can however be the mark of a modern text, precisely because “la pensivité vient en effet contrarier la logique de l’action.” Comparing Balzac and Flaubert, the author observes that the rising modernity builds a different connection between “la chaîne du récit orienté de son commencement vers la fin, avec nœud et dénouement, et la chaîne des micro-événements qui n’obéit pas à cette logique orientée.” In other words, the new regime of expression that art (and especially literature) invents in the second half of the 19th century resists a monological dimension (or the rigidity of an ideology). Following this perspective, the image of the marquise in deep thought should be read as a complex image that refuses to be codified under a certain meaning. It allows or makes thinking possible by keeping alternatives open, by undermining the (ideo)logics of movement from cause and effect or beginning to end (it resists a message, a conclusion or the power of a fact). In Rancière’s own words, it’s about “cette notion de pensivité qui désigne dans l’image quelque chose qui résiste à la pensée, à la pensée de celui qui l’a produite et de celui qui cherche à l’identifier.” An image pensive is not a characteristic of certain images. It rather names “un jeu d’écarts entre plusieurs fonctions-images présentes sur la même surface.”
According to the French philosopher, thinking images are not exclusively present in art. Due to the profusion of visual technologies and the multitude of images which they made possible, they should be found outside art too and mass-media might be one of the first places where to search for them. The possibility is taken into consideration by Giorgio Agamben in an essential text from 2007 where he delivers a powerful verdict. Going back to Guy Debord (who was already portraying in 1967 the society of the spectacle as the effect of capitalist media) and to Carl Schmitt (whose analyses of the ways in which the political system transforms and subjugates the masses the Italian philosopher still finds relevant), he considers that “le problème de l’actuelle domination spectaculaire des médias sur tous les aspects de la vie sociale apparaît sous un nouveau jour. Ce qui est en question, ce n’est rien de moins qu’une nouvelle et inouïe concentration, multiplication et dissémination de la fonction de la gloire comme centre du système politique. Ce qui restait autrefois confiné dans les sphères de la liturgie et du cérémonial se concentre dans les médias et, en même temps, à travers eux, se diffuse et s’introduit dans tous les moments et dans tous les milieux.” His conclusion is radical. Not only mass-media does not contain what we have called thinking images, but on the contrary it prevents their possibility. This verdict is not far from the one delivered in 1972 by French directors Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin in the movie-come-lecture Letter to Jane. After a convincing demonstration of how Western media works, they raise the possibility of a change in journalism. What would in other words a revolution in journalism represent? According to the two authors “ce serait un début de révolution de dire en Europe et aux USA qu’il n’est actuellement pas possible de prendre une photo de quelqu’un pensant à quelque chose.” It already represents a progressive step to admit the fact that mass-media protects against thinking, against the possibility of a thinking image. Along similar lines, Georges Didi-Huberman returns to the well-known theses about history of Walter Benjamin and to the meditations of Berthold Brecht in order to point that the history read (understood) by the many is written by the few who have prevailed. This means not only that every image (and text) is in fact a manipulated object but that there is little hope of finding thinking images that resist this ideology of the winner that leaves no alternatives open. Didi-Huberman however points that “Benjamin savait bien – et nous le savons aujourd’hui encore, s’agissant de notre propre contemporanéité – qu’en face ou en marge de cette tradition des vainquers qui nous ment, une moins lisible tradition des opprimés résiste, survit et persiste.” It is the duty of the historian (for Benjamin) and of the contemporary analyst (for Didi-Huberman) to re-expose this tradition. The emancipated spectator that Rancière defines is the one able either to deconstruct non-thinking images (to expose their inherent and violent ideology) or to actively produce the thinking that an image requires.
The same Jean-Luc Godard, so pessimist in 1972 about the possibility of an image pensive, indirectly concocts in 1988 a definition and a hope for it, when he refers, in his monumental cinematic work about the history of cinema, to surviving images from the Nazi camps: “Même rayé à mort, un simple rectangle de 35 mm sauve l’honneur de tout le réel.” It tells us that against all odds thinking images might be found and that their power is considerable. We will return to this with a necessary study of how images and ethics should relate, but first we will give a few examples of how capitalist media works.
