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Everything Regarding Sony’s THE INTERVIEW Is Bad

I don’t think there’s any other way of saying it: everything surrounding Sony and The Interview is a massive f**k-up of proportions so gigantic that the numbers with which to calculate it haven’t been dreamed up yet. At every turn, it was bad move after bad move, and it resulted in both a very blatant attempt to save face and a very dangerous precedent sent to would-be cyber-terrorists the world over. I have a lot of feelings about everything having to do with this whole affair, but I think what I’m angriest about is that nobody is willing to stand up for free speech, and as a result we’ve now let foreign threats dictate censorship in the United States. But should Sony have really been the one to make that call?

When the initial attacks on Sony by hackers began, it was a scandal, and then something of a joke. Sure, they were saying it was because of the Seth Rogen-James Franco film and its depiction of a plot to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, but all they were doing was making Sony look like fools by releasing private content and leaking personal emails, many of which detailed not-yet-inked business deals and behind-the-back name-calling that read like Mean Girls‘ Burn Book as written by very powerful Hollywood players. These hacks, in turn, produced a lot of entertainment news for a lot of days and Sony’s stock plummeted as a result.

But then things went further. The hackers released a serious threat to cinemas that would show The Interview and equated what they would do to the events of 9/11. This was enough to make five of the largest theater chains in America to pull the film from their planned Christmas weekend schedule, and that therefore led Sony to pull the release of the film altogether, with apparently no plans to release the movie ever, in any format. U.S. government  and FBI officials later said they believe the hackers were acting on the direct orders of the North Korean government. Effectively, a foreign power has dictated policy in the U.S.

You know all this. You’ve read all the reports, you’ve been angry about it on Twitter just like the rest of us. It was a profoundly sad day for this country, in a year that’s already produced far too many already. The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, protecting the Freedom of Speech above all else, has been allowed to be completely disregarded out of fear, and a fear of what is very clearly the least free nation on Earth.

But there’s a part of me that’s also kind of angry that nobody apparently considered the possibly globally-incendiary nature of The Interview in the first place. A movie — a comedy, no less — is calling for the assassination of an actual world leader. This isn’t like Team America: World Police which depicted the former leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-il, as a buffoonish marionette supervillain who was secretly an alien cockroach; this is a guy who somehow has less of a sense of humor than his father and an even more ridiculously overblown view of himself, one that he demands every person in his country recognize as fact. What are the odds this clearly unstable individual and his brainwashed cabinet would be willing to do anything to keep the Leader’s image and name from being lambasted? A nation like this under such a leader would surely see this as an act of aggression. Now, this doesn’t excuse any of the further things that happened, and cyber-terrorism should never be condoned, but for Sony, Rogen, Goldberg, and whomever else is involved not to realize that something like this could be a possibility or that they should prepare counter-PR is beyond naive.

And this is where a lot of my problems with this whole thing come in: Sony apparently isn’t standing by anything it’s doing. A lot of people have been calling for the multinational corporation to release The Interview online for free to show that they are unafraid, or just being cool and saying, “Look, nobody’s going to show it, so we’re going to let people watch it if they want to and we’ll make no money from it.” After so much bad press, it would have gotten back some cred. But they didn’t. The statement they released said, “We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome,” and that they were “deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie.” But that’s essentially it. They’re not apologizing; they’re just trying to sweep it under the rug. Should they have even been put in this position?

Once the threat was made, it was determined that it should be taken at least somewhat serious, and the biggest cinema chains in the nation pulled out, what other options did Sony have? Since November 24th, the company has been caught flat-footed and has been dealing with the mother of all public relations and internal security nightmares. The company itself has been under a lot of scrutiny about the way it’s handled everything, and when the exhibitors balked, they knew they were taking more of a dive. This isn’t a healthy company making cogent decisions; this is a boxer on the ropes and ready to throw in the towel.

Still, all of this was handled incredibly poorly and is the result of the companies acting out of fear. Obviously, the safety of people should be the number one concern, but should that come at the cost of freedom of expression? Sony has given in to the demands of a small group that may or may not actually be representing a whole nation and has censored the expression of a group of people attempting to make a statement, even if that statement wasn’t in the best of taste, globally speaking. It’s the clusteriest of clusterf**ks and now there’s a precedent for how attacks like this are handled. When will it end? Steve Carell and Gore Verbinski’s new thriller Pyongyang, which was set in North Korea, has also been shelved, so is North Korea just off limits? All of Asia? Anything outside of something that’s already happened? Can nobody make a movie about what’s happening in the world? For better or for worse, these are the questions that we’re left with and there will be no easy answers in the days, weeks, and months to come.

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  1. Mike says:

    The hackers did not dictate “policy” in the U.S.  They forced a corporation to do something using cyberterrorism. The President said that was a mistake. Policy implies government action. In this case the government is actually encouraging the company to stand firm.   No laws or policy applies here when it comes to the decision to pull the movie.  

