17 December 2014

Terror Wins: Hackers, SONY, and The Interview

It's really really rare that I comment on current events like this, but I felt compelled to write something up about this, mostly because A) I really wanted to see The Interview (2014), B) the American Government, the MPAA, and mainstream media have not treated this act of cyberterrorism with the proper level of seriousness, and C) this whole situation is so fucking stupid.

A lot of this gets back to South Park "201" (S14;E6) stuff, where Comedy Central self-censored a depiction of Muhammad out of fear of reprisal from Muslim Terrorists. This brought about a heady debate over the nature of free speech, namely, that if everything isn't up for discussion, then nothing is. It's a potent argument at the heart of our Bill of Rights - freedom to express oneself should not and cannot be limited by the whims of any particular group that takes too much offense. It would become far to easy for any group of people to threaten violence resulting in them controlling artistic output rather than the artists. The uncensored version of the episode sums it up pretty well.

It's for this reason that we really can't censor ourselves. Now, with the South Park deal, there was some very real precedence with earlier crisis in Denmark, but you could go back to Salman Rushdie with this nonsense if you wanted to. The Interview is a little different, though. It's been widely speculated up until now, but now it seems official that the hacking attack on SONY was perpetrated, or at least sanctioned by the North Korean government itself. This would indicate that the leaks are actually a cyberattack by one nation's government against a business in another country.

More importantly, on a global scale, this is a country that is not complying with the laws of another. North Korea is not acknowledging our own Bill of Rights. This is a tremendously important conclusion that our nation's media or government does not seem to be addressing. The immediate result of the SONY leak was more concerned with racist emails sent by the CEO, what the company thought about Adam Sandler movies, and plans for future James Bond and Steve Jobs films. While none of this is really great for SONY's business, as Aaron Sorkin points out, none of it is really illegal, and certainly not as illegal as North Korea's act of terrorism.

Other countries cannot dictate our laws based on what they may or may not find offensive. People often talk about setting dangerous precedent, but this is extremely dangerous precedent, indeed. I'm not sure what the call is here, but I don't think that SONY pulling the film with seemingly little backing from the MPAA or any of the Unions is the best one. It's intimidation into self-censorship, but can you blame them? The narrative if North Korea really launched an attack as a result would be disastrous - a few jokes isn't worth risking the lives of their employees or patrons.

You could argue otherwise, to be honest. Art and free expression is worth risking our lives, although that's hard to sum up in a headline. Comedy Central had the same rationale back when "201" premiered, but backing down really is giving into what terrorists want, which is to use violence to influence the display of media to suit the interests of a very small section of the population - in this case, the world population, which is a terrifying prospect.

It's also important to call back to Chaplin's The Great Dictator (1940), which is a legitimate indication that Kim Jong-Un can take a joke less well than Hitler. What happens when we can't criticise literally the worst people in the world? Why should these bullies get their way because they speak the loudest and with the most violence? It's very upsetting, but SONY really hasn't had the backing of our government, so it makes sense that they'd be bullied into pulling the film. It's not their business to provide theater security. Unfortunately, their leaks have made the entire company seem more like a joke to be mocked than a victim to be defended. Regardless of the crudeness or unlikeability revealed from their most private documents, they are still an American company at victim of an international attack. And while racist emails are one thing to denounce, social security numbers, salary information, or personal contact information is another.

One reason why the government may have such a cavalier attitude toward this whole thing is because it really is so, soooo stupid. The Interview by all means appears as an extremely goofy movie, one that looked to be much more silly than insightful. I'm honestly wondering if Kim Jong-Il grew up in a more rational environment than Kim Jong-Un - that is, did the nation-state under Jong-Il become so insane and out of touch with reality that he feels so entitled to be legitimately insulted by this doofy stoner flick? It really doesn't get much different than celebrity treatment in America. Can you imagine the North Korean equivalent of That's My Bush?

Sony has officially scrapped all plans to release this film in any format, which I don't believe will hold. Especially with this level of Buzz - current trending topics (17 December 2014, 11:30 pm) on Twitter include, "The Interview," "North Korea," "Team America," "Sony," and "World Police." And that's a good point - where was all this shit during Team America: World Police (2004)? Again, I'm wondering if Jong-Il was a staple of mental stability compared to his turdy little son.

But this level of publicity is too good. I would pay $15 to watch The Interview on demand right now. Hell, I'd pay $25. It'll make its rounds, if not in the US, then certainly Internationally, and one of those copies are going to make it back here. Legal or not, millions of Americans will see this - and here's the thing, North Korea - even if millions don't see it, we all still already feel the way about your shithole country that you think this movie will make us feel. That's what happens when you live in a country with a free flow of information and freedom. You can think different things from other people and look up opinions and news if you want to. I really believe if we get into Jong-Un's psychology, he doesn't understand that as a kid who grew up in a steadily declining North Korean State. He believes he can propagate the myth of his own greatness outside his borders, where he is sadly mistaken.

So, as you can tell, I'm more upset than I usually am. We didn't get one threat over that Grouplove video. Or when Avery Jessup was kidnapped on 30 Rock. Of course, these didn't really entail an assassination of the Head of State. Maybe Jong-Un can't tell movies apart from reality and thought The Interview was a real movie. I'm spitballing here anything because I'm such a Rogen / Goldberg / Franco fan, I really wanted to see this movie, and I'm just sitting here in utter disbelief that these idiots cobbled together a film that should change International Relations and treatments of freedom of speech and International Law for decades to come. Should change. If we're not afraid of turdy bullies.

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