When faced with a startling revelation, or a crisis of sorts, we have two options. We can respond with emotion, or we can respond with reason and logic. There is a time and place for both. My emotional response to Sony canceling the Christmas Day release of “The Interview” is, by my estimation, in lockstep with 90-percent of Americans. Even though there is no chance I would ever watch that movie (not even on cruise!), it’s embarrassing. We caved. We conceded our precious right to free speech because we were threatened by a third-rate, Communist dictator who likes disco music and Dennis Rodman. In retribution, we should jam the North Korean airwaves with an endless loop of “Family Matters” reruns and “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” until the Great Successor capitulates.
If your emotional response was similar to mine, let’s get our arms around this thing before we succumb to the 30 character sound bites that scroll across the bottom of the TV screen.
Speaking of screens, this is what simultaneously popped up on the computer of every employee at Sony’s Culver City Entertainment headquarters on 24 November.
This wouldn’t scare me. It would, however, unsettle me. Here is the remaining sequence of events.¹
24 November – Sony employees go without computers, voice mail, or e-mail for six days. Mil-bloggers make snide comparisons to life on an aircraft carrier.
The hackers – the “Guardians of Peace” – lift 100 TB of data from Sony’s servers.
27 November – Four unreleased Sony films are dumped onto file-sharing hubs.
29 November – A North Korean website calls the movie an “evil act of provocation”. Offensive? Maybe. Terrible? Probably. Evil? No.
1 December – Leaks begin. The salaries of Sony executives and over 6,000 other employees are released.
3 December – Leaks continue. Now it’s copies of passports, usernames, passwords, film budgets, film critiques and workplace complaints.
5 December – All Sony employees receive this e-mail threat: “Many things beyond imagination will happen at many places of the world. Our agents find themselves act in necessary places. Please sign your name to object the false of the company at the e-mail address below if you don’t want to suffer damage. If you don’t, not only you but your family will be in danger.” A for hacking. F for grammar. Terrible. F.
9 December – All of Amy Pascal’s e-mails are released. Pascal is the co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment. A number of her exchanges are derogatory (toward Angelina Jolie, President Obama, and others), and ultimately embarrassing.
12 December – Medical files of employees, their spouses, and their children are released.
15 December – Aaron Sorkin, who wrote several movies for Sony, released an Op/Ed in the New York Times. “Because I and two movies of mine get a little dinged up, I feel I have the credibility to say this: I don’t care, because the minor insults that were revealed are such small potatoes compared to the fact that they were revealed. Not by the hackers, but by American journalists helping them…If you close your eyes you can imagine the hackers sitting in a room, combing through the documents to find the ones that will draw the most blood. And in a room next door are American journalists doing the same thing. As demented and criminal as it is, at least the hackers are doing it for a cause. The press is doing it for a nickel.”
No argument from me, pal. But the press has to execute the consistent application of ethics. To date, they’ve shown no such restraint, even on matters that impact national security. Especially on matters that impact national security. Assange doesn’t look like such a folk hero when his deeds are being carried out in your backyard.
Former employees file a class action lawsuit claiming that Sony failed to properly safeguard their personal data.
16 December – Hackers e-mail reporters and threaten to attack movie theaters that show “The Interview”. FBI and DHS indicate there is no credible evidence to suggest an active threat.
Leaks continue, this time with thousands of e-mails from Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton.
Former employees file a second class action lawsuit.
18 December – After major theater outlets declare they won’t show “The Interview”, Sony pulls the plug. Initially, it was to be a delayed release. Since then, they’ve decided that the movie will never be released anywhere at any time.
Rogue theaters plan to show “Team America: World Police” in place of “The Interview” on Christmas Day. Paramount decides that’s a bad idea and similarly pulls the plug.
20th Century Fox cancelled plans for a paranoid thriller set in North Korea, and starring Steve Carell, entitled Pyongyang. This troubles me a great deal.
Am I upset that the thugs just put one in the win column? Very much so. It’s disconcerting for a number of reasons. I’m very worried about the precedent this sets and the many possible downstream effects. Everyone knows what happens when you don’t stand up to bullies.
I don’t blame the theaters. Even with no credible threat, their box office receipts will be terrible if the slightest bit of fear lingers. I’m not particularly afraid of sharks, and I’ve seen the statistics, but I still don’t paddle out when I see one in the water.
I don’t blame Sony either. Not for canceling the release of the movie, anyway. Look at that timeline again. They are in the middle of a firestorm. Worse yet, the firestorm is still going. It’s not nearly over, even if their computers are again safe for use. The $44M they lost making “The Interview” will pale in comparison to the money they lose in lawsuits and infrastructure repair. Imagine the lawsuit they would face from other production companies if they stuck to their plan and the entire entertainment industry took a financial bath over the holidays. Hollywood principle$ only go $o far.
Contrary to what you might believe in reading most media reports, no one in the US Government has officially tied this cyber-attack to North Korea, or their Chinese puppet-master for that matter. If/when they do, we had better respond. We had better respond swiftly and firmly. And I’m not talking about a 10-minute speech that interrupts my weekly viewing of “The Mindy Project”.
It’s not just Sony that took a beating. We all did, to include our nation and the freedoms we enjoy and so often take for granted. How very disheartening.
¹Source – deadline.com