Sony Pictures Entertainment has dropped its plans for a Dec. 25 release of “The Interview,” a crude comedy that prompted a threat of terror against theaters.
The cancellation Wednesday afternoon came as the largest United States and Canadian film exhibitors said they would not show the movie.
In a statement, Sony said: “We respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers.”
On Wednesday afternoon, AMC Theaters, citing “the overall confusion and uncertainty” around the film, joined Carmike Cinemas, Cinemark and Regal Entertainment in dropping the film. Together, those exhibitors control more than 19,200 screens across the United States. Smaller American chains and Canada’s Cineplex Entertainment also canceled the film.
The film, a comedy, depicts a couple of journalists recruited to kill Kim Jong Un. North Korea made threats this summer about the film. And a week ago, Sony’s computers were hacked, doing massive damage and releasing all kinds of private information1.
This week, there have been threats of further attacks including 9/11-style attacks, although Homeland Security doesn’t think those threats have any substance behind them. There is also more evidence that North Korea was indeed behind the attacks. Theaters have pulled the movie, terrified of the potential liability. And Sony has now cancelled the premiere.
Several things to pick apart here. Assuming that the attacks and threats did indeed come from North Korea, this is the sign of a regime losing its mind. Of all the things to get worked up over, a stupid Rogen-Franco comedy has to rank pretty low. Had the Norks ignored the movie, no one would have watched it. It would likely have sunk without trace. Now, everyone knows about it.
Second, while the actions of the movie chains and studios is somewhat understandable (one chain is already dealing with lawsuits over the Aurora shooting), it’s still cowardly. Yes, no one wants to get killed over a stupid Seth Rogen movie. But once you start giving terrorists veto power over our culture, you might as well just pass Sharia law and get it over with. In fact, one studio has already cancelled a film over this.
Third, I think the stage for this was set with The Innocence of Muslims debacle. That movie was stupid and offensive and deliberately provocative. But when the Obama Administration blamed it for terror attacks and pleaded with YouTube to yank it; when nitwit Professors wrote op-eds supporting censorship, they sent a message: threats work. Here’s Ken White, responding to efforts to censor the anti-Islam video:
We can’t cave on this in the face of demands that we censor. We can’t. Today it’s bigoted videos. Tomorrow it’s any representation whatsoever of Mohammed. What is it after that? Women depicted out of hijabs? Allowing female anchors to question men on the news? Why, if cultural censors are given the power to demand censorship of that which they find offensive, would they grow a thicker skin rather than a thinner one? Why, if barbarians are told that we will censor our societies and betray our fundamental principals if they kill innocents, would they stop killing innocents? (Yes, I said barbarians. I don’t mean Muslims. I mean people who believe that violence is justified by speech the don’t like. That includes not just extremist Muslims, but their Western apologists.)
To be fair, there are no indications — yet — that the Obama Administration is playing a role here. But they should be playing a role in zealously defending the right to free speech and promising a response to anyone who tries to silence bad speech with threats, destruction and violence.
The more I turn this over, the more I think we are headed for some kind of conflict with North Korea. It may not be a conventional war, but it just might be. Assuming the Nork connection is accurate, this is the sign of a disturbed regime and a disturbed leader. A confrontation with him is coming. Caving in to his petty egotistical needs is only going to make it more likely. This is a sign that we need to beef up our anti-missile defense and increase our surveillance and intelligence assets within and around North Korea. And we need to do it now.
Meanwhile, here’s a clip from some braver film-makers:
1. Most of the stuff released is fairly trivial gossip about movies and movie makers. The most controversial, supposedly, was an e-mail exchange between Sony execs about meeting President Obama, where one suggested to ask him if he liked Django Unchained, Twelve Years a Slave or other movies with predominantly black casts. This was branded as racist. I’m reluctant to call anyone out on private e-mails to begin with. But that aside, I’m still having a hard time working up a mad over it. It seems fairly trivial on the racism scale.↩