Beautiful Indignation

Is American freedom threatened by hackers? The Hollywood outrage is beautiful to behold, but pulling “The Interview” accurately mirrors the state of American society today.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: This integral part of the U.S. identity is enshrined in the preamble to the American Declaration of Independence. This freedom is lived out in American patriotism and in America’s willingness to go to war for it — whether the war is legitimate or not. This freedom is lived out in the free market economy, but money rules in Hollywood as well, and now Americans are allowing a bit of their freedom to be taken away. The hacker group “Guardian of Peace” attacked Sony and did more than just make off with internal documents and emails that they then published; they also warned Sony not to release the movie “The Interview,” or else.

The movie involves a fictional plot to assassinate North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-un. The “Guardian of Peace” threat alluded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, America’s greatest trauma, and that was enough to make Sony delay the planned release of the film during the Christmas holiday season. In addition to unleashing speculation about the source of the hacker attack, the movie’s delay also unleashed a cultural debate. Is America ready to chicken out? Are Americans willing to surrender their liberty to a bunch of anonymous hackers? Just because of a movie premiere? Taking that idea to its logical conclusion, the scope of the censorship could be unlimited.

The rather liberal Hollywood scene was beside itself. George Clooney said in an interview with the online “Deadline” website that “we cannot be told we can’t see something by Kim Jong-un, of all f——- people … we have allowed North Korea to dictate content, and that is just insane.”

Clooney is not alone in holding North Korea responsible for the hacker attack; President Obama does as well. The North Koreans had been publicly complaining for months about the comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, but no convincing evidence of North Korea’s involvement in the attacks as yet exists.

Clooney, always politically engaged publicly, first launched a petition expressing support for Sony, but no one in Hollywood was prepared to sign it, something that may have spurred Clooney to make his criticism public.

But Clooney isn’t the only one displeased; Many other prominent people have taken to Twitter, expressing their irritation over the decision to hold the film back, a decision Stephen King described as “unsettling.” The film’s director, Judd Apatow, called it “disgraceful,” while Ben Stiller tweeted, “really hard to believe this is the response to a threat to freedom of expression here in America.” And television host Jimmy Kimmel called it “an un-American act of cowardice that validates terrorist actions and sets a terrifying precedent.”

Marked By Fear

One hacker attack, and they’re already debating the big picture issues: good vs. evil; liberty vs. dictatorship. A classic Hollywood ending is inevitable, considering that the film is now publicized in a blog, thereby ensuring it will reach more people than it ever will in a movie theater.

As beautiful as all the outrage over the decision not to release the film is, it does accurately reflect the condition of American society today – a society in many ways increasingly dominated by fear: fear of terrorism, fear of immigrants, fear of violence.

The events surrounding the excessive police violence, from Ferguson, Missouri to New York, demonstrate this as much as the willingness to turn a blind eye to years of torture done in the name of a treasured freedom and to think nothing of it. Compared to that, a movie pulled from distribution is little more than a marginal footnote, but this is about personal freedom, after all: a classic Hollywood motif.

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