Thursday, December 18, 2014

"The Interview" and Intellectual Freedom

Hey all,

I suppose you've heard the news:

Corner Gas has a movie! I watched it (yesterday, at this hour), and it's really good. Seriously, if you're a fan of the Corner Gas show, or just a Canadian, I'd really recommend seeing/buying it. Oh, and there were some things happening in Alberta politics. Disappointing and stupid things.

Sadly, I'm not writing now to talk about fun or disappointing things: I'm going to talk about terrible things.

The Sony corporation has decided to block their film The Interview from going to theatres in any country. Now, this isn't because it probably sucks (no offense to Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen, James Franco, Dan Sterling, etc.). It's because Sony is a cowardly corporation that bends to terrorism.

Probably not the words they'd use.

Here's one of many articles discussing it (NBC).

This is an issue of intellectual freedom and terrorism. Obviously. It's self-censorship based on some insane threats.

It is absolutely ridiculous that anyone in a "free" country would let psychopaths control our art (which, I admit, is a generous description of blockbuster movies). Maybe, MAYBE, if there was a real and direct threat on human lives we could make concessions in the short term. But there is no way anyone in their right mind thinks the North Korean government is a real threat to lives outside of their own country. There was never any real threat that "North Korean sleeper cells would bomb theatres," or whatever. The only people the North Korean's can really push around is their own citizens.

So far as I can find, there hasn't even been any credible threats. From the NBC article linked above: "a Department of Homeland Security official said that there was 'no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters,' but that it was aware of the threat." North Korea itself must be pleased with the turn of events: two less films criticizing it (there was a second movie cancelled, starring Steve Carell tentatively titled "Pyongyang"), and an inflated sense of importance in the world stage. But there is no realistic threat, Sony is just paranoid after their recent loss of information (and, really, why should corporations have privacy if individuals don't deserve it?).

Serves them right for having so much private information on the internet. The internet is public, every centimetre of it.

This is so weird that even Mitt Romney is on the right side of things. MITT ROMNEY, the dude that thinks a concept used to group and hide human beings behind a noun should be considered "people" (I always want to vomit/cry/flail-randomly-in-anger when I remember his words). He thinks that Sony should release the offending film online for free:

". don’t cave, fight: release free online globally. Ask viewers for voluntary $5 contribution to fight ."

The dude even asked Sony to get people to donate to fight Ebola. Mitt Romney. I don't even.

Terrorism won. Vague threats of death and damage swayed people, lots of people, and made them silence themselves and their works. Note to self: terrorism works. Though, I suppose this isn't *really* new information: the Sun News Network and Fox News have been using terror to influence people for ages.

Sony needs to release the movie online. Well, they SHOULD release the movie in theatres, but whatever.

Let's pretend Sony is right to believe that waves of North Korean fanatics are just waiting to bomb theatres (because, OBVIOUSLY, North Koreans that are allowed to leave the oppressive country are going to remain loyal without Suicide Squad style bomb implants), and we should stop having public gatherings (ie: theatre showings) of critical discussions. Then release the dissent online, and good luck to the bombers that need to destroy every server and household/public computer.

We cannot allow terrorists to think that threats of violence will realistically manipulate our media and our thoughts.

So, I think I've said some pretty strong things here. I would absolutely love to hear some responses from you, so please comment on this post. I'll definitely be happy to respond when I'm more sober.



Pascale said...

Great article, Ken! I think you raise some valid points. Sometimes it's difficult for me to untangle the media frenzy over terrorism, the actual terrorism going on and the numerous threats of terrorism that have a slim possibility of actualizing, but I think you did that very well.

At first I entertained the idea that Sony was merely pulling a movie that they would lose money on, since the major theatre chains refused to screen it. But that doesn't explain why they have no alternate plans for distribution, such as releasing it online, as Romney suggested.

I think the theatre chains are being especially cowardly, since they're not reeling from a security scandal like Sony is. The likelihood of North Korea launching a targeted attack on all the theatres in a chain is miniscule. We could suppose that they might target specific theatres, and by that logic, no theatre should show the movie, just to be 100% safe. But then we're launching ourselves into the Land of What Ifs , which terrorism as an ideology is counting on.

Ken Sawdon said...


As I implied in the post, I think the media frenzy about terrorism is a form of terrorism. Most mainstream news stations use fear to influence people, which is the very basic definition of terrorism. The news outlets don't directly threaten people, but they tell people that there are threats everywhere that they should be afraid of (and tune in at 8pm to hear how you can stay safe!).

I like your statement, "But then we're launching ourselves into the Land of What Ifs , which terrorism as an ideology is counting on." Totally agree.

As far as the actual chances of terrorism happening to us...well, I'm naive and trusting, but the statistics are pretty good living here in North America. It's different in many other places, but there's way more chance of us getting hit by a car than being killed by a political psychopath. Our political psychopaths get voted in, and directly killing people would cost them their job.

Hollywood is pretty good at making sure their movies, generally, make money. Even Sandler's Jack and Jill made almost 70 million dollars ( The ones they don't have faith in don't go through post-production and/or advertising campaigns.