As you wish, Dear Leader

It’s official: Sony caves to hacker threats, pulls The Interview

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In a clear victory for North Korea, Sony has responded to terrorist threats by officially cancelling the December 25 release of “The Interview,” a comedy featuring Seth Rogen.

The decision is a reminder that, while the tech world likes to natter about how U.S. copyright laws can lead to censorship, the biggest threat to free expression these days is coming from beyond America’s borders.

The Sony announcement comes after major cinema chains like AMC, Cineplex and Cinemark on Wednesday likewise announced they would not screen the movie.

The news comes after a hacker group, which has already gained notoriety by publishing Sony’s internal documents, issued a new threat warning cinemas of 9/11-style terror attacks if they screened the movie.

The hacking attacks and the threats are widely believed to emanate from overseas cyber soldiers who object to the movie’s plot, which centers on bumbling Americans who are recruited to kill North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-un. On Wednesday night, the U.S. government confirmed that North Korea, which had previously described the hacking episode as a “righteous deed,” is behind the affair.

The decision by Sony and the movie houses comes even after the Department of Homeland reportedly stated that there is no evidence that a credible threat related to the movie houses exists.

As the Wall Street Journal reported, however, Sony and the movie theaters may be less concerned about an attack than they are about the prospect of terrorist threats keeping people away from multiplexes and depressing ticket sales during the holidays.

Whatever the rationale, the outcome is appalling since it sets a precedent for other repressive regimes to induce self-censorship in democratic countries simply by making threats.

Indeed, this has already occurred with YouTube and a 14-minute video called “Innocence of Muslims,” which a California judge ordered to be removed following overseas outrage, stoked by fanatical clerics, that the video was offensive.

These events are a sobering reality check that Hollywood’s harebrained efforts at censorship via copyright laws are child’s play compared to the calls for censorship through threats of mass murder by the likes of North Korea. The most frightening thing of all is that such tactics appear to be working.

This story was updated at 5:20pm ET to note Sony’s formal announcement.

9 Responses to “It’s official: Sony caves to hacker threats, pulls The Interview

  1. This whole affair is dumb. They could have avoided the whole thing by using the name of an imaginary country where the “Sweet Leader” happened to look a little like KJ. Everyone would know but they would have the high ground. But now they just look like the company is undisciplined from the CEO down to the guy who cleans the toilets.

  2. This is unbelievable. Shame, shame, shame on Sony. Hard to comprehend. Could be that the hackers are still in posession of even more incriminating unpublished documents, photos, screenplays, etc., kept as blackmail tools that could potentially cause the demise of Sony. Caving in will give an amazing edge to all the cybercriminals and terrorists around the world who are probably having an historical field day tonight. This is worst than Wikileaks. There’s another movie to be made with that outcome. Even more absurd than “The Interview”. Imagine a screenplay : A bunch of nerdy, pimpled, Red Bull slurping teenagers in some obscure deserted hangar, manage to accidentally hack a big Film Company and bring the world on the verge of WW III because of a dumbass movie featuring two stoners, making fun of North Korea ant its big idiot fat leader. There’s an emergency G20 meeting in Geneva and a decision is made to mandate a special Diplomatic envoy to North Korea : Dennis Rodman. He has to bring the two stoners with him a a gesture of International good faith and as collateral. And… _______________________________

  3. OnTheWest

    A very depressing outcome. Maybe I was too optimistic, but I was hoping that this would not happen.

    I had even convinced myself that I needed to go an see it (even though I think it looks like an awful film) should it be released.

    • I agree, even though the film had bad reviews, I was going to see it to make a point.

      My hunch is that Hollywood didn’t want to risk terrorism worries (however far-fetched) to dissuade people going to the box office over the holidays, and they just chucked every principle out the window ..

        • JimBob, I not sure even Hollywood is THAT cynical.. Well, maybe they are, but I don’t the backlash they’re going to get from this would make it worth (though it’s an interesting point about the possibility of force majeure clauses — will an insurance company have to pay for some of this s***show?)