Six months ago, I wrote a post about the controversy surrounding Seth Rogen’s film The Interview, and I asserted that North Korea would be unable to retaliate. However, it seems that things have taken a turn for the worst. A few days ago, after several American theatre chains stopped showing The Interview, Sony Pictures Entertainment announced the cancellation of The Interview, following a series of cyber attacks made against the company.
While there is no hard evidence to connect North Korea to these attacks, that ultimately doesn’t matter, because whoever was actually responsible, Sony has basically given the hackers what they want, at the expense of a film-maker’s right to free expression.
While I remain adamant that The Interview would have been a crappy film (which, I’ll be honest, is partly due to the fact that I despise the film’s leading pair), I think it’s a terrible shame that Sony has decided not to show the film because it means devaluing freedom of expression, thus harming the status of film as an art form. This whole fiasco instantly reminds me of the South Park episodes “200” and “201”, which were pulled from syndication by Comedy Central after being threatened by Muslim extremists (which itself is just like the time “Trapped in the Closet” was pulled after Comedy Central was pressured by Viacom).
Even more concerning is the fact that Sony has no plans to release the film on DVD, or in other countries, so it might be the case that we may not see this film for many years to come. However, I’m far more concerned with the kind of message Sony has unintentionally sent to an aspiring hacker or terrorist. To me, they’re telling those with malicious intent that you can coerce people into surrendering to your will by compromising the security of their computers.
I say that we in the West are setting a bad example. Threats and violence are the only things that can truly silence creative expression, so what we need to do is stay strong, and defiantly carry on in the face of threats. We cannot and should not negotiate with people who are willing to use threats and violence to achieve their goals, no matter what they want.
If we want to protect freedom of expression, than we can’t use a soft touch. All too often this approach has ended in failure, as terrorism and oppression still run rampant in this world. We need to show hacking groups like the self-identified “Guardians of Peace” that their kind are unwelcome, and that bullying gets you nowhere other than a dingy jail cell, or perhaps, in their case, a trip to the chair. To the average peacenik, this sounds a little extreme, but it’s all for the right cause. Creative expression is perhaps the most sacred thing on Earth, and we should be willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to preserve it. If we don’t, then we as well be no better than the terrorists.