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You are here: MacNN Forums > News > Tech News > Editorial: Seeing Sony's 'The Interview' is hardly patriotic

Editorial: Seeing Sony's 'The Interview' is hardly patriotic
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NewsPoster
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Dec 26, 2014, 08:36 PM
 
To much fanfare, and terrible reviews, Sony Pictures finally released The Interview -- a contentious, and some say trite, light comedy vehicle where a pair of bumbling reporters are recruited by the CIA to assassinate the leader of North Korea. Conventional media, and governmental figures, have put this forth as a victory for the US' right to freedom of expression, and a defiant Sony agrees. However, viewing the picture isn't the act of defiance and patriotism that Sony wants you to think it is - in fact, viewers are now supporting a company that has called for censorship of journalists and US citizens alike, in the interest of corporate secrets.



In the end of November, Sony Pictures came under assault by the "Guardians of Peace." The group compromised the entire Sony Pictures network, with workers coming in for work and seeing a message from the group, threatening mass data releases if their demands were not met. The dialogue escalated, with a demand purported to be from the group threatening employees and familiies of employees, if they didn't denounce Sony's corporate activities in an email to the group.

Sony demanded publications who may have possession any of the stolen information to contact the company, "take all reasonable actions" to prevent anyone working on behalf of the publication from acquiring, reading, or distributing the information, and delete the data. Sony Pictures claimed to hold liable individuals or companies "for any damage or loss arising from such use or dissemination by you, including any damages or loss to SPE (Sony Pictures Entertainment) or others," including the loss of value of intellectual property and trade secrets. The company went so far as to threaten Twitter about the leaks as well.

A large number of reports have been published about the attack, detailing the extent of the leak as well as the contents of some files. These have included unreleased scripts, "greenlight studies," contact details for celebrities and employees, financial data, and documents related to ongoing litigation.



Notably, five Sony Pictures movies were released through file-sharing sites, including some unreleased films. Sony has already attempted to combat the leaks caused by the "Guardians of Peace," or GOP, by performing distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on known hosts of the data, and attempting to damage torrents by sharing dummy files, similar to how it combated piracy in the days of Kazaa, Limewire, and Napster.

Sony released The Interview to a small number of theaters on Thursday, as well as a video on-demand release on Wednesday. "We have never given up on releasing The Interview, and we're excited our movie will be in a number of theaters on Christmas Day," said Sony Entertainment chairman and CEO Michael Lynton of the release - the same CEO who previously pulled the movie after telling theaters they would be responsible for their own security if they showed it, and getting an unsurprising pullout - a weasel way of capitulating to the GOP.

Sony received a large amount of criticism for halting the release, with a number of celebrities and directors complaining openly about the decision. President Barack Obama also weighed in on the subject, suggesting Sony had made a "mistake" to pull the film and claiming "I would have told them do not get into a pattern where you'll be intimidated by these attacks." As of yet, viewing totals are unknown.



We here at Electronista have little doubt that Sony was hacked, but who did it isn't really relevant to this discussion, despite US law enforcement pointing to North Korea. Some less-than-complimentary facts have come out of the hack, including poor corporate IT judgement, a massive lack of empathy from Sony towards workers, pre-hack efforts to tone down the film, as well as a poor recovery to its initial spinelessness, which continues to this day.

While any publicity may be good for movies, the damage to the company's reputation may not recover for some time to come. Thus, we refute claims that Sony has staged this entire event as a stunt for a middling movie that the company could have (probably should have) shelved, causing a loss far greater that what they are going to feel in the years to come, as a myriad of lawsuits winds their way through the courts.

Sony took desperate actions to slow the flood of news stories embarrassing to the company from propagating across the Internet. It turned to Denial of Service attacks to try and squelch data dumps, it resorted to legal threats against journalists to block publication of details in the stolen data, the most damning of which pointed to collusion with the MPAA in an attempt to to discredit and destroy Google. And yet, it played the patriotism card to get viewers to see the movie on Christmas, saying that the North Korean government didn't want viewers to partake in the film.



North Korea relies on force to get its citizens and the world to do its bidding. The country threatens violence against opponents, little different than a threat in court which can be equally as destructive. It controls access to information to its citizens, the same thing Sony wanted to do when its dirty laundry was being aired across the globe.

Sony seized on an opportunity, with the weight of President Obama's disapproval of the film's retraction behind it, to give a large audience to a limp and "weirdly historic, completely stupid, occasionally funny, not at all Christmassy" movie that was destined for late-night movie channel viewing, and little else. On the way, it bullied, threatened, and intimidated the US media into doing its bidding not at gunpoint, but at pen-point. Sony didn't use an army to threaten, unless you count the business suit that screams "attorney" as a uniform.

