There has been many back and forth actions between the North Korean Hackers and Sony Pictures—and now the U.S Government—not unlike a fight between girls in high school. The last two weeks have made it difficult to follow exactly what has been going on in the media if you don’t have the news on 24/7. Different actors and prevalent members in the entertainment industry have put their two cents in as to what should have happened; here are the highlights that you should know:
The movie that has caused all the controversy and started the hack on Sony Pictures is The Interview, staring Seth Rogen and James Franco. Its plot, two journalists whom the CIA has asked to aid in the assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un, was released to the public in November. Soon after, the hacking began on Nov. 24, almost one month ago. Slowly it started with the leaking of information of employees’ salaries, and then it escalated to e-mails sent between executives that held sensitive information of well-known actors and actresses. Angelina Jolie, George Clooney, Leonardo Di Caprio, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Mark Cuban, directors and executives including Amy Pascal, Michael Fassbender, Willow and Jayden Smith, Channing Tatum and others were subjects of the leaks which mainly included insults and information that was never meant for public eyes. Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence were revealed to make less than their male co-stars in the movie “American Hustle” which made a big up-roar in the media as well.
Who are the hackers? They call themselves the Guardians of Peace, or the GOP (and no, not the Republican Grand Old Party), and typed their warnings in statements released for Sony with many spelling and grammar errors in English. They have since been traced to a small North Korean group of cyber-hackers that are mostly filled with people who were trained on a military base since small children. However outrageous their threats have been, the U.S Government has taken it seriously, as they should. Their warnings have included threats against Sony Pictures and American citizens alike, threats on movie theaters, those living near movie theaters and major “citadels.”
Starting Tuesday, Dec. 16, major movie theater chains announced one by one in a domino-like effect that they would not be showing The Interview due to the threats of the hackers on movie theaters and for the safety of the public and their staff. President Obama has said to “go see a movie” and that the threats made on movie theaters (the hackers warning of “9/11” style attacks) were not credible. However, the more theaters pulled out of showing it, including AMC Entertainment and Regal Entertainment Group, the more it led to Sony to react.
Wednesday, Dec. 17, a spokesperson of Sony announced that they have no further plans to continue with the Christmas day release of The Interview and that they were withholding it from public release on any platform indefinitely. Their statement included that “In light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film The Interview, we have decided not to move forward with the planned December 25 theatrical release. We respect and understand our partners' decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers." This sparked outrage across the nation, people seeing it as Sony giving in to a dictatorship and the hackers’ demands.
Friday, Dec. 19, the FBI officially traced the Sony Hack to North Korea, confirming that their hack was similar to that of one on South Korea’s banks not too long ago. The FBI had to call a meeting with executives of every major entertainment company to debrief them on what was happening and their safety. President Obama voiced that he doesn’t agree with the decision of Sony due to the precedent it sets: "If we set a precedent in which a dictator in another country can disrupt through cyber, a company's distribution chain or its products, and as a consequence we start censoring ourselves, that's a problem” (via CNN).
The White House has stated that whatever they do in response may not be able to be publicly released right away for safety reasons; however, the United States has implored China to aid in the investigation and to battle the cyber-attacks, since all of North Korea’s internet traffic goes through China. NBC’s Saturday Night Live, as an opening to their Christmas Special on the 20th, had actor Mike Meyers reprise his role of Dr. Evil from the popular Austin Powers movie franchise where he made fun of the North Korean GOP and called them a joke to all evil organizations and said that he had seen The Interview and it was “charming.”
On Sunday morning the 21st, North Korea came back with a very long (and again, grammatically incorrect) statement denying their involvement with the Sony Hack and that they believe the U.S Government was behind the making of The Interview in the first place. They also stated that “The army of the DPRK are fully ready to stand in confrontation with the U.S in all war spaces including cyber warfare space to blow up those citadels” (via Korean Central News Agency). While North Korea immediately put the blame on to the head of the U.S Government, it is not an out-of-the-blue statement due to North Korean way of mind. During the State of the Union, President Obama refused to call the hack “an act of war” but rather “cyber-vandalism.” He still stands by his opinion that Sony made a mistake of holding back the release of the film but that the U.S Government will react towards North Korea “proportionately.”