1. Capitalism and Ideology. A Comedy of Lies
The Lie of Objectivity
The central Western media myth is the one of objectivity. The journalist is positioned in a hoped-for middle point from where he can reflect both sides and perspectives of an event and thus images and news should never be monological, but plural. The apparent double dimensions of a media image or text are in this way justified (or evidenced) through the balancing of one point of view with the opposite one. The first problem here lies in how the two are combined and what are the allowed combinations. There is also the possibility that instead of exposing the plurality of an image (or of opening the text towards plurality), the media in fact erases that plurality.
In 1958 and then in a lot of his texts until the 1970s, Pier Paolo Pasolini delivered a diagnostics on the effects of mass-media on society and its interferences and reciprocal influences with what we call the cultural space. In his view mass-media functions as a means to create and protect inequality by inducing an inferiority complex for the ordinary people: it “non seulement ne concourt pas à élever le niveau culturel des couches inférieures, mais provoque chez elles le sentiment d’une inférirorité presque angoissante.” He would later (1974) consider le véritable fascisme to be “cette assimilation au mode et à la qualité de vie de la bourgeoisie.” A bit earlier, in 1967, Roland Barthes was already noticing that “il y a un mal, un mal social, idéologique, attaché aux systèmes de signes qui ne s’avouent pas franchement comme systèmes des signes. La société bourgeoise donne toujours des signes comme justifiés par la nature ou la raison.” These readings of mass-media are still relevant today and they suggest that one always has to pay attention to the mechanisms of creating an image and thus an event and a reality.
The way international relations are defined by mass-media was already exposed by many, among whom Julio Cortázar deserves attention because of his ability to understand myths and ideologies as they traverse different types of discourse including, for example, the literary one. In his short introduction to his 1973 novel Libro de Manuel where he deals mainly with the fact that the construction of the novel includes real newspaper fragments, the Argentinian author observes how mass-media produces a global massage meant to protect the hierarchy of the Western interests. In 1972, one hears only news about the tragedy at the Olympic Games in München, while the tragedies in South America find no place inside newspaper columns or radio bulletins. The abundance of examples that one can refer to is suggestive. In 2014 we have witnessed the Ebola virus becoming a global item of news only when the first patient was discovered in the US. In early 2015, the tragedy at Charlie Hebdo received a torrent of media space and triggered global movements of sympathy, while the tragedy in Nigeria went almost unnoticed. Defending liberty of expression is a noble thing, but a meditation on how this liberty is used is equally necessary. One doesn’t have to deal here with a study of the mechanisms through which the heads of states present in Paris to reaffirm their belief in liberty of expression actually act often against it. It suffices to meditate on how media creates events through a journalism à deux vitesses. The killing of thousands of civilians by the Boko Haram movement is not an event, while the killing in Paris is. One has to be however careful not to see in this a simple manipulation or a clear choice made by persons involved in or with the media. In Slavoj Žižek’s opinion, it is a problem of how fantasy works within an ideological space: ”it simultaneously closes the actual span of choices (fantasy renders and sustains the structure of the forced choice, it tells us how we are to choose if we are to maintain the freedom of choice – that is, it bridges the gap between the formal symbolic frame of choices and social reality by preventing the choice which, although formally allowed, would, if in fact made, ruin the system) and maintains the false opening.” The situation in the case of Western media can be translated like this: it closes the span of choices (fundamentally the West is always right and capitalism is never questioned seriously but, on the contrary, naturalized) and it maintains the false opening (minor criticisms are allowed, the appearance of objectivity is rhetorically equated with professionalism and expertise, the notion that confronted with evidence an opinion will be adapted or modified, etc). The media fantasy of maintaining an equidistance in fact allows the position of intervention of the West as a mediator come judge come solution-bearer everywhere its interests demand it.
