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Spineless Industry Lets Terrorists Win

download (1)In the face of threats from a hacker/cyber terrorist group now said to be run by or affiliated with North Korea, America’s five largest movie theater chains decided not to show The Interview, a comedy movie in which two American reporters score an interview with the N. Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un, and are asked by the CIA to kill him.

Following the movie theaters’ lead, Sony has scrubbed the film’s release altogether. Ignoring whether or not it was in good taste or was a good idea for Sony to make this movie in the first place, I most certainly think giving in to the threats of cyber terrorists was the the wrong move and very damaging to America and what we stand for.

JOjzJXLMaybe it’s because I lived in South Korea for nearly six years and have become somewhat numb to the hollow, belligerent threats of the impotent North, but I don’t take this hacker group’s threats seriously. I mean, a 9/11 style attack carried out by North Korea? Are you kidding me? While living in Seoul, the North would get pissed off about one thing or another and threaten to annihilate the city in a “nuclear firestorm” at least once a year. In the face of such threats South Korea and the US never once gave in because the only thing that would have achieved is more threats from the North. That said, Sony and the entertainment industry acquiescing to the North this time will embolden that crazy bastard of a leader they have and many more like him.

Despite me not taking the threats against theaters seriously, I’ll give you that Sony suffered one of the worst hacks of a private business in history, mostly because Hollywood is a bunch of backstabbing, gossiping bitches who like to write rude emails, but if the lesson other businesses have learned from this is to give in to the threats of anyone with a keyboard, we’re all in real trouble.

I don’t want to say that Sony and these theaters are being unAmerican (I hate that term), but I will say their actions are short sighted, self interested, harmful to everyone and creates an easy-to-follow road map for any person or group who doesn’t like a particular movie, book, TV show or news report in the future.

Sony lost the first battle of the cyber terrorism war by leaving their network extremely vulnerable. But the larger entertainment industry lost an even larger battle by telling hackers they will cave if the hackers can show themselves to be somewhat competent and then follow it up with threats, no matter how unrealistic and non-credible they are.

And for those who say Sony and the theaters are doing the responsible thing, they aren’t. They are doing the money making thing because I assure you a huge part of their calculation in making the decision not to show this film was that the threats might keep people away from what is traditionally one of their biggest box office weekends. Not only do I think this was a miscalculation, I despise it in terms of the message it sends and the larger costs to society it represents. As people are so fond of saying, “Freedom Isn’t Free” and part of having it requires us all to not let simple threats make us run for cover. We can and should beef up security when threatened, but we mustn’t stop living our lives. And I promise you all, I was willing to put my money where my mouth was on this because I was planning on going to see this movie when it came out, partially as a personal screw-you to North Korea and these hackers for trying to dictate to me what I can and can’t see and partially because the film looks terrible in a fantastic way. I know I was far from the only person who felt this way on both accounts.

Keep-calm-and-carry-on-scanPerhaps this is part of the reason I am so mad about this whole thing. It takes a lot to get me to beat my chest as an American. I tend to have a more global perspective about things that causes me to not like to separate myself from the rest of the world on the basis of nationality. But America, my home, has had a rough go of it since 9/11. Many Americans have been living in fear ever since that day. Our media and a lot of our politicians have seen to that. But this movie and these threats!? They were our chance to say enough! We’re not going to be bullied! We believe people have the right to say and think whatever they want. We’re not going to have the way we live our lives decided by crackpots and fanatics on the other side of the world, and  we’re not going to let fear rule us! And all we had to do to send that message was go to the movies like many of us were planning to do anyway, but Sony and the entertainment industry took that away from us.

When it comes to facing down threats against our way of life and our values, we all have the obligation to do as the old English WWII poster said and “Keep Calm and Carry On.” We cannot let these people, be they N. Korean, Al Quaeda, ISIS, a crazy man in Sydney or anyone else change the way we live because if we do, they win. It is that simple. And based on the reactions I’ve been seeing on social media and the in the press, it seems many were ready to do their part to make sure that didn’t happen. But thanks to Sony and these spineless theaters, American values lost and fear won.

Brian M. Williams
Brian is the author of the recently published travel memoir "Stranger in a Stranger Land: My Six Years in Korea." (Click this profile for more information.) He's also a law school grad with Southern charm and Virginia roots. He recently returned to America after nearly seven years traveling and working abroad. He loves dive bars, international travel and foreign accents. He's particularly good at small talk and was the first person to notice there's no "I" in "team."

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