Watching the movie, and filling Sony Picture's coffers doing so, isn't an act of patriotism, or defiance, or freedom. Paying Sony to see this dumb comedy supports a company that petulantly stomped its feet when it was called out for being arrogant, and who tried to bully media into silence. How is Sony Picture's actions in the wake of the hack any better than North Korea's dictatorship in this regard?

If you want to be patriotic, visit Washington DC and sit in on the public lawmaking process, express your opinion. If you want to support freedom, go to the public library and read anything that has been banned in the past, or still can't be read in other countries. If you want to be defiant, go through the Snowden leaks (not your preferred media outlet's spin on them, the actual documents) and see how the day-to-day operations of intelligence gathering that has gone unchecked for over a decade affects your everyday life. To be a good citizen requires vigilance, not a tendency to allow yourself to be manipulated by extremists of any cause.

Seeing a movie by a studio that demonstrably doesn't have your best interests at heart helps nobody but the studio. Plus, its a bad movie. Don't waste your time.

-- Mike Wuerthele
( Last edited by NewsPoster; Dec 28, 2014 at 01:37 PM. )
     
elroth
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Dec 26, 2014, 09:20 PM
 
I agree with your conclusion - seeing this movie is NOT patriotic (it's idiotic), but I disagree with a lot of your diatribe against Sony's actions.

It's a trite movie, and it's ridiculous that used the real name of North Korea's leader as an assassination target. If it were an American citizen that was targeted in the movie, it would be a huge lawsuit. What if Russia made a major studio movie about assassinating Obama? Would we tell the Russians it's their patriotic duty to see it?

Where I disagree with is the way you dismiss the legitimate concerns of a business which has been hacked. Private emails and other documents should not be fair game just because criminals stole and distributed them. Obviously Sony's reaction was strange and heavy-handed, though pretty much without any teeth. Basically a big bluff. But it's not wrong of them to call out the ethics of websites and news organizations that print the private material. If somebody hacks into your phone and computer, and distributes your private emails on their website, you might see it a little differently. But it's a world now where any idiot can claim he's a journalist and should be protected, no matter what he does.

It's also Sony's right to sue sites that distribute the stolen copies of the unreleased movies. It's not free speech to distribute them, it's piracy and theft.
     
xomniron
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Dec 26, 2014, 10:13 PM
 
"If it were an American citizen that was targeted in the movie, it would be a huge lawsuit."

Apparently George W. Bush was fair game, however.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0853096/
     
growlf
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Dec 26, 2014, 11:29 PM
 
Movie was exactly what you'd expect. Nothing very exciting, except I did crack up at the finger biting.

That said, characterizing Sony's actions as wanting to censor the press? I think the press should look at the utter crap it's been reporting and censor itself. If I read one more article about the scandalous emails, I will scream. If you don't think that's what happens in every company, organization, hell, FAMILY, every day, you're nuts. Personal communications is frequently ugly, deemed inappropriate by some, and generally not newsworthy.

Did Sony break any laws that the media is acting as a whistleblower on? No? Then the media is just reposting the communications to stir up trouble. Look! train wreck!

As for a movie about people being assassinated... Who cares if they name an an American? Who cares who it is? Are we supposed to be the mind police for the world? I'd expect leaders who pissed off other countries to bear the brunt of the negativity, so there you go with GWB. As long as a government isn't endorsing the film, who cares?
     
BigJayhawk
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Dec 27, 2014, 01:52 AM
 
Any media outlet (or so-called reporter) that thinks Sony does not have a right to try to protect its STOLEN PROPERTY is an absolute IDIOT!!! That is not "Freedom of the Press" in any way, shape, or form.

If a bank gets ROBBED does it matter who robbed it? Would the "right thing to do" be to openly distribute the money and the personal contents of the safe deposit boxes all over the world JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN??? Clearly Not.

Just because the media has open access to the stolen property, insisting that is their obligation in a "free society" to distribute it to every Tom, Dick, Harry, and IVAN, is ABSOLUTELY LUDICROUS!

Don't even get me STARTED on the media's continuous publicity of public shootings, bombings, riots, etc. The MEDIA has become the loaded weapon that is "protected by the Constitution" while they would have you believe it is the "guns" that should be stripped of Constitutional Protection. Ask yourself, who made guns COOL AS A MASS MURDER/SUICIDE WEAPON in the first place? Perhaps the MILLIONS OF HOURS of free media publicity??? Suicidal people used to off themselves in their own basements and now they do it PUBLICLY so they can die famous. All with the FREE PUBLICITY that the media would charge millions of dollars for if some School, Charity, Church, or other "positive" organization would want all of those WASTED thirty-second time slots that are devoted to pumping up the viewership of CNN shooting/bombing stories, and frankly, articles like this one.