In one of his early sketches for his project about the 19th century, Walter Benjamin considers that the epoch invented the “sensational transmission of news” by focusing attention away from the becomings, processes and evolutions of reality. Mass-media was born and developed through the creation of phantasmagories. It knows no history: “events pass before it as always identical and always new. The sensation of the newest and most modern is, in fact, as much a dream formation of events as the eternal return of the same. The perception of space that corresponds to this perception of time is superposition.” In its role of giving an ideology to the citizen, mass-media has the function of naturalizing conventions, hierarchies and, in the language of Barthes, systems of signs. We are offered news, technologies modernize and change, but the frames of understanding and rules and laws stay the same.
The mantra of objectivity is however sometimes consciously left aside. For example the media reactions in July 2014 to two different conflicts are suggestive. On the one hand the conflict in Ukraine with the alleged Russian intervention was covered extensively through a judgement no longer veiled or presented indirectly: the Russians are to blame and must be exposed as the main culprit. The false opening here was maintained by the minor criticism on the Ukrainian side: its violence was portrayed as reactive and thus justified. The military equipment available to the Maidan protesters and their extreme right-wing views were marginalized or simply denied. On the other hand the massacre of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli army met with polite condemnation or with the maintaining of the appearance of an objective position by partially justifying the Israeli violence through its right to defend its security and by portraying any criticism of its government as anti-Semitic through the well-known ideological mechanism that “establishes itself by assuming a distance towards (what it denounces us) mere ideology.” The case of the American media is particularly symptomatic. ABC exposed photos of rubble in Gaza as being in Israel. NBC ordered its correspondent out of Gaza after witnessing the massacre of Palestinian children. The media messages in the two conflicts (anti-Russian and at least protecting the Israeli interests) were necessary in order to convey a supplementary message. The mantra of objectivity in these cases no longer functions given the level of Israeli aggressions and the limited evidence for the accusations against the Russians. The media was obliged to ideologically balance what was in reality unbalanced. The case of Fox News in the US is suggestive for how Republican interests adjust perfectly to the economic interests of the TV owner, Rupert Murdoch, exposing the fact that the main interest of capitalism (profit-seeking for the few) is in close relation to different forms of racism and imperialism.
Jean-Luc Godard repeatedly deplored the failure of an experiment he conducted in the 70s. While in Mozambique, he tried to offer the local journalists the chance to make their own news, to invent a media according to their own principles and identities and, to put it shortly, to create images and to film differently. What happened is that these journalists, while welcoming the cameras brought to them by the Europeans, started filming news in exactly the same way as the Western procedures. The shots were framed in the same way, the editing followed the same mechanisms and the symbolic and metaphorical aspects repeated the vocabulary and visual language of the others. Referring to this failure in an interview given in 1985, in the age of the growing importance of television, but before the birth and global expansion of the internet forms of conveying news, he declares that “il y a de plus en plus de photos et de moins en moins d’images.”
The Lie of Clarity
The mantra of clarity is at the core of media mythologies. It is however also at work in the academic Western criteria with their focus on evidence and structure against what is perceived as confusion, incoherence and speculation. It is often a necessary corollary to how ideology works. Clarity supposes distinction and the possibility of clear delineations which represent also the essential motor of ideology: “ideology requires a distance towards itself in order to rule unimpeded: if ideology is to maintain its hold on us, we must experience ourselves as not fully in its grasp.” During the Romanian presidential elections in the autumn of 2014, the media, the blogs and the social networks were invaded by authors pretending that they escape the left-right alternatives of political positions and that they act politically by judging each event on its own, so that sometimes they agree with activists on the left and sometimes with those on the right. This is the most radical way in which ideology works: by pretending that there is a neutral position from which the spectator can judge objectively the historical process.
