After a lot of back and forth, the satire movie about North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un nevertheless opened in more than 300 American theaters, and is also available to view online. Whether the German language media considers that a courageous act of defiance against a totalitarian regime is doubtful.
The North Korean attack on free world values failed in the face of unified global opposition. After — apparently — North Korean hackers threatened violence if the movie were shown in theaters, producer Sony initially announced that it would not release it to the public. But after great media and political pressure — President Obama commented that Sony had “made a mistake” by pulling the film — many commentators are now beginning to doubt that standing up to North Korea’s threat was all that heroic.
Switzerland’s Neue Zürcher Zeitung am Sonntag thinks even the buzz about the screening is due to the film’s miserable attempts at comedy, saying that American movie audiences have turned a cinematically lacking film, full of dirty jokes, into a shining symbol for freedom of speech. President Obama sharply criticized Sony’s action, rightly defending the importance of intellectual freedom. But contrary to the widespread misconception that freedom has nothing to do with the validity of the criticism, its protections are intended to apply precisely to those presentations considered by some to be marginal and/or tasteless. Many Americans instinctively understood that and showed that understanding by going to see the movie.
Writing in die Welt, Alan Posener, on the other hand, considers it less an act of heroism than smart business by those associated with the film. He says the damage control is working thanks to Google, Microsoft and Sony collaborating to market the film online. That’s smart business for Sony, which gets to keep 75 percent of the revenue as opposed to the 50 percent it gets from movie theaters.
Google is happy about the free advertising for its YouTube pay-to-view service, and Microsoft outmaneuvered Apple because Apple’s iCloud storage service has proven to be susceptible to hacking, which has kept it on the sidelines in this fight. And corporate courage doesn’t apply here either, since it has been conspicuously absent on other occasions. Seldom has the defense of freedom been bought more cheaply. Compared with China, Google comes off seemingly less principled. Publication of the Mohammed cartoons was criticized by the U.S. State Department, and it has just been announced that Morocco, along with most other Muslim nations, has forbidden the Ridley Scott film “Exodus” about Moses to be shown.
Not a single protest has been heard to date. The enemies of freedom will doubtless take note of all that.
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