Skimming over social media reactions from industry folks and fans, on Sony’s decision to not release "The Interview," it appears that most feel Sony did the wrong thing, with countless mentions of the studio "caving in," arguments for this being some kind of deathblow to free speech, and a win for censorship and terrorism, as well as how weak this makes America look (or, as Bill Maher tweeted, "#PussyNation"), etc, etc, etc.
I think it’s easy for those of us not burdened with the decision, to play armchair executives, and chastise Sony for taking the path that it now has. But I also think it’s a bit naive, or even arrogant (that old American ego) of us to totally ignore the potential for something disastrous to happen. Keep in mind that the group, known as the Guardians of Peace (linked to North Korea), have already proven once, that they will act on their threats. Yes, it was all done via a cyber attack, but a rather massive, extensive, damaging one, that’s become a PR nightmare for Sony. And once a "terrorist" group acts on one threat, you have to, at the very least, consider the possibility that they will act on the second one, no matter how implausible it might seem.
I recall when the initial threats were made public, and many laughed them off as innocuous. Even Seth Rogen, the star of the film at the center of it all – "The Interview" – continued to find humor in it, until the threats were acted on, to what may have been quite a surprise for those on the other side, who may have believed themselves invincible to any threats of attacks, whether in the digital or real world.
Ultimately, my point is that, imagine if Sony did go ahead and release the film as scheduled, and there were indeed real-world attacks (no matter how improbable you think they are), and people were actually hurt, maybe even fatally-so. If that did happen, the same people criticizing Sony’s decision to yank the film, screaming censorship, calling America weak, would likely then want Sony chief Amy Pascal’s head on a stick, blaming the studio for any human casualties that their releasing the film led to.
Obviously, with the FBI involved in the matter, as I read, they must have collectively felt that, based on available evidence, not releasing the film was the most sensible thing to do.
A question I’ve been asking myself and others, is why Sony would even think that a film in which the assassination of a leader of another country is central to the plot, was an idea worth greenlighting, and spending $44 million (budget only) to produce. Imagine how many *smaller*, more worthwhile films (in my not-so humble opinion) could’ve been made with that money. As I asked on Twitter last night, if a prominent production company in another country produced a film in which an American president was the target of a fictitious assassination plot, how would Americans react to that, especially if it was a film that would be seen globally, as I’m sure Sony planned for its release of "The Interview"? Except in North Korea, of course, or any countries with North Korean sympathies.
Yes, North Korea is viewed on this side of the world as a rogue nation, deserving of our ire, and a movie with the controversial contents of "The Interview" might seem relatively harmless, and, to some, maybe even necessary – sort of as a "well-deserved" slap across Kim Jong-un’s face, as well as North Korea’s cult of personality – but it’s a very American thing to be oh-so arrogant, given our country’s status as a global power. However, we also have to understand that there are, at times, consequences to our actions, as history has shown. A little humility can go a long way.
In short, as I see it, it’s not so simply resolved a problem as you might think. As my S&A co-contributor Andre Seewood said on Twitter last night: "Cancelling the release of THE INTERVIEW is not censorship, it is an act of moral responsibility in a world of volatile political allegiances."