"We don't negotiate with terrorists." This is a phrase that has been uttered in countless movies and by actual U.S. Presidents such as George W. Bush himself, and has long stood as a symbol for American values. Today that maxim has failed us. In an unprecedented move, Sony Pictures officially canceled the Christmas Day release of The Interview. This came just one day after a group of hackers known as the Guardians of Peace (G.O.P.) threatened a 9/11 attack on movie theaters showing the upcoming comedy, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco. The statement sent shockwaves throughout Hollywood, the first time a major American release was ever canceled due to terrorist threats. Sadly, not only did the Hollywood system fail the American public by giving in to these terrorists demands, which is even worse than "negotiating" with them, but it begs the question: what precedent will this set?
Of course, it's important to look at the other side of this coin. What if these hackers were actually planning a massive attack on American movie theaters, and Sony went ahead with the release anyway, causing the loss of possibly thousands of lives? While many doubt that would have actually happened (who seriously ANNOUNCES a terrorist threat to the world?), how bad would it have looked if a public threat was ignored and innocent lives were lost? Would the same people lambasting Sony's decision be singing a different tune? Would the studio be negligent for the loss of thousands of lives by releasing The Interview, when there was a clear and public threat made weeks before hand? We obviously can't know that, and we don't even know for certain if the threat is real or not. Trust me, I'm not defending Sony's decision here, at all, but it's valid to take their stance into consideration.
The Department of Homeland Security issued a statement yesterday that there was "no credible evidence" of an active terrorist plot against U.S. movie theaters, but that statement also admitted that they are still assessing the threat. It's also worth pondering that, if the 9/11 reference wasn't made, would this threat have seemed as ominous? Possibly, possibly not, but sadly, part of the G.O.P.'s own statement just one day ago proved frighteningly true:
"The world will be full of fear."
After the threat first surfaced yesterday, Sony didn't pull the plug on The Interview, revealing that they would let exhibitors and theater chains decide for themselves whether or not they wanted to release The Interview in their theaters. Less than a day later, the top five theater chains in North America decided to either yank the comedy from their holiday release schedule, or delay it, with several other smaller theater chains following suit, fearing liability for any attack that may happen. After giving theaters an out, almost all of them took it, leaving the studio with, essentially, no choice but to pull the film. While Sony's decision is just as sad as it is unprecedented, make no mistake, the theaters essentially forced their hand. The hackers were right, the (movie) world was and is full of fear, and all it took was even the slightest (possibly empty) threat of another 9/11 for that fear to spiral out of control.
Reports surfaced earlier today that the U.S. government has found proof of North Korea's involvement in the G.O.P. hacker attack. An official announcement is expected Thursday, which attributes North Korea to the attack that crippled Sony Pictures in late November, and lead to an unprecedented leak of emails, documents and even several films themselves, such as Fury and the yet-to-be-released Annie and Still Alice. While North Korea originally denied any involvement in the attack, many thought they were behind this wave of cyber-crime, after the country's leader Kim Jong-Un denounced The Interview, with another North Korean official calling the movie itself "an act of war." If you don't know by now, The Interview stars Seth Rogen and James Franco as a producer and celebrity journalist who are recruited to assassinate Kim Jong-Un during their visit to North Korea.
Of course, Kim Jong-Un's denouncement was to be expected. This is the same guy who, after all requires every male North Korean student to have his SAME HAIRCUT. But... this is how he responds? All of this happened, as Sony put it in their own statement earlier today, "apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like." Let that sink in. A major movie studio was crippled, millions of dollars were lost, and countless American lives were threatened... to stop a movie one very powerful guy with a weird haircut didn't like.
As bad as this whole situation is, it could be worse. Back in February 2013, a North Korean propaganda video surfaced, set to "We Are the World," which depicted what appeared to be New York City engulfed in flames after a North Korean nuclear missile attack. Ironically enough, the footage is believed to be taken from the popular American video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, with the video uploaded just before the country conducted its first nuclear missile test. Take a look at the video below.
Earlier today, a spokesperson for the White House's National Security council said the U.S. is, "considering a range of options in weighing a potential response" and that they are "working tirelessly to bring the perpetrators of this attack to justice." Ironically, the President himself, Barack Obama, stated in an ABC interview that his administration is taking the attack seriously, but, "for now my recommendation would be, go to the movies." The interview was conducted just before Sony announced that it was yanking The Interview from theaters.
As I mentioned before, what precedent will this set? As shocking as this turn of events really is, for Hollywood and America as a whole, it's frightening to think what the future may hold, both in and out of the movie studio system. Are we just a few years/months/days away from some supremely gifted teenage hackers who hates any given actor or actress from holding a studio hostage? God, I hope not, but what's possibly even more frightening than that is how this will force executives inside the Hollywood system to look at any new script that might have ties to North Korea, or any possible real-life enemy to the U.S, or anything that might be considered offensive to anyone at all... See where we're heading? In fact, it has already started, with New Regency pulling the plug on a North Korea-set project that had Steve Carell set to star and Gore Verbinski attached to direct.
We all, as a nation, said we'd never forget 9/11. It's possible that could be to our detriment in this situation, where all it took was a simple reference to that horrible day which allowed the terrorists to do the one thing we thought they never would do: win.