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Caving in to blackmail

One of the lead stories on the UK national news today is a report that a hacking attack on Sony has led to a satirical film at the expense of the brutal regime about North Korea being pulled from Western cinemas:

Sony is canceling The Interview‘s planned theatrical release in response to all major US theater chains deciding not to show the film after attacks were threatened. “In light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film The Interview, we have decided not to move forward with the planned December 25 theatrical release,” Sony says in a statement, reprinted by Variety. “We respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers.”

“We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression.”

The hackers who stole data from Sony threatened attacks on screenings of The Interview yesterday afternoon. In the time since, around half of all movie screens in the US declined to show the film.

Sony’s statement continues: “Sony Pictures has been the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault against our employees, our customers, and our business. Those who attacked us stole our intellectual property, private emails, and sensitive and proprietary material, and sought to destroy our spirit and our morale – all apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like. We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public. We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.”

It is hard not to see the decision by some cinemas to pull screening of the film as anything other than a dangerous capitulation to threats of violence, although one appreciates that the owners of the cinemas think they have a legitimate issue in protecting staff and audiences. But still, this sort of move is bound to encourage other criminals to target any film, of whatever stripe, that they dislike and wish to close down. A few years ago we had the Danish cartoon episode. So what next, one wonders? I wonder what would happen if someone in the West produced a film taking the piss out of the bare-chested leader of Russia?

Meanwhile, in a weird case of life imitating art, the hackers have also allegedly grabbed an early script of the newest James Bond movie. You almost wonder whether this is clever pre-publicity, but it appears this is not.

40 comments to Caving in to blackmail

  • Rafael

    It is shameful attitude and action of Sony, even without seeing the movie. Take into account Chaplin and his brilliant: The Great Dictator, they were really tough times and defended his work.

  • Paul Marks

    To give in to evil is wrong.

  • Mr Ed

    I wonder if Sony has faced pressure from the Japanese government over this. It might explain the position and the rather fanciful idea of North Korean violence against, say, a cinema in Texas or Wyoming. How on Earth does one organise an attack against a cinema in the deep mid-West at a few days notice? It could not possibly be worth it. The stated reason seems to be a fig leaf, perhaps something else is at play? Then again, the cinema chains management might have been rather easy to roll over too.

    In any event, I agree that it is wrong to yield to evil, whether clear and present or imaginary.

  • Quintus

    A key feature of the Danish cartoons todo is that the Islamicists added a few forgeries to the portfolio, the better to foment indignation and outrage. It worked.

  • the other rob

    Mr Ed raises an interesting point. OTOH, it’s not too hard to imagine the cinema chains’ lawyers looking to the aftermath of the Colorado shootings and extrapolating that opposing counsel would point to the threats as advance notice in the event that anything did happen. Indeed, this could all be driven by the calculations of some underwriter.

    In a lighter vein, on the same matter: Texas Theater Will Show Team America in The Interview’s Place.

  • Derek Buxton

    “Thin ends of wedges” springs to mind. What will be stopped next? Our governments do not seem to have heard of the “Danegeld”, once you pay out, they come back for more. Just as Scotland are doing…,and getting away with it.

  • “We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression.”

    The hypocrisy in this statement is breathtaking.

  • staghounds

    “We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression by keeping their free expression in the can.”

  • Mr Ed

    So North Korea has more influence over what is shown in US cinemas than the Federal Government of the United States. (Which actually might not be the greater evil).

  • Cal

    >“We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression.”

    Brave Sir Robin!

  • Jacob

    I think that besides being hypocrites Sony are a bunch of idiots if they leave their sensitive information on the web, in a way that it can be stolen. They fully deserve every bit of damage they suffered from this incident. (I don’t think they suffered much damage, it’s all hype and hurt egos, nothing substantial.)
    And, why does anyone expect a bunch of idiot entertainers to uphold principles of freedom and free speech?

  • PeterT

    Jacob, Sony do not deserve having it stolen just because they did not secure it well enough (by your standards). It might not have been clever but it does not mean that they deserve it. Walking too close to the curb? Clearly you deserve to be run over. A smoker? Obviously you deserve cancer. I hope you get the point.

