From the Guardian
Sony Pictures has cancelled the Christmas release of a film at the centre of a hacking scandal after terrorist threats to cinemagoers and a decision by major movie theatre groups to cancel screenings in the US.
A group calling itself Guardians of Peace (GOP) published an online message on Tuesday warning cinemagoers to stay away from screenings of The Interview, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, which depicts the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
The threats led five of biggest cinema chains in the US to drop the film. A federal investigation is also under way.
The decision to cancel the release marks the climax of a torrid month for Sony. GOP has also claimed responsibility for a huge hack on Sony’s computer systems in November, which led to the release of thousands of confidential documents revealing executive pay structure, corporate profits, unreleased films, personal email correspondence and employee social security numbers.
For those (blissfully) unaware, a trailer for the Interview is below which I imagine pretty much sums up the film:
There's a pretty vast number of angles one can consider with the story. To pick on three:
1) The obvious thing to look at is the censorship aspect of this. Due to threats from others an artistic piece (and while that's somewhat of a loose term to describe a Seth Rogan/James Franco comedy I do think we have to accept that film is art... even if frequently not good
art) has been removed and its unclear whether it will ever see the light of day. Is this something that we consider acceptable?
2) One can also take the other view however. The film was about the fictional assassination of a real, living person. In Kim Jong Un's case it may be of a particularly nasty real person but still, a real person. Should we be sensitive to that? There's some controversy
in England about the BBC's decision to serialize Hilary Mantel's The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher
; are those who oppose that following the same path as the North Koreans who are supposedly behind the attacks on Sony and threats (albeit with less criminal acts?)
3) The hacks and leaks from Sony not only got the various torrent sites a load of new releases to share (notably Fury
) but also filled the media with stories discussing the content of the leaks. In the US the first amendment protects one's right to post and discuss something that has been illegally obtained and released by others but is there a moral issue to making money off the back of illegally obtained hacked documents? Obviously there's not a one-size fits all answer here; to look at the things that leaked out of Sony I suspect there is some public interest (used in the specific sense) in publicising that the female leads of American Hustle received a less generous package then the male leads and how when two executives were discussing what film(s) to present to Obama they went exclusively with stereotypically "black" films, many about slavery. But is the fact that George Clooney didn't like the reviews for Monuments Men, that executives don't particularly like Angelina Jolie, were disappointed in Leonardo DiCaprio's decision to turn down a role or that Channing Tatum was really happy with how well 22 Jump Street performed at the box office and it beating Ted into second place? That I'm struggling more with. Should media organizations consider the source of the story (outside of checking whether its reliable or not) before deciding to publish... and if they should at what point should they consider drawing the line?
Edit: I should note that there's a little bit of a conspiracy theory that this may be a hoax/viral campaign; in essence the Sony leaks happened for unrelated reasons and then some very inventive PR guy came up with the idea of linking it to the Interview, generating a huge buzz, the film gets "cancelled" and then comes out a few months later with a lot more hype and publicity. I'm not sure how seriously to take it; a lot of it seems to be largely based on the idea "pah, as if North Korea could hack Sony!" which seems slightly odd to me as I imagine if you pay enough people enough money they could hack Sony for you. As for the threats... well, it takes one person with a gun to create another Aurora
and I think even those dismissive of North Korea has to accept that they could get a person into the US. Moreover a threat doesn't have to be implementable to necessarily work; even if there was never any intention (or ability) to target screenings of the Interview the threat is still out there and people do have to take it into account (even if they then dismiss it).