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Sony Pictures: From Hack Victim to Gutless Coward

Sony Pictures: From Hack Victim to Gutless Coward

By Tom Bevan - December 18, 2014

Like most Americans, I followed the news about the hacking of Sony Pictures with a bit of guilty pleasure. Hacking is a serious matter—a crime, in this case, and not a prank—but I read most of the titillating news bits leaked to the press by the hackers, who call themselves the “Guardians of Peace,” anyway.

The purloined and leaked emails revealing Hollywood hypocrisy and back-stabbing ranged from riveting to amusing to mundane. I also admit to being mostly unmoved by Hollywood’s righteous outrage over the violation. I don’t remember Aaron Sorkin, for example, getting so exercised by the crimes committed by Julian Assange or Edward Snowden.

Nevertheless, I viewed Sony’s predicament with empathy. Even if, as some have alleged, Sony did a poor job of securing its computer networks, no one would want their company’s private email communication, the Social Security numbers of its employees, or anything else splayed all over the Internet for everyone and anyone to see.  

But my empathy for Sony ended abruptly last night when news broke that its executives announced they were cancelling the theatrical release of “The Interview,” which had been scheduled for Christmas Day. The suits who run the big film studios aren’t exactly known for exemplifying physical courage or political fortitude, but even by the most forgiving standards this capitulation is an unbridled act of gutlessness. 

To be fair, Sony did not make this decision in a vacuum. After the hackers’ went from leaking stolen records to out-and-out terrorism by threatening to carry out 9/11-style attacks on theaters showing “The Interview,” the owners of large chains of theaters across the country began the stampede of cowardice by pulling the movie from their schedules.

Instead of reacting boldly to the theaters’ unwillingness to carry the movie and releasing it immediately on DVD and “on demand,” Sony doubled down on its bedwetting by declining to release the movie in those formats as well. Apparently, the only way anyone in the world will now be able to see “The Interview” is by downloading a pirated copy from some illegal sharing site. 

This is what passes for standing up for the right of free expression these days?

No wonder so many people at home and abroad believe America is in decline.  Once upon a time it would have been unthinkable that a tin-pot dictator on the other side of the world could bully U.S. companies in such a way. Sony Pictures may have corporate overlords in Japan, but as a major studio in Hollywood it is a distinctly American enterprise, representing American values.

The latest press reports indicate that the U.S. government has confirmed what many have suspected all along: that the North Korean regime is behind the Sony hacking. If that’s true, President Obama should do more than simply tell people to “go to the movies.” He should send a back-channel message to North Korea’s “Dear Leader.” If you dare attack our country for exercising our right of free expression, we will turn your residence in downtown Pyongyang into a parking lot. Better yet, a drive-in movie theater.

Tom Bevan is the co-founder and Executive Editor of RealClearPolitics and the co-author of Election 2012: A Time for Choosing. Email: tom@realclearpolitics.com, Twitter: @TomBevanRCP

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Alexis Simendinger · December 19, 2014
FBI Statement on Sony Hacking Investigation
RealClearPolitics · December 19, 2014

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