    Hypocrisy is not all bad. Being able to say one thing and do another does meant that quite a lot of things that are true but inconvenient get said. In this case I think we should consider that if Sony was not allowed to be hypocritical then then film may not have been made in the first place.

  • Fraser Orr

    I have extremely mixed feelings about this whole incident. On the one hand I am utterly outraged that that petty little man in North Korea could do this (assuming that they are behind it all), and it bothers me a great deal that more has not been done to fix the problem of North Korea.

    However, despite some of your comments, it is not Sony’s role to fight against evil, and it is not their role to reduce the chance of blackmail against others (though perhaps they need to think about the long term consequences to Sony itself). The job of Sony is to make money for their shareholders. Throwing this movie on the fire might well be the best economic choice for them. Surely North Korea could indeed cause some dreadful tragedy at a movie theater. It probably wouldn’t be all that hard to do with a little money and some gumption. A little anthrax in the popcorn, or a couple of small pipe bombs with shrapnel under seats placed at the movie before the target, neither would be difficult at all. The financial and reputational consequences to Sony of such a thing in such an environment would be quite cataclysmic. Compared to that the revelation that actress A is a bitch is a mere fly speck.

    So although the decision is horrendous, it may very well be the right decision. I don’t have the numbers to be able to make a serious risk assessment. Corporations are not supposed to be courageous, they are supposed to be profitable.

  • Iowahawk (May he live forever) said it best

    yesterday was “a banner day for third world shithole marxist dictatorships.”

  • Mr Ed

    Here is a short Youtube spoof Top Gun North Korea style with a serious message about the grim régime, for those unable to miss the Interview.

  • Ben

    Sony should simply push it out there into the net.
    Hopefully as many people as possible worldwide, including hopefully in NK, can see it. Rub
    Fat boy Kimmy’s nose it it.

  • Regional

    “a banner for third world shithole Marxist dictatorships”
    This encapsulates the Western MSM.

  • Surellin

    Meanwhile, A theater chain in Texas will not be able to show The Interview, and will replace it with Team America. Good for them.

  • Surellin

    Correction to the above – Paramount Pictures is apparently forbidding the use of Team America. Gahhh.

  • Mr Ed

    What would the Glorious Glosters from the Korean War have made of this attitude?

  • Laird

    The contagion is spreading. Apparently New Regency Pictures is pulling the plug on a Steve Carell movie about North Korea.

    It would appear that the days of using NK as the movie villain of choice are over. It’s a good thing that there’s always the old standby of venal, greedy businessman available to fill that role. Their trade association isn’t particularly effective and they’re unlikely to threaten to bomb theaters.

  • This, BTW, is why Iran needs a nuclear bomb.

  • Very retired

    First of all, none of these media companies, especially Sony, are actually American companies anymore. The images they routinely broadcast regarding US society and culture are relentlessly hostile to anything traditionally considered “American”, and increasingly sympathetic to any and all that is hostile, as befits their progressive political foundations.

    Secondly, who gives a crap if they got good and hacked? Their products are routinely worthless, their ideas stale and cliche’d, and their “big shots”, from the execs to the performing seals they trot out in flop after flop, are ignorant, despicable, and hypocritical in the extreme.

    The media in general, and Hollywood in particular, disowned America decades ago. F— them and they horse they ride into the sunset.

    I fart in their general direction.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    I believe ‘the other rob’ has it right: the insurers get cold feet, and it becomes impossible as a matter of business to show the film, ‘courage’ or ‘no courage’ be damned.

    But I’d think better of Sony if they were infiltrating ninjas into Pyongyang even as we speak.

  • CaptDMO

    Considering the controversy surrounding the film, as well as it’s “stars’, I STILL remain uninspired to “rush to see it”. I’m MORE interested in the movie about our “Hillory” that was banned by lawyers servicing the Progressive Quota Party during the campaign season, and just before elections.
    Let me know when the new movie, ridiculing lil’ Kim comes out with the “Squeal like a pig!” dialogue.

  • Jorb`

    It’s entirely reasonable action on Sony’s part. Yes it would be nice if we could all stand up to bullies, but even if they discount the danger to themselves, what of the danger to everyone who sees the film? Bombings is the first thing to come to mind

    Here’s the best alternative I can think of. Let’s have the bigger, but slightly more benevolent bullies, the US/UK/European/Australasian governments go to Sony and say.
    “You’ve already done the money on this. Give us a copy of it for free” then take the copy and post it online. People can then download and watch it in their own homes where it’s really difficult to target them. And they’re a much lower value target in any case.

