Monday, December 22, 2014

Public Safety Must Eclipse Profits and Principles

Billboard promoting controversial movie.
The recent cancellation of the distribution of a movie has incited a storm of controversy and a wave of unsolicited public relations, in a business which repeatedly insists that any publicity is good publicity.
At another time, this entire set-up might make the basis for a hilarious film script a fictional, satirical movie about an actual satirical movie, mixed with international politics and terrorist intimidation. 
But, in this case, it’s real life and not very amusing.
When cyberterrorists threatened mayhem at theaters showing its film, Sony Pictures Entertainment shelved this week’s release of “The Interview,” a buddy comedy about journalists who assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, after several theater chains prudently announced they would not screen the movie. 
The satirical comedy is believed to be the motive behind the Thanksgiving Day hacking that leaked assorted sensitive internal Sony e-mails and documents. Last Friday, within hours after the FBI announced its investigation uncovered information that North Korea was responsible. The totalitarian state quickly denied the accusation, then, unexpectedly, offered to help in the inquiry, so the enigmatic dictatorship could prove it had nothing to do with the threats against Sony and moviegoers.
North Korea’s foreign minister denied the “groundless claims” that it was behind the hacking and added, “We have means to prove that this incident has nothing to do with us.” The spokesman also said there would be “grave consequences” if Washington refused to agree to the joint probe.
When I read that I ROFALMAO (rolled on the floor and laughed my ass off).
Talk about a conflict of interest! That’s like asking Wall Street to assist in a probe of alleged securities fraud or organized crime bosses asking to help investigate a mob hit.
Just a few days after Sony announced it would not release the $44 million film in any form, the entertainment conglomerate’s chief executive insisted the company did not capitulate and, to some extent, reversed its position saying it would seek alternative platforms to release “The Interview.”
According to a report in the New York Post, Sony plans to release the controversial comedy for free on Crackle, a streaming service it owns.
Perhaps the entertainment giant is reacting to the flood of criticism, but, the company may have also realized it needed offset some of the financial loss it will swallow by not releasing the movie.
Sony should have not cancelled the movie’s Christmas Day release, but it had little choice once several theater chains, which represent more than half the movie houses in the U.S., refused to screen the movie, due to threats of potential violence.
Christmas Day is customarily one of the most profitable dates of the year for movie companies, so the chains decided not to feature “The Interview” to reassure moviegoers that it was safe to attend other movies currently playing.
That seemed logical because any violence during a showing of “The Interview” could make the theater chains and Sony liable for resulting damages, even though the Department of Homeland Security said there was “no credible intelligence” to support the threats. However, profits and principles should be secondary when public safety is concerned.
Besides, it is somewhat hypocritical for any reporter, journalist or talking head to condemn Sony for pulling “The Interview.” When was the last time any American or Western media outlet published any kind of image of the Prophet Mohammed? They, too, fear threats — idle or otherwise — or violent retaliation from fanatical Islamists. When Comedy Central censored an image of Mohammed on a 2010 episode of “South Park,” the resulting criticism soon faded, but it was not as pervasive as that being mounted against Sony.
Another motive for withdrawing the film could be that Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. is the American subsidiary of the eponymous Japanese multinational technology and media conglomerate. Perhaps senior executives back home, whose nation is less than 700 miles to the southeast of North Korea, thought about possible revenge from a fanatical, unstable Asian dictator.
While actor/producer George Clooney called Sony “just insane” for allowing North Korea to dictate content to a Hollywood studio, he similarly condemned his peers when he didn’t get a single signature on a petition he circulated after the hacking incident that called for support for Sony and its honchos.
Clooney pointed out that his fellow actors, producers and Tinseltown executives were perhaps also intimidated, fearing they could subsequently be victims of a security breach.
 “The Interview” imbroglio began with a criminal act — the alleged theft of a Sony exec’s credentials, which allowed access to the company’s internal e-mails and products. Yet, the cancellation of “The Interview” has more to do with a threat — albeit remote — to public safety, which, if carried out even on a small scale, than it does with artistic freedom.
A cancelled sign of the times
Creating a ruckus that generates an international incident over a motion picture is bizarre. But what else should be expected when dealing with neophyte 21-year-old tyrant, notoriously known for his brutal tactics towards his own citizens and, who has an arsenal of nuclear weapons that he could unleash on a whim.
As this episode draws attention to the increasing vulnerability of the global information highway, it also demonstrates that in the culture of caution that has evolved since 9/11, public safety requires being cautious about discounting terrorist intimidation.