There is CLEARLY a higher percentage of the Gun-owning population that know how to safely handle the power of a gun than there are members of the media that know how to safely wield the power that the Constitution gives to them. Are we to ban Freedom of the Press right along with the Freedom to Bear Arms? Hopefully NOT, but one day it be nice for the Media to realize the destruction they have caused in the name of ratings over the past couple of decades!

If you can't tell, this topic DISGUSTS ME!
     
pairof9s
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Dec 27, 2014, 10:10 AM
 
I agree w/ this article. To view any portion of it is to reinforce the tactics Sony used to reach this point. The patriotic action would have been to NOT see The Interview...do not reward those who doubt the sovereignty and rights that America is built on.

Again with this article, the movie never deserved the attention it has received, either from Sony in making & promoting it, in North Korea taking offense to it, or the general public in spending its money to view it. From the trailers, I have had no interest in seeing (even more so after these events). But it still should be a catalyst to chastise any company that would capitulate to such trivial actions, including their self-serving reactions, to do deny those who want to see it for their entertainment.
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Dec 27, 2014, 10:59 AM
 
Got this in the email box. I'll omit the sender's name, just in case.

Let me just put this out there straight away: what the **** happened to the macnn network? What is this editorial garbage you're posting? I mean really, the author foolishly equates watching the interview with supporting Sony. Indeed, his singular disdain for bad taste and sony's actions on a whole since the hack are completely transparent.

What the author fails to realize is that it IS our patriotic duty to support this movie. We could care less about Sony pictures. What we DO care about is quite simple. We are not going to be dictated to by a foreign power or by extension, a hacking group hired by a foriegn power. Poor taste or not, nobody gets to tell us what we can and cannot see or discuss. I'm very liberal and it's actually quite shocking to see such a singular vent against Sony has literally clouded this authors view of this moment through any kind of political lens. The consequences of not putting this movie out because a bunch of assholes told us not to would be vast. Look, I've always liked macnn. I've even liked the push into following the FCC. But here, you guys really show a lack of nuance. You can't see beyond you're own prejudices. Stick to technology. This editorial is literally embarrassing to read.
My response:

What makes you think that this editorial is about not seeing the movie because of the hack, or attack? I put it forth to you, that you can't see beyond your own prejudice.

Here's how I see it, and this is what I said.
1) Sony should NEVER have pulled the movie.

2) Sony has NO BUSINESS telling us what's patriotic while at the same time, hiding behind lawyers (and trying to squash freedom of the press) to prevent their own dirty laundry from being aired.

3) Sony TRIED to tell you what you can't discuss, by attempting to silence the press in squelching what the hackers revealed about the studio.

Sony can't have its cake and eat it too.

Who benefits besides Sony from watching the movie? Will the taxes generated help the US? Nope, because the money would have been spent anyhow. The company cloaked itself in the flag trying to get people to watch the movie while at the same time peeing on it for its own interests.

Which is it? Is the company patriotic for supporting free speech, or betraying the country trying to block the press?

I'm sorry you were embarrassed. As a veteran of the US Submarine Service, I expect more from this country, its corporate citizens, and its populace.

-Mike Wuerthele
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MacNN.com / Electronista.com
     
climacs
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Dec 27, 2014, 04:29 PM
 
"How is Sony Picture's actions in the wake of the hack any better than North Korea's dictatorship in this regard?"

I have no love for Sony Pictures, but holy hyperbole Batman... last I checked, Sony is not throwing employees who do not show the appropriate emotions towards the head of the company into gulags. This is what happened to some North Koreans who did not show the appropriate amount of grief when Kim's father died. To only scratch the surface of the cruelty and crimes of this regime against its people.
     
climacs
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Dec 27, 2014, 04:31 PM
 
Hey BigJayHawk, you forgot one thing in your insane rant, you forgot to blame Obama.
     
gorgar07
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Dec 27, 2014, 06:23 PM
 
Denial-of-service attacks are considered violations of the Internet Architecture Board's Internet proper use policy, and also violate the acceptable use policies of virtually all Internet service providers. They also commonly constitute violations of the laws of individual nations. In the US, denial-of-service attacks may be considered a federal crime under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act with penalties that include years of imprisonment.[50] Many[which?] other countries have similar laws.

So if Sony doesn't want to use legal means to stop the flow of info they are unabated and free to use ILLEGAL means? Why aren't they being held accountable for their illegal DDoS attacks?
     
FireWire
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Dec 30, 2014, 05:35 PM
 
Can you just be an electronic news website? if I wanted to read an amateur editorial, I'd go elsewhere... I don't come here to feel insulted...