    Movie gets out there and addresses the freedom of speech/bully aspect. And Sony don’t lose out any more than they already have. And if our govts cant protect themselves from a prehistoric regime like NK, then we need to know that too.

    And even some compensation to Sony for daring to do this in the first place.

    I’m sure that last will be twisted at some point (nature of the beast) but it’s a point worth making


  • Nick (Natural Genius) Gray

    Well, Sony has always been Japanese, so no surprises that they are sensitive about issues about their volatile neighbour. Let’s hope that this hacking works both ways, and we can insert trueful messages somewhere in NK.
    And we’ll always have Bond, James Bond in ‘Die Another Day’ to annoy the northerners!

  • Mr Black

    I assumed that Sony had so much incriminating and embarrassing emails stolen from their servers that it was the executives who feared exposure of their private thoughts who were the real force in pulling the film. They’d hardly care if some lowly cinema worker was killed, but they would care very much if they were exposed as racists or homophobes etc.

  • Nick (Natural Genius) Gray

    Alisa, IF Iran is engaged in the refining of uranium, it would only be for peaceful purposes! Some of them have said as much.
    Shame, shame, shame!

  • Guy Herbert (London)

    A possibility worth considering: If the film has turned out to be a leaden turkey, then cinemas may be taking advantage of the situation to pull out of distribution agreements, and Sony to write off the picture, without having to fight the indulged writer-director-producer-stars.

  • Rob

    Sony caving in is not unexpected. What is unexpected, IMO, is the media and establishment reaction to it. Compare and contrast with the reaction to the Danish cartoons, or that filmmaker ludicrously blamed for the Benghazi embassy attack.

  • Gareth

    The actions taken against Sony are seemingly aimed at preventing the film being seen. The threats to cinemas likewise. I think the best answer to the threats would be for Sony to stick the film on the internet for free. Let anyone who wants to watch it do so. North Korea cannot kill us all.

  • Andrew Duffin

    “We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression.”

    Stated just after making a few pathetic excuses for doing nothing of the sort.

    Have these people no shame?

  • Fraser Orr

    Andrew Duffin
    > “We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression.”
    > Stated just after making a few pathetic excuses for doing nothing of the sort.

    That part from Sony did make me laugh. I sounds a lot like when a politician stands up and says “I take full responsibility for such and such.”

  • bobby b


    Sony has no real fear of NK actions.

    Instead, Sony has a very real, very realistic fear that, if anything should happen – if NK really DID attack a theater, or if some wannabe copycat decides to shoot up a theater showing The Interview – that its fellow oh-so-brave citizens who are insisting that Sony not cave in to blackmail would, in a heartbeat, sue Sony for hundreds of millions of dollars for negligently exposing those poor citizens to danger.

    Blame, not Sony, but the general state of pusillanimity in our society that would reward the lawyers’ guild at Sony’s expense if Sony dared to be brave.

  • Mr Ed

    Most insurance policies I’ve read exclude acts of terrorism, has this changed since 9/11? (Or is terrorism insurance now mandatory in some jurisdictions?). If cover is required for a business, and the insurer says ‘Do X and we pull cover’, then you have a wonderful tool for terrorists, getting private businesses to narrow the scope of life.

  • bobby b

    In the USA, coverage for acts of terror was fairly well wiped out after insurers paid out more than $40 billion for damages stemming from the 9/11 attack. Re-insurers withdrew from that coverage, leaving frontline insurers unable to continue coverage.

    In response, the US Congress passed the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act in 2002, which essentially made the US government the underlying reinsurer for such coverage. With that backing, coverage of damages from acts of terrorism resumed (and, in fact, became a mandatory coverage under several policy types.)

    Coincidentally, Congress just shut down for the year without dealing with an extension of TRIA – and thus, TRIA reinsurance ends in two weeks, as of January 1.

    So, as of January 1, 2015, I expect that terrorism coverage will again go away.

    Great timing!

  • Patrick Crozier

    Land of the brave? My arse.