Sony pictures has pulled its political satire, The Interview. Why? Because major movie theatre chains report legal advice is that if anyone was attacked and killed as a result of showing the movie they’d be liable. How was that view formed? A mass shooting at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Colorado in 2012 during which 12 people were killed. The word is, that if people were to be harmed or killed as a result of showing The Interview, the movie chains could not claim an unforeseen tragedy – they’d be legally liable. In boycotting the movie we might think they’d succumbed to a successful act of terrorism. But by whom?
Some Americans, and perhaps many beyond their shores, believe that the sycophantic supporters of North Korean dictator and despot, Kim Jong Un, orchestrated the cyber-attack to hack Sony’s emails and documents. The thinking seems to be, if these guys can make nuclear weapons, surely they’ll have hackers who can break the security of a large American corporate.
There appears, says actor George Clooney, acceptance of the probability that North Korea is guilty. But Clooney believes the media should prove it. “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?”
But are these views informed by critical analysis? Or are they simply ‘reported’as newsworthy in their own right. If you get President Obama and George Clooney saying its true, it must be. Right?
Unsurprisingly the FBI and CIA have entered the fray. They tell us that somewhere in North Korea there’s a website objecting to the film with reference to it as, ‘an evil act of provocation’. Then there’s the hacking code said to be the same as that previously used by North Koreans against South Koreans. Do dumb arse criminals make dumb arse mistakes? Of course they do. Would state supported terrorist activity against a US corporate fall into dumb arse territory? Possibly. But is the evidence that the North Koreans are responsible good enough? The evidence of their complicity would be easier to put together than the hacking. Alright, look at the motivation. The film was about their leader. End of analysis!
I’m not saying the North Koreans weren’t behind this. Who really knows. And they make a great target. I’m saying the media have been a bit too quick to put that line out. Instead of analysing, they’ve pandered to big names in the Hollywood sect aggrieved with them for covering the leaked and embarrassing content made available by hackers.
How embarrassing that this large Japanese owned corporate, should be so lax in its security. Remember, the leaks were not a one off. On day 19 of the saga, the hackers were still at it, promising a “Christmas gift that will put Sony in a worse state.’ It’s not until Day 22, that an afterthought email sent to reporters, threatens to attack movie goers. Interesting that North Koreans whose instinct is to shun an open society would bring reporters to their breast. Conveniently found circumstantial evidence aside, I’m wondering who else might be responsible for this threat. There are a number of plausible suspects. The first is Sony, the alleged victim.
Sony’s possible motivation? The classical saving face and diversion strategy. It’s facing class actions for damages on multiple fronts, to say nothing about the loss of its credibility and dignity. How well would the Japanese owners cope with that? If they have to settle big claims, at least they can point to a crafty enemy being responsible, diffusing responsibility. But to be guilty of contriving the threat, Sony had to have miscalculated the reaction of the movie chains. That isn’t so much of a stretch when you think that the long-standing American response is that the country won’t give in to terrorism. Even President Obama, pushing the North Korean culpability line, said he’d wished Sony had spoken to him before acting. Perhaps that would’ve been counterproductive.
What about a competitor? Would it not be a great coup for a competitor to break into Sony’s system, expose them for appalling insecurity and publically embarrass and humiliate its executives? We couldn’t reasonably expect a competitor to fess up to such serious criminality. Would a competitor have followed that up with the terror threat? Seems unlikely, I admit. But frankly, if there was a chance of getting the movie pulled, a competitor would have more to gain by the unopposed box office sales of its own release than someone in North Korea.
What about a clever but malicious insider? Surely revenge for perceived wrongdoing by the large corporate on one of its own cannot be ruled out so easily. Within the leaked material there was a 25 page list of grievances employees had against the corporate. Maybe someone’s cut to the chase, realised court action against their employer is doomed. Instead, vengeance has been sated in another way.
The argument for a competitor or aggrieved insider being responsible is just as compelling as North Korea. Instead, the media has bought into unthinking patriotism. And why not? It’s a great story when you blame a distant enemy for your own significant failings. It’s a great story when you can galvanise your audience against a popular target for derision. And it’s a great story when you can show that ordinary business people are actually afraid of terrorism and don’t share their government’s ‘gung ho’ attitude. When you have those angles for a story, perhaps critical analysis really is less important.