Off-Topic: On Sony, “The Interview”, and a very poor precedent

It is rare that I say anything political on this blog, only slightly less rare that I say anything political on my Twitter account. This is not because I am not political, or because I am afraid to ruffle some feathers, but rather because this blog (and to a certain extent my Twitter account) is about baseball. I am actually rather interested in political and global events, but I know full well that that isn’t what you come here for and probably not what you follow me on Twitter for, so I keep it to a minimum. I don’t have a problem with people who do interject their political opinions, but it’s not really my style, and when I do say things on Twitter about politics, it’s usually either something everybody agrees with (tragedies are tragic, etc.) or more to give interesting factoids about things related to what’s going on.

But today, I am going to say something that’s a little bit political: Sony Pictures should be ashamed for pulling The Interview because of the demands of hackers suspected to be from (or at least hired by) North Korea. To be sure, there are far bigger things in the world to be angry over- just this week terrorists in Pakistan massacred innocent children, after all. But this move by Sony strikes at something I hold very dear: freedom of expression. It’s what makes this blog possible. It’s what makes Twitter possible. It’s what makes television, video games, movies, novels, comic books and basically anything else that entertains or informs us possible.

And Sony just let their freedom of expression- and by association the freedom of expression of everyone involved with the making of The Interview– be dictated by exposés and threats from cowards who don’t like the theme of their film.

Let that sink in: because some people didn’t like that The Interview made fun of Kim Jong-Un and was about a (completely fictional) assassination plot against him, the film is now indefinitely cancelled less than two weeks from it’s release. This is an unprecedented occurrence in Cinema. Oh, to be sure, there have been films who have had their release delayed or cancelled here and there before, but only on small scales, such as in certain cities or certain countries. This is a worldwide delay/cancellation.

Sony and the many movie theater chains (who had started cancelling appearances before Sony pulled the plug on the movie in general) may have their reasons (on the off-chance that there *was* actually a North Korean-fueled terrorist attack on a theater showing, the companies would have been in deep legal and insurance troubles since there had technically been a threat), but this is a horrible and dangerous precedent, as it now appears that now all somebody needs to do to stop a movie is make a threat about it. This time it was North Koreans, but next time it could be Iranians, or White Supremacists, or Russians.

Or maybe this is, in fact, a isolated incident. Maybe this is Sony trying to make lemonade out of lemons, delaying the film so that when it does get released it will be an even bigger deal than it initially would have been. After all, early reviews weren’t good anyway, perhaps they think it would be better released on a non-competitive weekend in late January or early February even without the surrounding controversy. Maybe nothing more will come of it and future attempts at bullying by people angry about movies will be met with silence, or at least with the release of the film going on as planned.

Only time will tell, but if this is just the start of future studio cowardice in face of criticism and threats, then it is bad thing indeed.

 

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