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.
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…”