Oh, you’re mad at Sony for killing its movie?
Hold on. It’s hard to type when I’m laughing this hard.
I wouldn’t have gone to the theater to see The Interview, but I probably would’ve queued it up some night while I was lying on the couch. Even so, whatever was in the film wouldn’t have been nearly as funny as the outrage over Sony Entertainment nuking its own movie after threats from (allegedly North Korean) hackers. Yes, it’s ridiculous, short-sighted, and weak-kneed. Yes, it has a chilling effect on artists everywhere. Yes, it’s bad for art all around. I’m with you on that.
But ultimately, it’s just ugly entertainment news. On the scale of entertainers poking at false idols and catching hell for it, this still falls below Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses and Nashville sending the Dixie Chicks into exile.
So, why am I laughing? I foolishly looked to our leaders in Washington for context on the story.
You know that thing you do where you start laughing so hard that you can’t breathe? You’re waving your hand and saying, “Stop, stop, I can’t take it!” Tears are running down your face, and you’re worried you might soil yourself if the funny stuff doesn’t let up. Then it starts to hurt, and you really want it to stop, because now it’s not funny anymore. You know that thing? That’s what happened when I read this CNN piece in which American legislators are mad at Sony for letting the “terrorists” win.
Republican Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, slammed Sony’s decision Thursday as a “capitulation” to the North Korean dictator and called for the U.S. to rally the international community and severely sanction North Korea for carrying out what he called a “cyber war.”
Capitulation. That’s a hell of a word. Last time it occurred to me, it rhymed with something called The Patriot Act.
Ask yourself this: in the name of security, in the name of Protecting the Homeland, in the name of protecting what America holds dear, what have we as a nation given up? What ideals did we surrender in the name of keeping us safe?
We stripped our bodies in airports (sometimes literally, sometimes digitally).
We let low-wage workers run their hands up our inner thighs and between our legs.
We carried our tiny toiletries in Ziplock bags.
We shrugged our shoulders when we learned our national security officials were monitoring our phones and email accounts without a warrant.
We accepted that the indefinite detention and torture of foreign prisoners was no longer something evil nations did but instead was the American way.
We sent American soldiers to battle in a war that leaders expect to last at least another ten years.
We put pilotless drones in the air to execute Americans without due process.
We put tanks and militarized police on American streets.
We authorized our federal police to pose as terrorists in an attempt to radicalize Americans so that they could be arrested as terrorists.
We did all that in the last ten years in the name of being safe against a faceless and sometimes nonexistent enemy.
Sony? It nuked a movie.
So, if you’re mad at Sony because it’s bad for art and artists, I’m with you. There is nothing cool about silencing artists because they say something you don’t like (again, see Maines, Natalie, 2003).
But, if you’re mad at Sony because you’re afraid it makes America look weak and willing to give up its ideals in the face of fear, just remember this: we set our Constitution on fire and watched it burn for a decade in the name of feeling safe.
That is, to the people in government who might be furious: don’t ask how an American corporation learned to capitulate to invisible terrorists.
It learned by watching you.
And that’s not funny at all.