Cancelling ‘The Interview’: Terrorism, Tough Choices and Madmen

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the interview

A man holds a gun to your child’s head in one hand.

He holds a gun to your spouse’s head in the other.

“Choose,” he says. “Or I’m going to count to 10 and choose for you.”

“Please. God. No,” you beg. “I’ll do anything.”

“You’ll choose. Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven…”

Maybe he’s bluffing, you think.

But it doesn’t look that way.

Maybe he feels his cause is just and maybe it even seems legit.

Maybe he feels his cause is just but he’s completely insane.

Maybe he’s just evil.

Regardless, you have a choice to make. And every option is unfair and horrible.

After a month of heavy promotion, Sony Pictures cancelled its scheduled December 25 release of The Interview—a satirical comedy starring goof-off funnymen Seth Rogan and James Franco. The premise of the film is that these two guys who work in the television news business scored an interview with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. And the CIA recruits the two men to assassinate him.

About a month ago, hackers launched a cyber attack against Sony Pictures. Skulls appeared on Sony employees’ computer screens. Sensitive email content, including reportedly “embarrassing information,” was leaked.

The FBI has named North Korea as the primary suspect in the attack, but the country has denied it. While denying it, North Korean officials did praise the attack as a “righteous deed” while referring to The Interview as an “act of terrorism” and promised “merciless” retaliation should Sony release it.

The hackers further threatened 9/11-style terrorist attacks on movie theaters who dared to show the movie.

Upon being threatened, the three largest cinema chains in the United States decided to postpone showing the film, and Sony Pictures subsequently cancelled the movie in its entirety and currently has no (publically announced) plans to distribute it, even for home-video viewing.

The film cost $42 million to make.

The outrage from Hollywood creatives was fast and predictable.

Actor Rob Lowe wrote on Twitter: “Wow. Everyone caved. The hackers won. An utter and complete victory for them. Wow.”

Comedian Jimmy Kimmel called the decision “An un-American act of cowardice that validates terrorist actions and sets a terrifying precedent.”

As a writer, the freedom of speech I’m awarded as an American citizen is of great value to me. I can insult the President of the United States—inarguably one of the two or three most-powerful people on Earth. Right now, if I want. And the only consequence is that other people with the same rights I have can exercise their freedom of speech to disagree with me.

It’s a freedom most of us take for granted, until things like this pop up.

Here’s the problem with cancelling this film because some disgruntled North Korea lovers are offended by the premise:

Sony Pictures has now set the precedent that if you infiltrate their security and threaten to murder innocent movie goers, they will cancel a $42 million film.

A film called Selma will be released Christmas Day about the extraordinary courage of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights marches in Selma, Ala. in 1965. Looks like a good one.

Maybe some white supremacists will be offended by the premise. Maybe they’ll threaten a Christmas Day massacre on movie goers seeing it.

Should we not show it?

We watched Middle Eastern terrorists kill thousands of people in United 93 and World Trade Center.

We watched the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor in the not-very-good Pearl Harbor.

We watched Germany do horrible things to innocent people in countless World War II films.

Would we have tolerated threats from any of their sympathizers?

Does Sony’s decision invite more threats? Does this affect how courageous a writer or film producer is willing to be moving forward?

We won’t know the extent of the fallout for a while. But there will be one.

I stand with the free-speech warriors.

But, Wait 

What if there is credible information that if these movie theaters DO show this picture, that scores of innocent people will die?

What if the powers that be are absolutely convinced there will be legitimate terrorist-style attacks on movie theaters, killing untold numbers and effectively changing movie theater business and security forever?

If they know?

Can we blame them?

As an American, a writer and a quasi-creative, I am appalled that a group of fucksticks has threatened to kill innocent people and that that threat is being taken so seriously that a major movie studio is cancelling the release of a SATIRICAL COMEDY. It’s tragic.

But someone at Sony had to make a decision: Show it and risk feeling responsible for the deaths of customers? Or pull it, and be viewed a coward and someone who will bow to the whims of madmen?

I must admit that I may make that very same choice if I’m convinced lives are at stake. I’m not proud of it. But it’s the truth.

There is no black and white.

No right and wrong.

This is what it means sometimes to be a human being.

Making the impossible choice. Because life has never been, and will never be, fair.

The guns are still pointed at those you love most. You don’t have a lot of time. But you better do something.

“Six. Five. Four. Three. Two…”

18 thoughts on “Cancelling ‘The Interview’: Terrorism, Tough Choices and Madmen”

  1. So true life is not fair. However I do belive in karma and maybe that’s bullshit but makes me feel better. Great take on Sony, it all about the power. Ivan

  2. It is a tricky situation now, but I hadn’t known about the hackers’ threat. Though I’ll be honest, after so much pain and death and talks of terrorists in the news, I haven’t wanted to read about them just during Christmas.