"Paying Sony to see this dumb comedy supports a company that petulantly stomped its feet when it was called out for being arrogant, and who tried to bully media into silence. [...] "it resorted to legal threats against journalists to block publication of details in the stolen data"

Thank you for insulting my movie choices.. I like Seth Rogen's work and I understand not everybody likes this kind of humor, but saying it's a dumb comedy in that way is insulting. Would you like to be told it's stupid to pay to see this "ugly" painting at the museum?

And I'm sorry, but I think it's perfectly legitimate to use the court to prevent unauthorized and private information to be leaked.. News have no business publishing that in the first place. You sais it yourself: it's STOLEN data.. it should be illegal to use stolen data, just like it's illegal to deal with stolen goods if that fact is known.

And like I said, stay out of the political and judgemental stuff, you're a tech news website. Now I can't boycott you because there's not 10 000 website like this, but know that as a long time reader, you've insulted me and I'm really disappointed.
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Dec 30, 2014, 06:08 PM
 
This is why its labeled as an Editorial -- and this isn't really about the quality of the movie or Seth Rogen as an actor or human. You're free to not read it, and you're free to not like it, and discuss what you don't like about it. But what if Intel doesn't like your post? Do they get to sue us and send you legal threats to get it retracted?

Snowden leaked all manners of confidential information, where the government was acting within the law. That was published. Where's the hue and cry among the Internet for incarceration for breaking the law? The movie release, and journalists acting on the information are first amendment issues. The Watergate investigation data was technically stolen before publication -- is that fine?

Where's the line? At what point do I get a cotton rag shoved in my mouth by law enforcement for publishing what the MPAA and the rest of their cronies wanted to do to Google? Why should Sony get to decide where the line is, while wrapping themselves in the American flag?

Be offended by whatever you want, and feel free to say so - I did. I'm offended by Sony telling me that the patriotic thing to do is see a movie, that by their own admission has been mishandled and would be a problem for them.

We're going to continue to write editorials about big ticket items - your complaint won't stop it. Feel free to skip the ones so labeled if they're offensive to you because you disagree with them, but I put it forth to you, that they're more about engendering intelligent discussion about the issues of the day from multiple facets, and less about me telling you what you should think.
     
And.reg
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Dec 30, 2014, 06:55 PM
 
I don't plan on watching this movie. I don't care if it's patriotic or not since I don't care about patriotic labels of representation.
     
FireWire
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Dec 30, 2014, 11:18 PM
 
This isn't about liking a post or not, it's about releasing sensitive and private information, obtained illegally by hackers... it shouldn't require lawsuits to stop its publishing, it just requires common sense... so I guess you'd be please if hackers got inside Electronista and published all your private emails, home address, etc? What about if they hacked your phone and released transcripts of all your conversations? This isn't free speech.. And who do you think you are exactly? Editorial are written by veterans writers who have some kind of reputation, not any nobody with a mediocre tech news website... Editorials have no place on this kind of website, and you shouldn't certainly not insult your readers by implying a movie is dumb.. Are you a film critics too?
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Dec 31, 2014, 05:34 PM
 
Well, to address your concern, I held a meeting with the editorial staff of our 16-year-old website that actually pays writers, and we decided as a group with nearly 75 years of paid, professional writing between us, that yes, we can write things, and call them editorials.

Phew. Good thing I checked on that.

Sarcasm aside, editorials about the tech industry have EVERY place on this kind of website. You'll note that we didn't publish home addresses, phone numbers, or personal information. All we discussed is what impacts the readers. We made a choice to do so, and it remains the right one.

Regarding my private emails, et cetera, I'm nearly sure that we haven't used our position as a Fortune 500 company to bully anybody into compliance, nor have we illegally launched DDoS attacks of our own, or installed root kits on customer's computers without their permission.

And yes, I'm a film critic, and so are you. You're allowed to like or not like a movie, and so am I. I'm allowed to call a movie dumb, and you can call it intellectual, or vice versa. I really like <em>Starship Troopers</em> and <em>Buckaroo Banzai</em>- you may not, and may call it dumb, and that's fine!

There's space in free speech to allow both viewpoints without anybody flying off the handle. This all said, I do apologize if you were offended in any way. Offense wasn't the goal. The goal was to point out that Sony has a shifting line, with flag-waving, saluting all the way, with the other side of the line being flaunting freedom of the press -- which this is about!
     
HappyPhil
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Jan 1, 2015, 06:53 PM
 
Thank you Mike for an illuminating editorial. I particularly enjoyed your very diplomatic, measured, reasoned responses to those who would disrupt intelligent discourse. I have a much broader image of you and the website staff as a result. I look forward to a new year of tech articles, reviews and when needed, editorials.
     
   
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