I’ll admit that I haven’t been keeping up with all the details of Sony being hacked, the terrorist threats around the release of The Interview and all the other scandal that’s occurred because of the hack. You’d think I would since it’s a hacking thing and I’m a tech guy. I just haven’t had time lately. Plus, it seems like a new hack of a large company is coming out every week or so. It’s hard to keep up.
However, I did get the chance to read this fascinating interview with George Clooney about the broader implications of pulling The Interview from theaters. In his first answer he really sums up well his viewpoint:
A good portion of the press abdicated its real duty. They played the fiddle while Rome burned. There was a real story going on. With just a little bit of work, you could have found out that it wasn’t just probably North Korea; it was North Korea. The Guardians of Peace is a phrase that Nixon used when he visited China. When asked why he was helping South Korea, he said it was because we are the Guardians of Peace. Here, we’re talking about an actual country deciding what content we’re going to have. This affects not just movies, this affects every part of business that we have. That’s the truth. What happens if a newsroom decides to go with a story, and a country or an individual or corporation decides they don’t like it? Forget the hacking part of it. You have someone threaten to blow up buildings, and all of a sudden everybody has to bow down. Sony didn’t pull the movie because they were scared; they pulled the movie because all the theaters said they were not going to run it. And they said they were not going to run it because they talked to their lawyers and those lawyers said if somebody dies in one of these, then you’re going to be responsible.
We have a new paradigm, a new reality, and we’re going to have to come to real terms with it all the way down the line. This was a dumb comedy that was about to come out. With the First Amendment, you’re never protecting Jefferson; it’s usually protecting some guy who’s burning a flag or doing something stupid. This is a silly comedy, but the truth is, what it now says about us is a whole lot. We have a responsibility to stand up against this. That’s not just Sony, but all of us, including my good friends in the press who have the responsibility to be asking themselves: What was important? What was the important story to be covering here? The hacking is terrible because of the damage they did to all those people. Their medical records, that is a horrible thing, their Social Security numbers. Then, to turn around and threaten to blow people up and kill people, and just by that threat alone we change what we do for a living, that’s the actual definition of terrorism.
While I don’t think one movie being pulled is going to result in the dire outcomes that Clooney describes in the interview, I think it is an important discussion to have. In fact, it reminds me of the discussion we had after 9/11. Do you go back to work or do you hide? The strong sentiment after 9/11 was that we had to go back to work to show the terrorists that they didn’t win. I think it’s a similar thing with this movie.
Honestly, I really don’t know anything about the movie. I’d probably not have seen it anyway. However, the concept of being forced to do something because someone threatens something is a slippery slope that we need to avoid.
I expect that Sony will eventually release the film in some form or another (online, Netflix, something). While I don’t care about the movie personally, I think freedom of speech is important and threats like this try to hinder it. At least it seems that way from what I’ve read.
We also shouldn’t be blaming Sony for pulling the movie. They had no choice since all the theaters pulled the movie. Now they have the harder choice of releasing the movie on the internet and losing tens of millions of dollars.
I love how the interview of Clooney ends:
DEADLINE: You said everyone acts based on self interest. What’s yours?
CLOONEY: I wanted to have the conversation because I’m worried about content. Frankly, I’m at an age where I’m not doing action films or romantic comedies. The movies we make are the ones with challenging content, and I don’t want to see it all just be superhero movies. Nothing wrong with them, but it’s nice for people to have other films out there.