Unless you’ve been living under a rock recently, you’ve probably heard about the hoopla caused by the new Seth Rogen and James Franco movie called the interview. The movie follows a plot to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. According to recent reports, North Korea was behind a cyberattack against Sony which included theft of emails and the theft and release of various Sony movies. A timeline of the hack is available here.
Earlier today, news reports broke indicating that Sony would be pulling its world wide release of the film. An example is here.
Not surprisingly, many have decried Sony’s decision. Many have referred to this as a “freedom of speech” issue. That’s not entirely accurate because “freedom of speech” in the United States constitutional sense simply means that the government has limited abilities to sensor or punish speech. People often fail to recognize that “freedom of speech” does not preclude private employers from punishing or firing you for things that are said or done at your job, nor does it preclude a film distribution company from pulling a plug on a film that, presumably, the film’s creators and actors would like to have shown. After all, this is their expressive work and they probably believe the message is important.
So, even though Sony obviously has the right to pull the movie, should it have? This is obviously a serious question, and its a topic that is substantially more serious than my ordinary posts. Here at DuetsBlog, I expect we all believe in the importance of expression and the “marketplace of ideas.” So when glorified cyber-bullying (albeit by a country that is potentially a nuclear power) pollutes that marketplace and stifles expression, I feel a profound sense of disappointment and loss. At the end of the day, I don’t know whether Sony’s decision was “right” or “wrong,” but I do know which decision I would have preferred.