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Hollywood execs should consider that, if they were starring in their own movie right now, they’d be playing the role of the feckless bureaucratic jerks. You know, the jellyfish-spined types who cave into terrorists or blackmail.
Say this was "Taken 5," the Sony version. What would the Liam Neeson character do if HE was running Sony? He’d be sneaking into North Korea, ready to hunt down the shadowy cyber attackers as if they had his daughter. He wouldn’t be cancelling movies and cowering in a corner.
Yeah, I get it. This is not a movie. It’s just about a movie. But almost no one looks good in all of this. At least the president said he didn’t think "The Interview" should have been cancelled after the massive hack that leaked Sony executives’ emails in retaliation for a movie that apparently makes Kim Jong-un look as horrible as, well, Kim Jong-un.
What’s next? Might as well let Kim Jong-un host the Oscars next time. If he wants. He’d be funnier than David Letterman.
If they’d asked him, Obama said, he would have said to release the film. How about exerting that leadership on the front end next time? The president also referred to the hack as "cyber vandalism." He said it was not an act of war.
This is not the equivalent of North Korea egging Sony’s house (our President’s signature personality trait is that he’s a wimp in the face of aggression, repeatedly). I guess it’s not an act of war because Sony’s aggression was against a bunch of jerk executives for a private company based in Japan, not our government.
However, it did affect commerce here. There’s an effect on the American economy and an American industry. Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc. is an American subsidiary of the Japanese conglomerate based in America. Thus, I’d label this act of aggression just that. Or how about calling it "cyber terrorism"? Words matter because they can lead to urgency or lack thereof.
The bottom line: North Korea is now preventing me from seeing a movie I want to see. And maybe you too.
Think about that for a minute. That’s just wrong.
There are several key points to make here. I just made one of them. Sony needs to release this movie. Period. That’s how Sony can take a stand. Stop cancelling movies, and stop cancelling premieres. Same goes for the cowardly theater owners. And for Paramount, which wouldn’t let several theater groups show "Team America: World Police" in its place.
Make it bigger than before. Profit from it. Show North Korea that the cyber terrorism didn’t just backfire; it backfired big. Hey it’s working for Amazon.com, which has sold out of "Team America" since the hack.
To be honest, I am not really into Seth Rogen and James Franco movies (my sense of film humor runs more along the lines of Woody Allen), so I’m a person who would go to this movie SOLELY because of what North Korea allegedly did (according to the FBI). I’d go to make the point that I CAN go. As would other people I know.
Now, Sony’s lawyer is saying maybe the movie is just delayed and will come out after all. At some point in time. But the damage, to some degree, is done.
Predictably, North Korea was already threatening that more hacking is to come. And blaming America for the hack. See, that’s the point: Cowering in the face of aggression just leads to more aggression. The fact that this has worked means it will embolden not only this rogue regime but most certainly others. Sony, in a way, has endangered our national security by highlighting that this kind of attack works and can weaken all of us. If this can happen to a major private corporation, no entity or company is inviolate. You really think the federal government has better cyber security than Sony? Heck, they can’t even run a healthcare website.
I wonder if Obama will still call it cyber vandalism if they go after his emails. There would be public curiosity as to what he’s had to say about Fast and Furious or the IRS scandal, that’s for sure.
The second key point here involves the media. The first wave of hacking release resulted in very little media restraint. For days, the media almost gleefully reported this story as if the contents of the emails were the news. They weren’t.
Was Angelina Jolie called a minimally talented spoiled brat? Is Sony co-chair Amy Pascal a racist? The Chicago Tribune even ran a piece that basically opined the executives deserved it because they’re the nasty one percent.
The schadenfreude was in abundant supply for days; the prurient eavesdropping into other people’s private thoughts was positively giddy. The class warfare tone was sleazy. There was almost zero media handwringing at first over the fact that the media were reporting the contents of private emails that were stolen, with North Korea an obvious culprit from the start.
This was not a story – ever, really – about snobby, racist, jerk executives for a studio. It was always a story about a crime. Or it should have been. And, I personally, consider it to be a gross violation of privacy for mainstream media sites to print the contents of private emails that were stolen in the commission of a crime.
I recognize that shadowy blogs and social media sites would print them, but that doesn’t mean that traditional media should abdicate any sense of standards to compete with the Web. These weren’t the Pentagon Papers. They were a Hollywood executive’s private rants about celebrities. I mean, give me a break.
And if you don’t agree with me, imagine your emails splashed across the front page of the paper. Wouldn’t be very fun, right? So, Sony: Let me see this movie. I want to give my money to you. Is that OK?
Jessica McBride spent a decade as an investigative, crime, and general assignment reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and is a former City Hall reporter/current columnist for the Waukesha Freeman.
She is the recipient of national and state journalism awards in topics that include short feature writing, investigative journalism, spot news reporting, magazine writing, blogging, web journalism, column writing, and background/interpretive reporting. McBride, a senior journalism lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, has taught journalism courses since 2000.
Her journalistic and opinion work has also appeared in broadcast, newspaper, magazine, and online formats, including Patch.com, Milwaukee Magazine, Wisconsin Public Radio, El Conquistador Latino newspaper, Investigation Discovery Channel, History Channel, WMCS 1290 AM, WTMJ 620 AM, and Wispolitics.com. She is the recipient of the 2008 UWM Alumni Foundation teaching excellence award for academic staff for her work in media diversity and innovative media formats and is the co-founder of Media Milwaukee.com, the UWM journalism department's award-winning online news site. McBride comes from a long-time Milwaukee journalism family. Her grandparents, Raymond and Marian McBride, were reporters for the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Sentinel.
Her opinions reflect her own not the institution where she works.