Tuesday, December 23, 2014

12.24.14 WAKE IT SHAKE IT SONY SONY


This article originally appeared in the 12.24.14 issue of Metroland.

This Sony hack thing is one profoundly smelly and continuously exploding canister of weird.  And it will just keep getting weirder.  I mean, as I’m writing this (Tuesday afternoon), Sony suddenly decides that The Interview will open on Christmas, as in, in two days, after all.  What?

            Perhaps the most under-reported aspect of this was the questionable (and quick) claim by the FBI that those wacky North Koreans did the hack to stop the release of The Interview, a Seth Rogen / James Franco comedy about assassinating Kim Jong-Un.  I first thought that those challenging the government’s claim were just more tin-foil hat conspiracy theorists, then I read the December 18 blog post from “white hat hacker” Marc Rogers, which you can find at marcrogers.org.  Check it out.  Holy Moly is right!

            Now, we always give Obama the benefit of the doubt around here, but he hasn’t exactly been aces when it comes to things like privacy, leaks, journalistic freedom, governmental transparency, and the like.  This is exactly the sort of thing he screws up. Maybe there’s stuff we haven’t been told that definitely implicates North Korea.  Of course, there’s always stuff we haven’t been told.  But here we’ve got that dottering old traitor John McCain yelling that what North Korea did was an “act of war”, we’ve got somebody (us?) taking down North Korea’s internet infrastructure, and why can’t anybody explain why the hackers didn’t even mention The Interview until a week after the hack first surfaced, after wave after wave of major media speculation that it was North Korea?

            Then there’s the incredible legal bloviating of Sony’s new damage-control mouthpiece, David Boies, who used to be one of my favorite lawyers.  Boies sent out warning letters to major media outlets warning that they might be held liable for publishing or reporting on hacked Sony information.  He sent a letter to Twitter demanding that it remove all screenshots of hacked Sony emails.  The legal basis for these demands is somewhere between laughable and none;  Techdirt has suggested that the Twitter letter may be a breach of professional ethics that could land Boies in hot water.

            But Boies’ letter was enough to reportedly convince the New York Times to bar its reporters from downloading hacked files from wherever the hackers are posting them and not to report on any hacked information that hasn’t already been reported on elsewhere.

            What, what?  So it’s now the media’s job to keep secret information that’s really not secret anymore because a big corporation completely failed to keep the information secure?  Some have suggested that there’s a Big Journalism Ethics Question here: what should the media do with stolen or leaked information, information that could be damaging, embarrassing, dangerous, etc. etc.?  There should be no such big question.  There’s freedom of speech and freedom of the press, and unless the information is likely to cause bodily harm if it gets out (yelling “fire” in a crowded theater and all that), those freedoms are, or should be, pretty much absolutes.

            Speaking of crowded theaters, Sony’s decision to cancel the release of The Interview was the crowning jewel of weird.  Sony claimed it did so because all the major theater chains announced they wouldn’t show the movie, citing security issues.  Once the hackers decided to adopt the media’s speculation and make The Interview an issue (the hackers threatened reprisals of “9/11 proportions” if the movie showed), the chains, remarkably started pulling out.  Like North Korea has the juice to bomb Crossgates Mall.  Really?

            Everybody’s got an opinion on this one.  Incredibly, the events have prompted lengthy discussions about the quality of Rogen / Franco movies.  I’ve heard a great many otherwise intelligent people get caught up in this, apparently under the belief that if it’s a crappy, stupid movie, then who cares if North Korea (or whoever) can bully a major (and spineless) corporation to not show it.  The other bizarre strain is something like “well, if someone made a movie about assassinating Obama wouldn’t we be upset?” This makes my teeth hurt.  False equivalence much?  We’re talking Kim Jong Friggin’ Un here, OK?  We’re also talking about a Seth Rogen / James Franco movie, a broad, super-broad farce.  Please, people, get a grip.

            Meantime, New Regency cancelled plans to make the fully-funded film Pyongyang, a thriller staring Steve Carrell.  And Paramount pulled a couple of protest showings of Team America, the Trey Parker / Matt Stone movie that made raucous fun of Kim Jong-il.  A movie that is TEN YEARS OLD.

            And now Sony’s decided to allow Christmas screenings after all, supposedly with a video-on-demand release coming soon after.  That’s good, I guess. 

            What happens now? Well, apparently the hackers have a mountain of stuff they haven’t released yet.  This may drag on for a long, long time.

Paul Rapp is a festive-minded attorney in the snowy Berkshire Mountains who hopes you, you, and yes, you all have like the greatest holiday season like ever.


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