Another key aspect of the myth of clarity is the necessary infantilization of the spectator. His understanding is guided through the use of a few clear-cut values or positions. The end of 2014 witnessed an entire media crusade of Romanian analysts Horia-Roman Patapievici and Gabriel Liiceanu in order to reaffirm the necessary anti-communist stances of the nation in front of what they perceived as dangerous ideas from a few authors writing on an internet platform called Critic Atac. The main argument of the crusaders was the necessary moral clarity that affirms that while capitalism does not kill, any anti-capitalist scenario does. In this way a range of simplifications (Marxism is inherently violent, Communism equates Fascism, etc) are given substance ideologically on the basis of a hoped-for clear ethics. In the world of the now almost forgotten Francis Fukuyama (who was convinced that history ended in 1989 and that the Western model will be accepted as natural and definitive), all the puzzle pieces seem to fall into place. The situation is of course not that simple, but the use of pretended clear-cut distinctions is suggestive of how ideology works and especially in the context of this media crusade. The undeniable global crisis of capitalism seems to worry the two Romanian authors only insofar as it could give rise to pro-communist positions. Ironically, the promise of a return to some kind of socialism is in this way made not by theorists and authors of the left, but by some of their fiercest adversaries. The incident in question is also symptomatic for the logic of dissimulation that is at the core of Western media which often covers up its ideological edifice. As Bruno Bosteels puts it in a text from 2011, “the difficulty in question stems from the play of dissimulation through which democracy appears as the epitome of liberty and peace, only temporarily interrupted by the abnormality of civil war and dictatorship. Insofar as this game of hide-and-seek is not accidental but constitutive of the democratic order, the first step necessarily requires an effort of undoing the logic of dissimulation.” Bruno Bosteels directs his analysis through central references to the Argentinean philosopher León Rozitchner who in a book from 2003 exposed the underlying logic of terror that continues to ground democracy and focused among other dimensions of terror on “the terror of covering-up those forms of knowledge that might be able to unravel this domination – is the ground on the basis of which the system negates within each one, the very thing that it animates.” The Wikileaks phenomenon and the different forms of repression against it come immediately to mind.
The Logic of Dissimulation
The injunction of clarity works inside a logic of dissimulation that primarily veils the fact that the neoliberal capitalist system is a world without an Idea, without a universal truth. Its only claim to generality is the circulation of capital. It is thus impossible to construct an ethics based on the capital which itself is not related to morality. It functions without any regard to subjectivity, community or any understanding of the common. Its violence and terror are immediately exposed from the perspective of any Idea and it is for this reason that conservative crusaders and the media are so persistent in trying to dissimulate this truth. There is a double movement at work: mass-media portrays the lack of alternatives to the Western perspective (or when they seem to exist they are immediately exposed as violent, terror-driven, etc), while dissimulating the logic of terror at work inside capital. Objectivity, clarity and dissimulation are all necessary for the ideological edifice and its democratic appearance.
2. Traversing the fantasy
Godard and Gorin cite the famous dialogue between Dziga-Vertov and Lenin in which the Soviet director observed that truth is simple, but it is not simple to tell the truth. Through its pretences of objectivity and clarity, Western mass-media offers the appearance of telling the truth in the right way. All the principles discussed above imply that the position of the one who witnesses an event is crucial. How does one relate? What are the mechanisms of witnessing?
The mantra of objectivity (albeit not always respected, as we have seen above) considers essential that the witness is impartial and that such a position exists. It would seem unquestionable. Things are however not that simple. In his 1998 book about how we relate to Auschwitz, Giorgio Agamben attacks the problem of an event and the position of the witness that narrates its truth by going back to etymology. Following Latin, he makes a distinction between two understandings of the witness: testis, the one who positions himself between two sides in a trial, and superstes, the one who has lived something, has traversed an event and consequently can narrate to others about it. Agamben’s analysis leads him to conclude that the true witness is the latter. Truth is not juridical. The example of Auschwitz is a strong case in point: “il aura fallu presque un demi-siècle pour que l’on comprenne que le droit n’a pas réglé le problème, que le problème est tellement énorme qu’il met en cause le droit lui-même, qu’il le mène à la ruine.” Modernity has taught us that everything (and especially the past) can be subsumed to an archive and that this is increasingly more reliable when everything relating to subjectivity is eliminated. Historiography and mass-media both share this founding principle. The archive supposes “la mise hors-jeu du sujet, réduit à une simple fonction ou à une position vide.” The fact that Western media mimics this objectivity after the objectivity of the capital and the supposed natural mechanism of the market economy (perhaps the fantasy par excellence nowadays) will not be dealt with here, but must be taken into consideration. The battle, in Agamben’s view, is for the position of the subject (the only one that can be engaged, that can act against or resist a system and that can be loyal, in Badiou’s terms to an Idea or an Event). Eliminating the subject protects the supposed neutrality of capital and thus the social divisions in existence. Unsurprisingly, for Agamben the correct way to narrate an event is to create a narrative which gives voice to the one without voice: “le témoignage n’a de vérité, de raison d’être que s’il complète en l’intégrant le témoignage de qui ne peut témoigner.” In this way, authentic witnessing can only be done by being partial, but – and this is essential – this partiality can only be on the side of the excluded. “L’autorité du témoignage ne dépend pas d’une vérité factuelle, de la conformité entre la parole et les faits, la mémoire et la passé, mais de la relation immémoriale entre dicible et indicible, entre dedans et dehors de la langue.”
