In a week filled with horror across the globe that is hard to imagine, a much smaller conflict has erupted that has much more sweeping insinuations that most people realize. The Sony hack, which started with leaked films and has ended with terrorist threats, has led to a film being pulled out of theaters before its release. This is why you should care.
The security breach came at the latter end of November. Five movies were initially released that were either in theaters, or coming attractions. These included ‘Annie’, ‘Fury’, ‘To Write Love On Her Arms’, ‘Mr. Turner’, and ‘Still Alice’.
On top of that, personal emails that were sent between a number of big names from both Sony and outside of it were revealed. The most controversial of these were probably the messages between Sony co-chair Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin. Among a number of nasty, gossip-laden snipes were a number of racial jokes and comments, including one about President Barack Obama. Civil rights groups from around the country have been calling for Pascal’s resignation over the offensive remarks.
The tech world has also been affected by this leak. CEO Michael Lynton also happens to be on the board of Snapchat. He and the founder of the startup, Evan Spiegel, had been discussing a number of secret details about the messaging service. This included previously unknown acquisitions, such as a developer linked to wearables like Google Glass. It also had a great deal of insight into the future plans of the company, and where they see themselves going in the coming years. Spiegal described the leak as being “devastating”.
Laughable Security Practices At Sony
By most accounts, this leak was the result of a ridiculous number lazy security errors made by employees at Sony on both a low and high level. There was a total lack of encryption, passwords were sent over email, images of passports, drivers licenses and other sensitive documents were sent through unprotected messages, details for private email accounts were provided…the list of frankly amateur mistakes has been very long and cringe-worthy.
Add to that the fact that the software was outdated, the IT crew was both undermanned and inept, there wasn’t enough space on local servers or computers, and you have a number of combinations that made one of the biggest production companies in the world as easy to exploit as your grandmother who loves downloading toolbars.
But the issue goes beyond just pirating movies and embarrassing CEO’s. The hackers, calling themselves the “Guardians Of Peace” began to call for movie theaters to pull plans to show the Seth Rogan/James Franco buddy comedy and political satire, The Interview. The film depicts two men who are sent undercover by the CIA in a plot to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
The Guardians of Peace threatened that if the movie was released, they would violently retaliate against unspecified theaters by attacking those who went to see the film.
Once upon a time, this might not have led to much more than increased security at theaters across the country. But that was before the 2012 mass shooting in Aurora, California. That attack led to the deaths of 12 people, including children, and the injury of 70 others. This comes in a week that has seen both a hostage situation in Sydney that left three dead, including the gunmen, and the heartwrenching massacre of 141 students in Pakistan by Islamic extremists.
With everyone on edge, it was the movie chains that made the first decision. Five companies – Carmike, AMC, Regal Entertainment, Cineplex and Cinemark – which operate the majority of theaters in the US, said they refused to show the film due to safety concerns. With nearly all of their profit spiraling down the drain, Sony officially canceled the film both nationally and internationally.
Some news sources are claiming this decision has caused mixed reviews. From what I can see, that is not at all the case. Reactions have been almost entirely negative across the board. People who had not even intended to see the film are up in arms. A boycott has been called for, petitions have been created, and calls on Twitter have been seen everywhere.
One of the most fervent calls has been to not give in to the demands. Instead, people want Sony to release the movie free online, which would essentially take the power from the terrorist’s hands while still sending a message. The likelihood of that is slim, given the budget of the film as a major Hollywood release.
Who Are The Guardians Of Peace?
It did not take long before everyone figured who the Guardians Of Peace must be. A terrorist group that threatens over what looks like a really dumb, pointless Hollywood comedy starring two of the most overhyped, overrated men in the industry? It was a flop waiting to happen. The only people who could possibly care were the North Koreans, who had already been vehemently speaking out against the comedy.
Sure enough, the US has now linked the hack back to forces outside of North Korea, who are believed to have been ordered by the government there to launch the hack. It might have been funny, if it wasn’t causing a much bigger issue thanks to the violent threats: it is not threatening both art and free speech.
The US is big on the free speech issue. We take it so seriously that we don’t even try to regulate the more heinous things people can say. Racism? Sexism? Telling rape victims that it is their fault? All of it is technically legal, unless it is found to be giving illegal direction, or inciting violence. It is both a positive and a negative, allowing anyone to have a platform, which unfortunately leads to some disgusting discourse. It is one of the fundamental principles of the American life, whether you agree with what is being said, or hate it.
Art is one of the protected expressions of speech under that principle. Already, some people are claiming that this film doesn’t constitute as art, and so shouldn’t be protected under that banner. I would disagree, as it starts to get into the issue of what is art? That is a question that no one has been able to answer, ever. And it never should be answered, because while the line between artistic license and exploitation may be thin, it has always been an envelope worth pushing.
If you start to say crap films (as this one look, in my honest opinion) isn’t art, or isn’t free speech, then you get into some difficult binds. What about the post-modernist expression of anti-art, found in Dada? What about low-brow surrealism? It just isn’t a pleasant thing to contemplate.
What we have essentially seen here are a couple of terrorists who may or may not have the ability to follow through with their threats strong arming corporations into giving into their (albeit laughable) demands. That is not something we should be allowing for a moment. Because where does it stop?
So, the hacks at Sony have been hacked. The terrorists have gotten what they want. North Korea has started the most petty fight that could have been imaginable, proving once again that they are the toddler of the established world.
And that is why, in a week when the world has been submerged in more important and horrible events, something as pointless as Sony emails being leaks and The Interview being pulled should matter.