By Ygal Kaufman
At this point, you’ve no doubt heard about the disaster at Sony. But here’s the quick recap for those of you just returning from a three week camping trip in the Adirondacks with no cell service: A November 24th hack from a group calling themselves “Guardians of Peace” netted 100TB of confidential data from the multimedia megacorp. After releasing some confidential emails that humiliated Sony execs, the hackers threatened to blow up theaters that screened Seth Rogen and James Franco’s new comedy The Interview, which was set to be released on Christmas day. The film is a raunchy stoner-bros jab at the North Korean dictatorship, which features an assassination of Kim Jong Un, the Gulag-nation’s warden, as well as, and I’m just going out on a limb here, a bunch of weed smoking. In response, Sony announced a few days ago that they were pulling The Interview from theaters, cancelling the release. Initially they said they had no plans to release it at all. Now after some backlash, they’ve backtracked on that and suggested they will eventually release it, they just don’t know when or how.
Now in defense of Sony, once the big theater chains, Regal, Carmike, Cinemark and AMC, all announced last week that they would not carry the film, it’s not like they had a lot of options on where to screen their 42 million dollar investment. But to not even announce that it would be released online or in some other format; many rightly took them to task for their appeasement of terrorism.
I’m not here to jump on the bandwagon. Sony didn’t produce the film to fight a free speech war, and if they wanted to wage such a campaign, they ould have surely done it at less expense. Perhaps with a cheaper to produce Kevin Hart stand-up comedy film where he does racially insensitive impersonations of Kim Jong Un. And if they had gone ahead with the Christmas release and a theater was bombed, they’d be opening themselves to legal liabilities of the nine figure variety.
But I am rather puzzled by why they really think these threats are legit. Or that they actually come from North Korea.
While everyone, including the US government, seem perfectly convinced that this hack attack originated in Pyongyang, I’m highly skeptical. For one thing, and I hate to sound like a stand up myself, least of all like Kevin Hart, but how in the [expletive deleted] is a country that can’t feed it’s people, a country as cut off from the rest of the world as North Korea, possibly training the type of sophisticated hacker necessary to steal a trove like this from a corporation as big as Sony? What are they learning to code on little wooden cased Soviet issued Commodore 64 knockoffs? Comrade 64s?
But even assuming they’re capable of such a thing, imagine for a second that you’re a pimple faced teenager in the basement of his Beverly Hills lawyer father’s mansion. And thanks to some bit of inside info from your dad’s work representing Sony, you figured out a way to hack their system and steal these goodies; what better way could there be to throw everyone off your trail? It’s called a diversionary tactic.
It’s really not that fantastical. So far, nobody has produced a shred of evidence that the North Koreans are behind this, nor that there is any reason to actually fear theaters exploding. Other than the very re-education camp sounding name, Guardians of Peace, and the horrible grammar of the threat message, none of this really sounds like a foreign government. Even one as nefarious and simultaneously bumbling as the North Korean regime.
One might also point out that the mischief caused by the initial leaks in the Sony hack, such as the racist joking of it’s executive Amy Pascal, or the screener copies of films, including 2014’s Brad Pitt vehicle, Fury, don’t really disrupt the United States or our economy in any meaningful way. Not exactly the signature of an attack from a belligerent nation.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the current overtures by the FBI and Sony that they’re sure the attack is of North Korean origin aren’t a sly ruse to ease the mind of the real source.
But then why still yank the film from theaters? It’s not like creating an enormous controversy surrounding the film, announcing it won’t see the light of day, and then releasing it a little later would massively increase interest and drive up ticket sales…
I hate to sound like a tin foil hatted goon, but something smells funny. And it’s not just Seth Rogen.