Serge Daney was already dealing with the same problems when he witnessed the media hysteric rendering of the fall of the Berlin wall. In his view, this hysteric witnessing was relevant in two ways: it showed how media images work to protect the symbolic reading of reality and it made visible (albeit not in full view, but through a traversing of the fantasy that we will deal with shortly) the real racism that the West covers under a “humanisme de façade.” The problem with the so-called Western humanism is that in reality it never accepts the Other unless he conforms to Western values. There is no place in the Western torrent of images for the possibility of the other to define me. He or she is always defined, and never allowed the position of the one who defines. They should be allowed “le droit de procéder à ma définition.” Conventional racism works by excluding a group of people (B) from the privileges of another (A) until B accepts the values of A. There is however, according to Daney’s definition, a real racism, much more violent, that never allows the values of B to even enter discussion. The West continuously reinforces such structures of exclusion and domination through the way it builds its own narrative (in texts and images). The problem with the images that expose the fall of the Berlin wall is that they symbolically code a single message (that freedom is on the part of the West) and maintain a division (us-them). Of course, a correct image of the fall of the Berlin wall (and a correct way to witness it) would be to transform it from a monological instrument of coding into a dialogical image, capable to expose the quilt of both sides involved and, supplementary, to attract attention to the existence (direct or indirect) of other walls around the world. Images, according to Daney, should be “une frontière, une interface, une bande de Moebius forcément lisible des deux côtés, parce qu’écrite des deux côtés.” The good old injunction of Jean-Luc Godard (“Toujours deux images”) seems to be the key, although this does not mean the rendering of two points of view (as in the mantra of objectivity of the Western media), but the ability of the image to expose the conflicts and negotiations between, in Daney’s terms, the values of group A and those of group B. “Il faudrait une pensée de l’interface,” says Daney. This obviously allows us to find another argument for our search for an image pensive.
This seems difficult in a world in which even the right to image is privatized. The way in which capitalism restricts access to visibility was of course wonderfully exposed by Walter Benjamin in his 1935 version of The Work of Art in the Age of the Mechanical Reproduction. More recently and starting from Benjamin, Georges Didi-Huberman connects the Benjaminian concept of a dialectical image to the understanding of images by Aby Warburg. While dialectical images are “images destinés à monter ensemble les espaces hétérogènes” which should allow us to “lire les mouvements de temps dans des configurations visuelles,” the Warburgian texts and projects inform us about the existence of migratory images, those that allow us to “lire les mouvements d’espaces dans chaque configuration visuelle.” In other words, Warburg teaches us that images are not simple, but hybrids, impure and that “le destin des images ne peut s’appréhender qu’en termes de montages, de démontages et de remontages perpétuels.” Each image is political, it does something, it acts. The problem, after admitting this, is how one should act. The first step is the ability to detect how media images function.
