As everyone by now knows, a group calling itself the Guardians of Peace hacked Sony Pictures and tried to prevent the Christmas Day release of the movie “The Interview” because–ironic spoiler alert–at the film’s conclusion, apparently, North Korea’s Outstanding Leader Kim Jong-un meets with a fiery demise. We should be so lucky, right? Still, I wouldn’t have killed him in the movie, not because it’s tasteless–because it’s not hilarious. My picture would have featured a completely clueless dictator always accidentally escaping each of a series of slapstick–and equally clueless–attempts on his life. You know the kind of thing: Kim Jong-un would, say, suddenly bend down to tie his shoe at the precise second a poisoned dart should have entered his neck. And the unintended consequences of these inept efforts, while always sufficient to alert him to his endangerment, somehow never would. Thus the general standing next to the dictator, felled by that poisoned dart, would be thought by the Outstanding Leader to have been the victim of, for instance, a jealous wife. I’m thinking more “Pink Panther” than “Pineapple Express.” It’s a personal preference. I don’t recall Charlie Chaplin’s visually eliminating Adenoid Hynkel–a clear parody of Adolf Hitler–in his 1940 movie, “The Great Dictator.” And I’m fairly certain that, while Chaplin’s film will remain a classic on its own merits, “The Interview” will become one for reasons I can’t yet quite articulate. Like terror-sponsored censorship.
It’s always possible that Sony Pictures pulled-off the biggest marketing coup in film history, catapulting an otherwise run-of-the-mill comedy to something of must-see proportions. But I very much doubt that. Those in the know say that the trail–all too obviously, to some experts–leads directly back to the North Koreans.
Of course North Korea has denied any affiliation with the Guardians of Peace and that it hacked Sony or threatened theatre-goers. But does it really matter who leveled such threats? Of course not! As you may have surmised, I had no intention of seeing “The Interview.” But I was happier–if fractionally–when I thought the choice was mine alone.
Fortunately, Sony–and a select few independent theatres–reversed course; Christmas saw a limited theatrical release, and by that time Sony was streaming the movie on YouTube. This is rather close to my initial reaction when the story first broke: Air the movie everywhere, on television, for free and simultaneously.
That would take a piece of the Guardians–and what could they possibly do about it, threaten to bomb every home in the entire country?
We cannot allow anyone–whether an actual dictator or a shadowy group of hackers–to make a mockery of our first amendment rights by dictating content to us. Because that was the attempt here. I am not insisting that, as United States citizens, it is our patriotic duty to watch some mediocre film; I am, rather, insisting that said film be accessible. It would be dictating content, equally, to feel compelled–even if in defiance–to see “The Interview.” The remedy in this situation is simply having the freedom to choose.
And we long ago chose an open society. The First isn’t just the initial amendment–it is primary, a foundation, the most important. Once we allow a precedent to be set in this instance it shouldn’t come as any nasty surprise if, in the future, more than content is dictated to us. Taste, opinion and policy spring as fair game to mind.
Still, so much of all this hacking is merely senselessness. About six months ago, for instance, some unknown entity abducted my AOL email account–for no good reason I can think of, as there was nothing to be gained from it–with the sole result that, after creating a new account, I now get fewer emails. I guess it’s a win-win, then.
What is truly disconcerting is that we seriously have to defend ourselves against collectives which–if their monikers are any indication–seem to be comprised of very clever 14-year-olds. Sony Pictures was hacked by the grandiosely named Guardians of Peace. I get it–they’re certainly important, at least to themselves. But recently Sony’s PlayStation Network was also hacked. Any guesses as to who done it?
An outfit calling itself the Lizard Squad.
It is difficult to reconcile this idiocy with the actual threat level we’re all under. Last week, the citizens of Albuquerque, New Mexico were threatened en masse when hackers–purportedly from ISIS–seized the Albuquerque Journal’s website and, declaring a “CyberCaliphate,” said, “Christmas will never be merry any longer.” The author of the post collected his English enough to continue, “We know all personal data of Albuquerque locals: Where you live, what you eat, your diseases and even your health insurance cards,” adding, “You will look around more often, will call up your children more often, think of your security more often, but that won’t help you.”
This seems underhanded somehow, and cowardly–much as submarine warfare was initially considered. Yet such threats are not attacks: They are words. Content. And as such they will remain merely unsettling until information is actually tampered with, either denied or made inappropriately public. This is the kind of thing one resorts to when one’s resources are thin.
Want to see what a truly remote attack looks like? Watch any of the footage from our drones or smart bombs.