Reactions to Sony Pictures’s decision to cancel its film “The Interview,” originally scheduled for a Christmas release, have varied, and not necessarily along ideological lines. Some critics of the decision extend their wrath to the White House, claiming the president should have done or said more. I believe he says too much too often, but in this particular case he struck the perfect balance, telling Americans “they should go to the movies” and promising to keep on top of actionable intelligence.
Many in the media have excoriated Sony executives for backing down in the face of a bully and for refusing to exercise their freedom of expression, but I believe that’s too harsh as well. The people at that Japanese-owned company are doing what any successful business does: They are watching the bottom line, and have decided that it is easier to write off the $50 million they have spent on the movie than to pay out liability claims in the event they go forward and Pyongyang makes good on its threat.
But there’s the rub: The threat is a bluff; it has to be. The group responsible for it, which calls itself Guardians of the Peace, has warned of a 9/11-style attack on theaters in the event the project goes forward. But how do they propose to bring that off? Are we to believe that the North Koreans have terrorist sleeper cells planted in the U.S.? And if so, is the showing of this comedic film — which contains a scene in which Kim Jong-un’s head explodes — really the event that will precipitate World War III? And are they really so stealthy that they have eluded detection by America’s spy apparatus? The Department of Homeland Security has confirmed that “there is no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters within the United States.”
In any case, here is what Sony should do. They should release the film — but not to movie theaters. They should release it free of charge on YouTube. That will ensure that more people will see it, and it will eliminate the potential target the hackers say they will seek revenge against. It’s a win-win. Plus, who doesn’t want to see Kim Jong-un’s head explode?