According to Slavoj Žižek, there is something as “ideological jouis-sense, enjoyment-in-sense (enjoy-meant), proper to ideology.” This means, according to lessons already taught by Jacques Lacan, that ideology structures reality according to the mechanisms of fantasy. In the case of mass-media, we have seen that this is done through a naturalization of symbolic or coded messages (for example the often repeated so-called truth by partisans of neoliberalism that human nature is essentially egoist or the implied message in most Western news that the liberal foundations of the West are the ultimate truth). Thus fantasy represents not an escape from reality (a different universe, a fiction, etc) but the very essence of reality. In the Slovenian philosopher words, “ideology is not a dreamlike illusion that we build to escape insupportable reality; in its basic dimension it is a fantasy-construction which serves as a support for our reality itself.” He goes on to point that fantasy structures our effective social relations and, in doing so, it “masks some insupportable, real, impossible kernel” which in many cases is none other than traumatic social divisions and the existence of inequality and exploitation. As Serge Daney was already pointing out in an interview he gave to Regis Debray on French TV, the news presenter on TF1 is not talking to the spectator so as to inform him or her about reality but he is showing his patron that he is doing a good job and deserves to be paid or simply kept employed. In Lacanian terms, the Real of a situation (what actually cannot be and resists symbolization) does not reveal itself in the normal functioning of a system, but in its symptoms. Perceived at the surface and within the limits of the fantasy that structures it, the Western mass-media appears as a model of objectivity, clarity and neutrality. One has to traverse the fantasy, in other words and according to Lacanian theses the Subject has to assume a new position in regard to the Other. This means that the Subject/spectator no longer reads the message according to its symbolic code, but experiences the fact that fantasy in fact fills out a lack in the Other and consequently tries to veil this absence. Karl Marx was of course the first to observe how ideology works and how it can be overturned by a reading of the symptoms: “Marx’s great achievement was to demonstrate how all phenomena which appear to everyday bourgeois consciousness as simple deviations, contingent deformations and degenerations of the normal functioning of society (economic crises, wars, and so on), and as such abolishable through ameliorations of the system, are necessary products of the system itself – the points at which the truth, the immanent antagonistic character of the system, erupts.” A reading of the symptoms is thus necessary in order to traverse the ideological code of Western media, because what is essential is to understand that the fantasy constructs of objectivity, democracy and freedom are in fact veiling its true core. Traversing the fantasy means reading the symptoms that an image tries to hide and understanding that these points of crisis, resistant to the symbolic dogma, are in fact the normal functioning of the system: “To identify with a symptom means to recognize in the excesses, in the disruptions of the normal way of things, the key offering us access to its true functioning.” How can this be done? Would an image pensive mean an ability to perceive and read the symptoms? Unsurprisingly, the question cannot be answered without a short but vital discussion of the ethics of an image.
3. A modest form of ethics
In 1980, while preparing a volume edition of some of her articles in the French press, Marguerite Duras wrote an Avant-propos which starts with the following ideas about journalism: “il n’y a pas de journalisme sans morale. Tout journaliste est un moraliste. C’est absolumént inévitable.” She obviously doesn’t agree a single second with the Western myth of an objective journalism. By selecting something from reality and by editing an event, media offers an implicit judgement in the process of what it prefers to portray as a clear and objective reproduction of reality. “L’information objective est un leurre total. C’est un mensonge. Il n’y a pas de journalisme objectif, il n’y a pas de journaliste objectif.” All this does not mean that there is no legitimation possible for journalism. There is and should be only an ethical legitimation. Every image is manipulated and every form of journalism is a judgement on reality. Accepting this, one has to enlarge the frames of an event, to open an image towards thinking and to emancipate the spectator towards action: ”les raisons encore pourquoi j’ai écrit, j’écris dans les journaux relèvent aussi du même mouvement irrésistible qui m’a portée vers la résistance française ou algérienne et aussi qui m’a portée vers la tentation de dénoncer l’intorélable d’une injustice de quelque ordre qu’elle soit, subie par un peuple tout entier ou par un seul individu.”
In Walter Benjamin’s view, given that mass-media confronts us with a superposition of new and old that erases history in order to protect the implied ideology, what we need to do is re-capture the historical thought by exposing it outside the media frames. In short, by deconstructing the superposition in question: “as these formations dissolve within the enlightened consciousness, political-theological categories arise to take their place. And it is only within the purview of these categories, which bring the flow of events to a standstill, that history forms, at the interior of this flow, as crystalline constellation.” Just like the character in Balzac’s Sarrasine, we have to open the image (or the text) to a thinking that reveals its ideology, its myths and inside them the real historical truth.