In light of all of these events, many actors and people in the media have voiced their opinion. George Clooney, one of the victims of the Sony Hack, was outraged with Sony Pictures and tried to circulate a petition to have the movie screened to the public, of which he said “not one” actor signed to support.
However, various actors had a Twitter fit about how much they disapproved of the decision of Sony including Rob Lowe, who was in the movie along with James Franco and Seth Rogen. He tweeted on the 17th (the day the decision from Sony was announced) that he "Saw@Sethrogen at JFK. Both of us have never seen or heard of anything like this. Hollywood has done Neville Chamberlain proud today." He has really been the only actor from the movie who has voiced anything about it, James Franco and Seth Rogen have kept strangely to themselves.
The Alamo Drafthouse, a Texas based chain of movie theaters (with only one located in Kalamazoo, Michigan outside of Texas) claimed that because they couldn’t show The Interview, they would instead replace it with “Team America: World Police.” If you’re not familiar with the movie, it is a movie made by Paramount in 2004 that makes fun of Kim Jung Il, Kim Jung Un’s father, and depicts him as a puppet. Paramount shut this idea down not long after, and has pulled the movie from being screened. Consequently, the Alamo Drafthouse had to cancel the screening citing “circumstances beyond our control.”
Writer of the popular Game of Thrones book series, which is also a popular television show on HBO, and Barbara Walter’s third most fascinating person this year, George R.R. Martin, has voiced the outrage over the situation on his Livejournal (he still writes on Windows 2004 so we can’t blame him too much for still having a blog on that site). He owns his own theater in his home town, the Jean Cocteau Cinema, and claims he would show The Interview once he had a copy of it, and that he agreed with The Alamo Drafthouse’s decision to show “Team America: World Police” and would at his own theater too, that is until Paramount pulled it. George R.R. Martin calls it “Cooperate Cowardice” and says that unfortunately “The damage has already extended well beyond THE INTERVIEW itself. Paramount, a studio that has NOT been hacked, and has NOT been threatened, has already reacted by pulling TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE from all the theaters that wanted to show it as a substitute for THE INTERVIEW.” Not only has Paramount reacted in fear without being hacked but now George R.R. Marin points out “New Regency and Fox -- neither of them part of the Sony hack, neither of them threatened -- have scrapped plans for PYONGYANG, a Steve Carrell movie about North Korea, based on a popular graphic novel.”
Sony Pictures has recently claimed that they still want to show their film and are looking into other ways of distribution, which is very different from their statement only a few days ago. Sunday night CNN reported that Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton claimed that "We have always have had every desire to have the American public see this movie" and blamed instead the theaters that kept pulling out of showing the movie as the ones to point fingers at for the cancelling of the December 25th release. The "GOP" released another message to the FBI with a link in response to the weekend's actions that led to a video titled "You Are An Idiot" (come on, what is this? Elementary school?).
Monday night word that North Korea's internet has been blocked and shut down for at least 24 hours spread in the media, which could signal that it is currently under attack. There is absolutely no Internet in all of North Korea--the whole country has been virtually taken offline. It is not clear whether the U.S is to blame or some other third party (the latter being more probable).
What this fear that the entertainment industry is ailed with could mean is the censorship of what Americans can watch, which has already started with three movies and could continue from there. We haven’t seen censorship of films to this scale to date; even during the Cold War it was slightly different. The difference is the U.S Government’s response, in that they encourage people to go see movies, and the desire of American citizens to see The Interview, among others. What started as a satirical movie, that perhaps not everyone would watch, has turned into the must-see movie of the year (and probably next year), and the focus of conflict between two nations.