  2. Nick says:

    I just wish another hacking group (Anonymous?) hack into Sony, steal The Interview then release it as Torrent. That a major “FUCK YOU” to all of these douche bags.

  3. Tobias says:

    Bunch of fuckin’ pussies. Those who would give up freedom for security deserve neither. At this rate we’ll be too scared to drive or even step foot out of our own doors.

  4. Curtis Gropp says:

    “A movie — a comedy, no less — is calling for the assassination of an actual world leader.”
    Um, no. It’s depicting a fictional CIA plot to assassinate an actual world leader. And his death in the movie is not an assassination. To say it’s “calling for the assassination” is like saying Star Wars is calling for the destruction of massive spherical space stations.
    P.S. Won’t anybody think of Randall Park?

  5. MadnessMonk says:

    Effectively, a foreign power has dictated policy in the U.S.”

    Well, no. A foreign power (we’re still assuming) dictated Sony’s policy. The US was not “attacked” here. And corporations (let’s not forget the distributors, too) kowtowing to the whims of extortionists to limit their liability and protect the bottom line has nothing to do with US policy.

    “The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights…”

    And again, no. In no way does the First Amendment apply here. If our own gov’t had intervened to censor Sony, then you might consider trotting out this argument. For now, maybe try reading the Amendment a little more closely before you invoke as a knee-jerk Fox News talking point.

    It’s a shame, but those hyperbolic statements undermine your credibility and tarnish your later, quite valid, points.

  6. Bruno watt says:

    Fairly disappointing article. Of course it was handled poorly. Had this ever happened before? If they didn’t pull it and cinemas were blown up they would likely face charges. Yep I want to see the movie too and it’s a shame it’s been canned but canned for now is not canned forever. As someone who works in cyber security I can tell you how difficult it is to know when events have ended (and this my silly friend is a doozy, never seen before even in the financial companies I’ve worked with). Grow up and accept that freedom of expression downs trump life in every case. That’s a naive and arrogant viewpoint. Expected better from you Kyle. 

  7. Nate says:

    Even implying that the creatives involved were in the wrong is equally offensive as anything Sony or the theater chains did. The film wasn’t in poor taste, they lampooned a bully; one that is basically enslaving an entire country. The guy NEEDS to be assassinated in real life. Getting taken out in a fictional comedic film, is too good for him. 

  8. David Comito says:

    All this talk about the first amendment and our country giving in to terrorism is not really accurate. Sony gave in to terrorism. Sony is not our country it is a Japanese based corporation. That also means it is not a united states citizen protected by the first amendment.

  9. Cassie says:

    I’m sorry but proving a ‘freedom of speech’ point over a movie is not worth peoples lives. In the world we live in right now any threat needs to be taken seriously. Yes, Sony is in some hot water but they would be in even more hot water if people died due to their inaction and wanting to prove a point. 

    • SSShanu says:

      The definition of terrorism is the use of violence or intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.  Sony, the movie theaters, and movie goers were terrorized, likely by a foreign power.  And your response is that we should do exactly what they told us to do.  Think about that.

      • MadnessMonk says:

        “political aims” is an interesting qualifier, though. Sony is neither a political body nor a gov’t. They have no power over any national or international policies save their own. Extortion – obtaining something through force or threats – seems a more accurate term. But I guess terrorism plays better in the media.

  10. joe Smart says:

    @author:  are you this odd and imbecilic all of the time or just when you write articles that don’t matter ?
    – thx j.s.

  11. Manuel says:

    Seriously! The comments even on this issue at so asinine! Ok, we get it the first ammendment as law doesn’t apply to North Korea but dammit freedom of speech is a human right! All this shows is that if you’re a big enough bully you get your way! That is what this article was trying to say. And yes Sony should have been better prepared in defending this movie and their servers. They are a global company and should be aware of what a complete fucktard the ruler of North Korea is. 

    • Cassie says:

      Yes, it’s a right but when it’s over a movie & peoples lives are being threatened over it ‘freedom of speech’ becomes a moot point. No one wants to died over a James Franco movie.

  12. Troy says:

    I don’t think all of Asia is off limits – just whomever seems to be shaking the biggest stick at the moment. Look at the remake of Red Dawn: it was originally going to be Chinese soldiers landing in small-town America but, since China is holding the purse strings of just about every major enterprise in the US, the soldiers were altered to North Koreans. Did that raise any red flags for Glorious Leader? I dunno, but certainly nothing of this magnitude. I think it might be that little “un” doesn’t have the sense of humor that his father did. But I do agree: this sets a dangerous precedent for the possibility of future censoring by anyone with the means. Wait until ISIS figures out how to hack, then all bets are off, man. We’re screwed. We’ll be stuck watching re-runs of the Golden Girls or something equally innocuous so as not to raise the ire of our virtual overlords.

