Sony has cancelled the release of Seth Rogen & James Franco assassination farce The Interview, in response to theatres cancelling showings because of threats of "9/11 style attacks" on them. So far there are no plans to put it out on VOD or home video.
The US government says that North Korea is behind the hack and the threats, however, some are saying that the evidence of that is thin, and there's still the suspicion that it all might be an inside job by a disgruntled employee.
Another film set in North Korea, a thriller directed by Gore Verbinski and starring Steve Carell has been cancelled, but I suspect that it may be because Verbinski costs too much and Carell earns too little as a live action lead.
Naturally, Hollywood is outraged that a dictator who can't feed his own people now has green light power over their scripts, and I'm outraged too, if it's true.
You see, North Korea has a history of crazy behaviour. The country's agents regularly engage in terrorism, kidnapping, and political assassination with little or no regard for international norms. This is because the rulers assume that if anyone calls them on their bullshit that China will protect them.
Now there are three kinds of terrorist attack that North Korea could engage in.
1. INTERNATIONAL OPERATION: This is the most likely operation North Korea would engage in. However, it's the easiest operation to beat because since 9/11/2001 western intelligence agencies have become masters of what's known as "chatter." When people in one country plots an operation against people in another country it creates noticeable changes in the flow and forms of data moving between nations. This comes in the form of e-mails, phone calls, social media, money transfers, and things you couldn't even imagine. Now they don't need to read the content of this data to raise an alarm, all it has to do is follow one of the many suspicious patterns on their database.
The Department of Homeland Security says there's no credible threat against American theatres, at least in this way.
2. LONE WOLF: This is where one guy, his passions inflamed by ideology, religion, or the voices in his head decides to kill a bunch of innocent people.
It is next to impossible to predict or stop a lone wolf terrorist, but far more unlikely in the context of North Korea. This is because no one outside of North Korea is that much of an ardent communist to want the rest of the world to be like North Korea. Something about wanting to eat food.
3. KITCHEN TABLE CONSPIRACY: This is a variation of the Lone Wolf, where a small group of closely knit people join together to engage in mass murder. They are harder to stop since most are not already on the intel community's radar when they start conspiring, and don't engage in multinational communications since they're literally meeting around the kitchen table. However, there's always the chance that someone in, or around the conspiracy might have an attack of nerves, or conscience, and talk to the authorities. Like the Lone Wolf, this sort of attack would require multiple locals who are ardent believers in the North Korean regime.
Now let's get to just how wrong it is to cancel the movie.
Hollywood has a bad history of rewriting stories to avoid offending anyone they think might retaliate. That's how this:
A novel about Palestinian terrorists and exiled East German communists conspiring to nuke the Super Bowl to derail an actually working peace process in the Middle East became this:
A movie about Teutonic neo-Nazi billionaires plotting to start a nuclear war between the USA and Russia so they can somehow turn the radioactive ashes of a totally destroyed Europe into a white supremacist state.
They did that because Teutonic neo-Nazi billionaires don't really exist, and if they did, they or their followers were extremely unlikely to show up at Paramount's headquarters with a bomb strapped to their chest, or worse, accuse the studio of racism.
North Korea used to be the safe target in films like Team America: World Police, and the remake of Red Dawn, because it was seen as unlikely to punish the studio either financially or physically.
Now we have a theatre chains and a major studio folding in the wake of a threat connected to a massive hacking.
Because it tells crazy people that making terrorist threats work.
That will make every crackpot wannabe start lobbing threats at anyone and everyone that they either don't like or think they could get something out of.
That's not healthy.
Now many are running scenarios through their head about how the American religious right was going to terrorize Hollywood, but if they didn't do that when the Law & Order franchise used signs of Christianity or political conservatism to cue the audience to who the guilty guy was in almost EVERY DAMN EPISODE, turning one of America's best TV shows into a sickly parody of itself, I doubt they'd start now.
If North Korea really is behind threats against the lives and property of American citizens the US government should go to its protector, China, and say that it's time to wash their hands of the Hermit Kingdom. China's business community is too integrated with the US market to withstand any disruption caused by a piss-ant dictatorship like North Korea, and they might decide that now is the time to let Un get some comeuppance because he's just a leech on their backside.
That is IF North Korea is really behind all this.
There's still a very good chance that a disgruntled current or former Sony Pictures employee with computer skills pulled this off.
If that's the case, then the dysfunction at Sony Pictures runs very deeply, and goes beyond relationships between studio and talent, to fundamental management philosophy.
It also makes the cancelling of The Interview and Sony Pictures' top decision makers look even more ridiculous.
That's not healthy either.
Which is why the people at Sony's head office should read my letter to them. Since this whole situation is crazy, it might just need a crazy man to fix it for them.