Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Interview: A Free Speech Refresher

My planned selected movie for my annual Jewish Christmas1 has been pulled from theatres and essentially cancelled. “The Interview”, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, triggered a threat of war, a SUPER hack of Sony, and finally, the pulling of the movie from its debut everywhere. That is too bad. It looks like it would have been a good movie...while stoned beyond recognition.

A lot of people are saying that Sony is cow towing to an oppressive regime and that this is a blow for free speech in America. I get it. It is frustrating that a company would spend all that time and money to make a product, advertise it profusely, and now no one in the public will be allowed to see it, all because they got a few threats from agents of a country known for hyperbolic threats. This is the type of disappointment we felt in 1992 about Pepsi Clear, except the problem there was that they actually distributed it. The obligatory Blaming of Obama has even commenced.

Let’s be honest, though; was this movie some groundbreaking exposé about western countries who secretly do business with North Korea, violating their own trade bans, or a documentary of egregious crimes that the country commits against its own people? No. It was going to be “Pineapple Express” with more Asian people. “This Is the End” was Pineapple Express with all of their friends and well-endowed Satan. ALL of their movies are “Pineapple Express” with special guest stars and some absurdity. We all know this. Don’t get me wrong; I like their movies, but it is definitely NOT for their cerebral gravitas. Sometimes you just want to veg out to a barrage of drug and dick jokes with a smattering of borderline homoerotic situational comedy. You know what I’m talking about. Man shit.

Is this an assault on free speech? Let’s think about this: In the United States, you are free to express yourself in any way you like, so long as you do not inhibit others’ rights in the process. the thing is, you can say whatever you want, but that also means that others can say whatever they want about you. If I say, “Trevor is a schmuck. Fuck Trevor2”, I cannot infringe on Trevor’s right to respond, “No, fuck you, dude. I don’t even exist!”, and when Trevor says this, he is not oppressing me. I would like some of the people harping about free speech and censorship go to some countries where expressing yourself WILL land you in state-ordered prison or death, just so that they can see firsthand what real censorship and stifling of public voice is. Also, Free speech means that I have the right to NOT express myself if I do not wish to do so. Even if I think that Trevor is a schmuck, not saying it out loud does not necessarily mean that I’m “self-censoring”. Sony Pictures chose this option. Also, I’m all for the US’s 1st Amendment rights being preserved, but let’s not forget that Sony is a JAPANESE COMPANY, whose headquarters is in JAPAN. As much as we’ve been trying to “spread our freedom” to other countries, Japan is still an autonomous entity that does not fall under the US constitution, which leads me to my next point…

We here in the United States may not be in range of their missiles and weapons, but guess who most likely is: Japan, which is where Sony was born. So is South Korea, which is a US ally. We have no idea what intelligence law enforcement and Sony itself had about any threats. Maybe a terrorist attack was unlikely. It’s not like this is a Batman premiere, and there’s a white dude with a machine gun3 waiting for a signal from Kim Jong Un. Maybe North Korea has a nuclear warhead. So it is easy to yell and scream about how non-threatening North Korea is when we’re over 10,000 miles away from it, well out of their missile range, and unaware of the full information about the threats they sent out.

It somewhat stinks that “The Interview” was pulled, but was the decision an affront on free speech? I don’t think so. It was definitely an exercise in free speech, and we are not going to know how much Sony and intelligence knew about credible threats. Maybe they erred on the side of caution for a reason. As much as our media likes to depict North Korea as a Keystone Cops-like ineptocracy with mule-driven missiles made of bottle rockets and duct tape, there is a reason why there is a permanent US presence in South Korea and Japan. We would not do that for a state full of people we don’t find threatening4. Furthermore, where was everyone’s incredulousness when Kim Jong Un killed his own uncle, or when he executed his former fiance, or when she reappeared a year later? There will be another dick- and drug-laden movie soon, don’t worry. And For Jewish Christmas, maybe we’ll go see “The Hobbit 3: With a Vengeance”.

1 Chinese Food and a Movie! You should know this! Anti-Semite!
2 No Trevors were hurt in the making of this essay.
3 Too soon?
4 Well...except for in the Middle East and various Central and South American countries back in the 70s and 80s.

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