It's not Censorship, Just Cowardice: On Sony's Decision to Shut Down "The Interview"

What a strange week it’s been in Hollywood. Tuesday night we actually had a thunderstorm. For those who don’t know Southern California, that’s like saying House Republicans think our country might have a race problem. Or Woody Allen is considering property in Malibu. Or the new Missal really seems to be catching on. (“Under our roof,” translators? “Under our roof”?)

There was even lightning, for God’s sake.

Then yesterday, hack-beleaguered Sony Pictures actually stopped distribution of major motion picture “The Interview,” maybe forever, after the United States’ five major theater chains refused to show it for fear of a 9/11-style attack on any theater that did.

To say the Internet was not happy with this series of events would be an understatement. Hollywood writer/director/producer Judd Apatow called the chains’ decision “disgraceful” and wondered, along with many others, what’s next: “Will they pull any movie that gets an anonymous threat now?” Many called it a sad day for creative expression, and feared that this forebodes a dangerous new self-censorship. Rob Lowe compared Hollywood to Neville Chamberlain (to which the nation of Czechoslovakia replied, “Mmm, Rob, I think not”). Newt Gingrich went so far as to call the hackers’ threat an “act of war,” forgoing the need for an act of war to involve an actual act. Forget the pesky details, there’s really never a bad time for a little preemption.

Read it all from America.


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7 comments on “It's not Censorship, Just Cowardice: On Sony's Decision to Shut Down "The Interview"

  1. Terry Tee says:

    Now let me see if I get this right.
    1) Americans are strongly determined to defend freedom of speech. It is a fundamental right of a free people in a free country, defended in the constitution. To this end even the appalling nonsenses of Westboro Baptists, to name one example, must be tolerated. Freedom of speech is freedom of speech, no matter.
    2) Americans must give in to a foreign power that does not want to be mocked or criticized. Threats have been made. There have even been successful cyber attacks which have spread abroad the gossipy comments of film company executives and even salary details. Freedom of speech is one thing, but facing threats as severe as these is another. Common sense must prevail.

    Somehow those two do not tally.

  2. Catholic Mom says:

    Well…of course the two are not actually the same thing. In the first case, the ruling is that the government cannot suppress free speech. In the second case, a company (not a government– and strictly speaking its a Japanese company) is being threatened/blackmailed and has decided to give in rather than risk further attacks. BTW, I’m not totally sure this wasn’t the right thing to do. Apparently they received threats that movie theaters would be targeted. If you made a movie and you were going to release it to theaters and ISIS was threatening to blow up any theater (and the people in it) where it was shown, would you go ahead anyway? I’m not sure what the right answer would be.

  3. Sarah says:

    I’m not certain it was “cowardice” — just cold hard acknowledgement of reality. If a movie theater were blown up on Christmas Day by North Korea, Sony would be sued into oblivion by the families of the non-survivors.

    Not really just or right — but that’s tort in the US now.

  4. David Keller says:

    Sarah, There are theatre owners who are wiling to take the chance but Sony is not. Sony could easily release it on the Internet and at least 1B people would see it but they won’t. No tort liability for releasing on the Internet. Please don’t excuse their cowardice. If we start bowing to North Korea, we may as well hang it up. Of course, Sony is Japanese, not American, and the hatred between Koreans and Japanese probalay has a lot to do with this. But N. Korea can’t feed it own people. We sentpd them millions in food aid every year. About 5 years ago the entire country would have starved to death if we hadn’t stepped in. Somebody, Barak maybe, needs to,read the entire world the riot act starting with N. Korea. He could start by taking all the tax benefits we give China for exporting Sony electronics products to the U.S.

  5. Katherine says:

    Many observers think that Sony should release the film online. It’s a financial loss because of the understandable reluctance of theaters to take the risk. Sony could be a hero by releasing it online and on DVD. It might be able thereby to get at least some advertising revenue and to repair the damage to its reputation.

  6. Sarah says:

    RE: “Please don’t excuse their cowardice.”

    David, I don’t excuse what I don’t believe exists in this instance. I don’t think they displayed cowardice.

    RE: “Sony could easily release it on the Internet and at least 1B people would see it but they won’t.”

    Yes they could — and I expect they will.

    I suppose we shall see in time.

  7. Sarah says:

    Ah — I see that Sony has already offered a replacement film for The Interview — I knew they’d come through!

    . . .

    . . .