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When Idealism Becomes Idiotic

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The terrorists have won. At least, that’s what my News Feed, Twitter, and various social pundits would have me believe.

When Sony made the decision to pull The Interview from all theaters, with no plans for a DVD or VOD release (a decision that was already partly made for them by various theater chains in America), armchair national security experts took the company to task for caving in to terrorist demands.

This is ‘murica, haven’t you heard? We don’t negotiate with terrorists.

Of course, Sony isn’t even an American company. It’s Japanese. In case you don’t have a map handy, it’s roughly 650 miles from North Korea to Japan. That’s less than the distance from Washington, D.C. to Chicago. So you’ll forgive them for shitting their pants a bit over all of this, especially since no one has a handle on this whole situation yet anyway.

Given the extent of the damage reported so far from the Sony hack—leaked emails, personal and financial records, destruction of data—and the likelihood that there’s more that the public doesn’t yet know about, any threat by the hackers has to be treated as credible. And there’s no practical way to just ramp up security at every movie theater in the country. The element of surprise lies purely in the terrorists hands, putting everyone else in quite the bind.

You can call their bluff, show the movie, and hope everything goes well. If it does, hooray, you showed them who’s boss. But what if it doesn’t?

So what are the options? You can call their bluff, show the movie, and hope everything goes well. If it does, hooray, you showed them who’s boss. But what if it doesn’t? Put the whole public relations issue on the side for a moment and just think in terms of common sense. How brazenly stupid do you have to be to think that there’s a realistic chance innocent lives are at risk and not take steps to stop it? Especially over a movie that, by all accounts, is pretty crappy? So Sony (and everyone else here with actual decision-making power) went the other way. Shelve the whole thing. At the end of the day, it’s just money. Everyone gets to go home safely and whine about it on the Internet. Smart play.

The most pathetic thing in all of this is that people are likening this to actual impingements on our freedoms. You’d think that getting to see The Interview was listed in the Bill of Rights the way people are talking about it. Relax, folks. It’s a movie. And a bad one at that. Let the people who can do more about this situation than complain from behind a keyboard sort the mess out, and then you can make judgments once we have the facts in hand.

The frustrating thing about the Internet is that it lends itself to kneejerk reactions. And no matter what, there’s always a vocal minority that’s pissed off. At some point you realize that’s just the nature of the beast. So if you’re one of those folks at home right now steaming mad that you’re not going to see The Interview on Christmas Day, go right ahead and write me a nasty retort. But before you hit send, at least take a moment to recognize how fortunate we all are to be in the position to argue over the release of a film instead of discussing something far worse.

  • Neel Joshi

    Sounds like Obama disagrees: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2014/12/19/sony-the-interview-hackers-gop/20635449/

    I think the biggest question is whether this came from N Korea at all (read toward the end of that article, and you’ll see there were two polar opposite messages sent to Sony Thursday night), followed by how credible a threat could they pose to civilian safety? It’s one thing to hack computers over the Internet, and a complete other thing to orchestrate an attack on U.S. soil.

  • Sounds like Obama disagrees: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2014/12/19/sony-the-interview-hackers-gop/20635449/

    I think the biggest question is whether this came from N Korea at all (read toward the end of that article, and you’ll see there were two polar opposite messages sent to Sony Thursday night), followed by how credible a threat could they pose to civilian safety? It’s one thing to hack computers over the Internet, and a complete other thing to orchestrate an attack on U.S. soil.

  • Rich Steele

    Touche, good sir. It certainly seems like NK wasn’t behind the cyberattack after all. That said, what’s wrong with a little prudence? Take the time to do your due diligence and know what the situation is and make a risk assessment instead of puffing out your chest saying “we don’t negotiate with terrorists” and putting peoples’ lives at risk (possibly). And while folks will whine about Sony pulling the movie (which, now it turns out they’re releasing anyway), imagine the complete shitstorm if things had gone the other way. This was lose-lose for Sony from the word go.

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