Cinemas across the United States have capitulated in the face of non-credible threats of violence being made by unidentified hackers ludicrously calling themselves Guardians of Peace, who don't care for Sony Pictures' latest film, The Interview. Its New York premiere was canceled and theater chains across the country pulled the film. And now, Sony itself is canceling the Dec. 25 release of the Seth Rogen and James Franco film, citing the number of cinemas declining to show the movie.
The cancellation follows a threat of violence and the hacking of a slew of internal corporate emails from Sony employees that the media has giddily pored over in order to report the juicier bits of private correspondence.
Here's the full threat from the hackers:
We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places “The Interview” be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to.
Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made.
The world will be full of fear.
Remember the 11th of September 2001.
We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time.
(If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.)
Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
All the world will denounce the SONY.
More to come…
If the trailer is any indication the movie looks like a veritable turkey, but its controversial plotline involving the assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has the hermit kingdom's leadership fuming. Whether the hack of Sony's IT system is being carried out by the North Koreans is unclear, but what's certain is that this is a textbook act of terrorism -- not just cyberterrorism, but terrorism, the definition of which includes threats of violence against civilians in order to achieve a political, religious, or cultural objective.
Let's be clear: Anything short of a giant "Fuck you" from Sony and the American people in response to what is fundamentally an attack on our freedom of speech and the right to watch whatever dumb Seth Rogen movie we want, sends a horrible and dangerous message to terrorists everywhere: If you want to censor expression you don't like, simply commit violence or threaten to commit violence and thy will be done.
And it has.
There's another element here, and that's the reaction to the hacked email exchanges, one of which was between Sony Chairman Amy Pascal and a film producer about questions she could ask President Obama at some "stupid" breakfast. The conversation turned into some banter about Obama's favorite movies, all of which starred African-American leads. Naturally, erstwhile opportunist Al Sharpton weighed in, saying, "I was very offended by the emails that were hacked… We’ll determine there whether we are going to join calls for her resignation."
The problem with his threat was nicely summed up by Chez Pazienza:
"If your private thoughts, personal conversations and most unguarded moments were made public, you’d be fucked. None of us would hold up under scrutiny. Not one of us. Certainly not Al Sharpton. If the things we said to our closest friends were suddenly being broadcast everywhere, each of us would wind up apologizing until he or she keeled over dead. The thought of having to worry about the things we say in what we assume are private interactions is infinitely more terrifying and offensive than a couple of Hollywood assholes making a racially insensitive joke via e-mail. The thought that those interactions might one day be circulated by high-tech home invaders, and therefore we can never let our guard down, is so much more daunting than Al Sharpton deciding he’s found a new controversy to co-opt."
Not only should Amy Pascal not resign or be fired, Sony's board should issue a statement throwing its full support behind her, and Americans should cheer it. Firing Pascal would send a crystal clear message that all it takes to get someone canned or made disreputable is to hack their emails and make them public, because as Chez said, no one would stand up to scrutiny.
I'd also recommend that Americans go see this stupid movie out of sheer solidarity to exercise our constitutional rights, but cowardice has ruled the day.
Congratulations, Sony. You just let the terrorists win.