    But you are right, it is time to make a decision.

  3. More than a gun to your child and your spouse, i think this was if you don’t do this, we’ll kidnap your child. And thats when you don’t give in and you call the police. If North Korea really is behind this all, that is an act of war. Isnt this why we have homeland security? To protect the theaters what were willing to show it.
    It is all anout power and how mucxh did we just hand over to the bad guys?

  4. There IS a difference here. In your opening, the terrorist was demanding that you choose whether your wife or child would die– no other options. In the Sony case, the hackers/terrorists demanded that a movie be pulled or people would die– but with the movie pulled from release, nobody dies. Yet, anyway.

    Note to 2crazylittleboys: We have “Homeland Security” to provide security theater. It’s to make you THINK you’re safe and protected while not actually doing anything that would, in fact, protect you. Smoke and mirrors to keep you from looking at the real smoke and mirrors. Sorry, that’s sorta the way it is.

    1. I wasn’t trying to compare the guns to heads to this situation, specifically. I was attempting (poorly and without much thought? I just wing this stuff) to construct a lose-lose scenario. Sony is getting crushed by critics. And I agree with the critics. BUT. I also want to be honest. If I was on the hook for making the decision, I might go the same way. This is a situation with no black and white and a whole bunch of gray.

  5. please forgive me if you disagree with what may follow… im from little old new zealand, way down the bottom of the world, quite removed from terror threats, global politics and, well… hollywood…

    i think its one thing to stand up for yourself and what you believe in, i understand, america does cop it from all directions as far as terror threats go… so i see how theres a need to show that yall wont back down…

    but… over one little movie? THIS little movie? in the grand scheme of things… are franco and rogan and their attempts at humour (yeah, sorry, not a huge fan) worth it?

    i think the threat to movie goers is probably mild. but… its not completely ridiculous to take precautions… or to deem it, not worth the risk… is this satirical film going to be the thing you stand up for your right to freedom over? is it worth the drama? theres nothing wrong with being a little careful… alot of people, in their individual lives… act like, pfftt, we aint scared… and then they get hurt… so… i think the thing everyone is really asking is… who gets blamed if they play the movie and something does happen… they dont want it to be them…

    im pretty sure north korea threatens to drown south korea in oceans of fire on the regular… im not sure they should be taken tooo seriously… but there are a lot of people who do take, not so much north korea, but any threat of terror… as worthy of caution…

    having said all that, i think “sony” should “leak” the film… “give” it to franco and rogan, they put it up for paid download on their facebook page… people get to see it, nobody really gets blames… and given all the publicity… they might just break even?

    im sorry if that was full of crap… just trying to make sense of … nonsense heh.

  6. There is no right or wrong here. The movie could open and not a damn thing could happen. Everyone would be all “look at us Americans, we ain’t afraid.” OR The movie could open and tons of people could die and we would be all “WTF why didn’t the government protect us.”

    I think, for all intensive purposes, pulling the movie isn’t such a bad decision. It’s not going anywhere…it could always be released at another time. It’s not such a bad thing that a company chose human life over $42 million dollars.

  7. Wow! Very powerful writing. I think you covered that nicely. It’s the dam*ed if you do and dam*ed if you don’t type of situation and to err on the side of the living would be preferable. I have a feeling that cyber terrorism will expand greatly and it has nothing to do with the Sony decision–it’s just the way of the world these days. Have a good one! 🙂

  8. Terror threats from hackers who do not appreciate the premise of a movie, where have we seen this before? Oh, yes that is right we have seen this before but it was presented not as a threat but a real life, people died and the United States spent millions of dollars trying to prove someone somewhere within the administration did something wrong.

    Now, I am not usually one that falls through the Teflon cracks of conspiracy, but has anyone thought to question whether the movie is any good? Whether maybe, just maybe this is all a great huge publicity stunt to get us all frothing at the mouth to see a movie that isn’t worth the $42M spent to make it.

    Yeah, little ole Kim over there in North Korea, he does have a bit of an ego problem. But really do you think he or anyone else really care what a couple of hacks do with bad comedy?

    Come on people, time to really think this through.

  9. Here’s what I think Sony should have done: Released the movie for free. Just let whoever wanted it to download it. No theaters, no mass-assembly threat. Suck *that*, terrorists.

    I wonder if Sony considered what a nuclear-armed nation with a horrible human-rights history and penchant for spotty behavior might have taken offense to this piece of work.

    We should hack their computers and make Kim watch a Seth Rogan movie marathon. That’d teach ’em.

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Matt Fray

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