Roost: Sony incident example of U.S. ‘exceptionalism’ – U-T San Diego

Posted: Wednesday, December 24, 2014

“The Interview,” an ill-conceived “comedy” about two journalists recruited by the CIA to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, was due to open in theaters on Christmas Day. However, Sony Corporation pulled the release of the film after after Sony’s computer network was hacked by a group calling itself Guardians of Peace. FBI investigators have attributed the hacking attacks to the North Korean government and President Obama has pledged to retaliate “proportionately,”

The U.S. reaction to “The Interview” should have been severe criticism of Sony for having made the movie in the first place. And, after the North Korean government made its displeasure known in a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the administration should have used what leverage it has in Hollywood to halt the movie’s release. The administration’s subsequent outrage over this matter is not only disingenuous, it is yet another example of U.S. exceptionalism.

Why did Sony think it was a good idea to make a film about the assassination of an incumbent head of a sovereign state in the first place? Satire is all well and good; however, it can be achieved in ways that do not involve poking a sleeping bear with a stick. What movie producers or many Americans may think is funny is not always funny to the rest of the world and Hollywood should be more mindful of this.

Imagine if roles were reversed and North Korea (or Russia or China) had the same bully pulpit as Hollywood and was making distributing internationally a movie about assassinating President Obama. How would Americans feel about this? Would we not be outraged? Would we not consider it an act of terrorism on the part of the North Koreans?

In making “The Interview” and deciding to go ahead with its release despite signals as far back as June that doing so would cause international tensions to rise, Sony acted irresponsibly and imposed this mess on itself. Instead of a major corporation with egg on its face, we now have veiled terrorism threats against theaters and moviegoers, further strain on an already strained relationship with North Korea, and the White House being dragged into what otherwise would have been merely a fourth quarter blip on the profit report and a case study in stupidity for future MBA and film students.

Meanwhile, Sony hides behind its freedom of speech right, conveniently overlooking that having a “right” may not always mean its the right thing to do. The Obama administration is also defending Sony on this basis. But here’s a news flash that Americans may have missed while shopping for their Christmas turkey: The U.S., due to its superpower status, may get to make most of the rules, but we also have to play by them. This point was driven home recently after the release of the Senate’s torture report. The U.S. has submitted itself to the authority of the International Criminal Court and not infrequently calls out other countries for war crimes; however, when it is guilty of war crimes such as torture, it expects there to be no consequence.

As one of the richest corporations in the world, Sony is far from helpless and has the means, if not the smarts, to get itself out of this mess it brought upon itself. The company should use some of its billions of dollars to hire consultants to examine the chain of events that led to its exercising such bad taste in making “The Interview” in the first place. Bad taste, I might add, that has heightened international conflict.

For its part, the U.S. government should not protect the interests of corporations that make stupid mistakes. The Obama Administration should take heed of the fact that protecting corporate interests has been the cause of almost every war we’ve fought in the modern era. Let’s hope that is not the cause of war with North Korea.

May there be peace on earth and good will toward all mankind.

A former Poway resident, Roost now lives in Encinitas. Reader comments, through letters to the editor or online at, are encouraged.


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