Contributor: Arthur Jones
Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead once said: “What a long, strange trip this has been.” Sony Pictures Entertainment hacked by cyber-terrorists. Stolen data. Wiped company hard drives. Private internal emails given to media outlets. Private messages, photographs, and contact data of some of America’s biggest movie stars made public. Entire scripts of movies either in pre-production, production, or post-production made available online. Threats made against certain movie stars. Threats made against executives of Sony Pictures. Threats made against President Obama. Terroristic threats made against American movie theater chains and any Americans patronizing those chains. Extortion plots. Sony Pictures capitulating. The President publicly calling Sony’s decision “a mistake.” Sony Pictures un-capitulating. The President praising Sony. North Korea condemning Sony. North Korea condemning the President – even resorting to racially insensitive language to show its displeasure. North Korea threatening the United States. North Korea having its worldwide web and mobile network access mysteriously/not-so-mysteriously shut down. Whoa, Nelly. What butterfly effect is in play here? Where is the MacGuffin which set into motion all of the aforementioned occurrences over the last few weeks or so? Would you believe that a single motion picture is the root of all this? Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the “Interview” saga.
In case you didn’t know, “The Interview” is an action-comedy produced by Sony Pictures starring Seth Rogen and James Franco. According to IMDb.com, here is the film’s plot summary: Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his producer Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen) run the popular celebrity tabloid TV show “Skylark Tonight.” When they discover that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is a fan of the show, they land an interview with him in an attempt to legitimize themselves as journalists. As Dave and Aaron prepare to travel to Pyongyang, their plans change when the CIA recruits them, perhaps the two least-qualified men imaginable, to assassinate Kim Jong-un.
The antagonist in “The Interview”? Kim Jong-un. The antagonist of real-life geopolitics? The very same Kim Jong-un. While it is true that life imitates art (and vice versa), North Korea’s “supreme leader” apparently didn’t get the memo. As one might imagine, he lost it over last summer when details of “The Interview” began surfacing.
The film is now in theaters and available via digital download.
Could the screenwriters of “The Interview” (Mr. Rogen and Evan Goldberg) have changed the name of the film’s bad guy? Sure. Could they have created a fictional nation? Of course. Could they have gone in a totally different direction in terms of the appearance and/or mannerisms of the antagonist? Absolutely. However, they didn’t, and that’s ok. In America, that’s show business, satire, and comedy. It’s the freedom of expression. That’s how we get down in the land of the free. In North Korea however, it’s blasphemy, an act of war, and the basis for an attempt to invoke an unprecedented campaign of censorship and intimidation globally. Kim Jong-un is having a full-fledged temper tantrum – and you have a ringside seat for the shenanigans.
Of course if Kim Jong-un had merely laid low and simply ignored the release of “The Interview”, this wouldn’t have been nearly as fascinating a story. Critics’ reviews of the film haven’t exactly been stellar. “The Interview” wasn’t going to be a juggernaut like “Avengers: Age of Ultron” – a 2015 release fully expected to earn $2 billion globally at the box office. By carrying on like Donkey Kong, Kim Jong-un has inadvertently generated a must-see element to “The Interview” the movie may never have managed on its own. Many people now want to see the film out of curiosity, defiance, patriotism, or some combination therein. Kim Jong-un, to quote Willy Wonka: “You lose! You get nothing. Good day, sir!”
The week before Christmas, the FBI’s investigative finding was that the hackers – known as the Guardians of Peace – conducted their November cyberattack with North Korea’s knowledge and assistance. President Obama promised the American people an appropriate response when he said, “Some the things we do, you will hear about. Some of the things we do, you will not hear about.” Never one to leave well enough alone, Kim Jong-un then referred to the President by a racial slur in a released statement. Less than 24 hours later, North Korea found itself back in the days of dial-up internet. Coincidence? I think not. As for Vladimir Putin – Kim Jong-un’s BFF – you’ve heard complete silence. Crickets. The Russian President currently has Obama-led problems of his own. You can read more about that in my next column, “Cancel Christmas.” Consider that a tease.
One thing’s for certain: the US Cyber Command is for real. Those operatives do not play.
Will “The Interview” be a big hit after all? Will Kim Jong-un chill out? What’s President Obama’s next move? The “Interview” saga continues. Happy New Year!