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The Interview and the specter of fear

I'm having some complicated thoughts about a very dumb movie. That movie is the notorious, inglorious Seth Rogen/James Franco joint, The Interview.

To catch someone up to speed that may have been living under a rock, or -oh I don't know- doing anything of value with their time, The Interview was made under controversy since it depicts a plot by the stars of the film to sneak into North Korea as journalists and then assassinate the leader, Kim Jong Un.

Hilarity apparently ensues, as does a murder (the crime equivalent of a whoopee cushion.)

But that's not really the story. The story is what happened as the movie got closer to release.

In the past month, Sony has announced that they were hacked. And not just "lost our users data" hacked. Not just "losing service to our gaming network". This was a worst case scenario. Not only was data compromised, but the attackers apparently destroyed and mangled Sony's information technology to the point where employees are working with pen and paper and hand delivering documents.

It doesn't just make Sony look bad but the company was left broken and beaten. That part of the story is abundantly clear.

But aside from the hack airing a lot of Sony Pictures' dirty laundry, the hacker group that committed the crime also made further threats if the film was going to be released. Based on... nothing but the words of those who committed the crime.

Keep in mind that in all of this there has been no other evidence that this group is capable of physical violence. They've merely threatened, and vaguely, that something bad would happen.

Homeland Security says that it has no evidence that this is a legitimate threat,
— The Verge
The reality is having your scripts posted online does not constitute a terrorist act.
— Peter W. Singer

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The line above is one of the most important factors here. We've been through terror threats before and, for as much as I despise Homeland Security, they tend to be fairly clear when there is something to them. If this threat isn't raising any serious alerts, I would actually err on believing that there isn't much to go on.

Unlike worried content creators like Chuck Wendig. It is clear to me that this is not terrorism. There was a crime committed, and a foreign nation has endorsed it- though they have not taken credit for the commission of the deed. Our way of life is not materially threatened. Sony Pictures, and the theater chains that decided not to carry the film are foolish and acting out of fear. But then, that is the culture we have built for ourselves.