    • SSShanu says:

      That change was more likely due to the burgeoning movie market in China. The movie business is international, so producers and production companies try not to alienate countries where they expect to make money. Just look at the last Transformers movie.

  13. a says:

    ‘nobody apparently considered the possibly globally-incendiary nature of The Interview in the first place’ 
    omg are u saying we were asking for it patriarch cis scum

  14. Luke says:

    Heliplex: the article is referring to North Korea. Bro. 
    First amendment: I haven’t heard anything about the US government forcing Sony to pull the movie. 1st amendment doesn’t apply. 
    Also, this stuck out to me, “Obviously, the safety of people should be the number one concern, but should that come at the cost of freedom of expression?” If safety is a number one concern, then….yes? That’s exactly what the phrase “Obviously, the safety of people should be the number one concern” means.  

  15. K-dawg says:

    Sony.  Is not.  America. It is a publically traded multinational corporation.. .with its origins and HQ in Japan. And We do not exist in a vacuum. if anything,  Japan has more to gain from normalized relations with N. Korea,  and more to lose from escalation. This did not change U. S. POLICY. And even if it did,  there are far better, more poignant examples of policy change due to a foreign power. I say this as someone who is pissed about not seeing the movie and this says about the power of N. Korean threats , but let’s not overstate things 

  16. Shayde says:

    Freedom of Speech means the government can’t prevent you from speaking. It has nothing to do with Sony pussying out on showing the film, the theaters pussying out, etc.
    Sure, it is an IDEAL we all hold dear, that art is a place to express free ideas in our society, but that isn’t what the bill of rights guarantees, it only prevents the government from infringing on those rights.
    Which Obama supported when he told everyone to “go to the movies” when the threat first came to light.

  17. Sam says:

    Remember the days when people made movies with other countries as villians, like in James Bond? I guess those days are over. I agree with the author here; it sets a bad precedent. Sure it sounds like this particular movie was done in bad taste, and I was never going to see it. But America was just bullied into cancelling this movie. I, for one, don’t like where this chain of events is headed.

  18. Chris says:

    I’m failing to understand why so many are citing the First Amendment in the “North Korea vs. The Interview” computer hacking news story. The First Amendment guarantees protection from certain discriminatory actions of the United States government, from certain discriminatory actions of State governments by operation of the 14th Amendment, and from certain discriminatory private actions involving fundamental rights and protected classes by operation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The First Amendment does not protect you from discriminatory actions taken by North Korea.

    • Taylor says:

      Thank you! Also doesn’t protect us from a privately owned company deciding that a terrorist threat makes this not worth it anymore.

    • Awesomesauce says:

      The point is the spirit of the First Amendment is freedom of speech. Instead of standing by the spirit of that, we’re allowing a FOREIGN government to censor our speech – not even our own, and an enemy to boot.  
      That’s why the First Amendment keeps getting brought up. It’s more relevant than it seems on the surface.

    • RK Heliplex says:

      I’ve had to re-read “a fear of what is very clearly the least free nation on Earth” a few times over. What? And again, what? Never traveled the planet bro? 

      • TJRP says:

        Right? This guy might want to bear in mind that some of those precious page view counts come from people outside the US, living in – gasp! – FREE, and non-American countries. In fact, according to statistics on some list that probably doesn’t mean a lot, the US isn’t even at the top for freedom. For example, Canada scores higher here in this list which combines multiple statistics:

        You know, Canada, that nation which is sitting on your head. Forget about that one? Pull your head out of your star spangled arse; this is the 21st century, the age of the internet, where it’s pretty inexcusable to be so ignorant, especially when said ignorance is alienating your potential income.

        • Nunya says:

          he’s not saying that there are no other free countries in the world here… he’s saying that North Korea is the least free nation on Earth.. which is pretty much true.

        • Brickpudding says:

          Um, he was calling North Korea the least free nation on Earth, not the US. Might want to re-read that.

        • Jay says:

          Read much? The statement refered to NK, not the US. Do yourself a favor and get your head out of your own ass. Prick.

    • Liz says:

      Thank you. When someone uses this argument, I just roll my eyes and disregard the rest of the article/comment etc. It’s a grade school level understanding of the 1st Amendment, so how can I take the rest of piece seriously? 

    • James says:

      Our Constitution protects us from other countries as well.  The first amendment cannot work if it cannot be defended against other countries.  Its like a Mom saying “No” and then the kid going to his Dad who says “Yes”.   It just doesn’t work.  The US Constitution establishes that we are protected as citizens of the US.   If N. Korea tries anything against a US Citizen, that gives the US the right to retaliate.   This is stated in the preamble (provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare.).