We can now return to the notes that Serge Daney was writing shortly before his death about the mechanisms of the image. While the media image tends to create the event according to the symbolic codes that it protects and propagates (the fall of the Berlin wall as proof of the triumph and legitimacy of Western values), there is a need (in media, but also inside the visual arts) for a different type of image. In Daney’s definition, this image is profoundly ethical because its legitimacy is given by its capacity to let the Other (and his or her values) exist: “il n’y a d’image que s’il y a de l’autre et il n’y a d’autre que s’il y a une histoire qui est racontée.” He was already pointing out in an interview from 1977 and published in a New York magazine that “morality becomes a living question again because everyone has experienced the fact that there exists no morality for someone who thinks in terms of power (to be seized, held onto or dreamed of).” In his notes from 1989, he considers that the image should fight against media images who have become simple “signes-vaccins,” logo-images that reduce the complexity of an image to the codified message and thus eliminate the position or even the existence of the Other. His examples of ethical images come from cinema and they integrate very well with the injunction that we discussed above about the necessity for an image to expose the symptoms of a system (to prove that what capitalism considers exceptions represent in fact its normal functioning): “Pourquoi Rome ville ouverte ou Les Carabiniers sont des grands films? Parce qu’ils ont eu le culot de dire non au pathos et de mettre les points sur cette i inadmissible: la torture est une routine, la guerre est ennuyeuse, les événements historiques ne se tiennent pas mieux que de banals faits divers, la puissance d’acceptation (ou de révolte) de l’homme est indéchiffrable, le spectacle du pire n’est pas toujours sûr, etc.”
An image pensive would thus be an ethical image capable of doing two things: exposing the symptomatic points where the system fails to function symbolically (and exposing in this way its ideology) and giving voice to those who have no voice. This latter responsibility is discussed by many of today’s theorists, but we will limit ourselves, in this last paragraph, to Georges Didi-Huberman. In his fourth volume of his series L’œil de l’histoire, he deals with the way the masses gain or are refused access to images. People are in fact nowadays either sub-exposed (different forms of censorship and exclusion work towards limiting their becoming-subjects of our images: injustices never shown, hidden inequalities, negated or never discussed, etc) or over-exposed (when masses become stereotypical, from the hysteria of soccer crowds to their uniform portrayal as agents of a symbolic message – the example of the fall of Berlin wall will work here too). There is no accurate image of community in today’s media, because we lack the legitimacy, visibility and capacity of a community to interpellate in any image that pretends to render it. The solution proposed by the French analyst is ethical and thus can also constitute a moral of our text: we need to transform the image so that inside it a thinking is at work. “Bref, de faire de l’image un lieu du commun là où régnait le lieu commun des images du peuple.” That may be the image pensive that we’ve been searching and, after the long night of emancipatory thinking (following 1989), it is probably the responsibility of all progressive thinkers nowadays to go back to what Walter Benjamin was demanding in his last text from 1940: to organize the pessimism and to operate and change against all odds the conditions that make this pessimism possible.
 I use this term in the way that Alain Badiou defines it: “I call an Idea an abstract totalization of the three basic elements: a truth procedure, a belonging to history, and an individual subjectivation” (Alain Badiou, The Idea of Communism, in The Idea of Communism, edited by Costas Douzinas and Slavoj Žižek, Verso, London and New York, 2010, p. 14.)
 The fact that the images were repeated with the same way of coding and the same symbolic construction 25 years later (in 2014) is suggestive of the stiffening of the media mechanisms and the ideology structuring it.
 The fact that this did not happen not even in 2014 (by for example drawing attention to the existence of walls between the US and Mexico or between Israel and Gaza) is again suggestive of the fact that the Berlin images still work in accordance to the same ideological mechanism.
 “À chaque époque, il faut chercher à arracher de nouveau la tradition au conformisme qui est sur le point de la subjuguer. Le don d’attiser dans l passé l’étincelle de l’espérance n’appartient qu’à l’historiographe intinement persuadé que, si l’ennemi triomphe, même les morts ne seront pas en sûreté. Et cet ennemi n’a pas fini de triompher.” (Walter Benjamin, Sur le concept d’histoire in Œuvres, III, Paris, Gallimard, 2000, p. 431.