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Monday, December 22, 2014 

Sony Pictures! Fuck yeah!

There's something for absolutely everyone in the on-going Sony Pictures hacking saga.  Everyone really meaning everyone, as anyone with even the tiniest bit invested in the entire clusterfuck, with the possible exception of President Obama, has ended up looking the worst kind of self-absorbed hypocritical tool.

Congratulations must go first and foremost to Sony Pictures themselves, for oh so many reasons.  We can start with commissioning The Interview to begin with, merely the latest attempt by Seth Rogen to convince the entire world he's even less talented than James Corden.  Many people have pointed out that Kim Jong-un is just about the only real life national leader a Hollywood studio could get away with depicting the assassination of, as they certainly wouldn't dare to do the same to Xi Jingping of China, not least when it's an emerging market and any criticism of the country is most certainly now off limits, and when it comes to say, Iran, they have to be slightly more subtle about it, as we saw with Argo.  Not so subtle that when it came to handing the Oscar over, it was Michelle Obama doing it mind.

Up next has to be Sony's lamentable security in general.  This isn't the first time it's been found wanting: LulzSec first gained access to personal data from Sony Pictures via a SQL injection attack back in 2011, only a couple of months after the Playstation Network had been taken offline for a month following the stealing of data from the near 77 million accounts made on there.  Quite how the "Guardians of Peace" gained access to so much of Sony Pictures' data isn't yet clear, although suspicion is they were given help from within.  Whatever the case, you certainly wouldn't bet against Sony falling victim again.

Then we have the withdrawal of the film itself.  There are some caveats here: despite the chains now claiming they merely wanted the release delayed until it became clear how serious the threat from GoP was, it would only have taken one idiot to do something vaguely menacing at a screening for the lawsuits to start flying.  Delaying the release indefinitely would also have sparked the same hyperbolic reaction as we've seen, as though not immediately releasing a turkey of a comedy is somehow akin to 30s appeasement.  This said, and even bearing in mind how the past year has been one long episode of people saying things and then hastily withdrawing them and/or apologising after others have declared themselves offended, Sony must have known there was no realistic threat.  North Korea being one and the same as the Guardians of Peace or otherwise, neither is about to fly a hijacked airliner into a cinema showing the film.  I'm not one to start crying about censorship or giving in to dictators or "cyberterrorism" over a Seth Rogen vehicle, but plenty will, and indeed have.

Which brings us to the luvvies themselves.  If like me you'd prefer celebrities to be seen and not heard, or for that matter not seen either, nothing is more likely to get them spouting forth than first their extremely private emails to studio executives getting leaked, followed by their unreleased films (for which also see Madonna) and then finally a studio withholding a film mocking the easiest target in the entire world.  Still, if the likes of Rogen, Brad Pitt and Aaron Sorkin hadn't spoken up there wouldn't have been the delightful sight of celebs condemning a free press for reporting on information in the public domain, something that just slightly undermines the whole horrified reaction to Sony then withdrawing the film.  Not that reporting on the information dumped by GoP doesn't raise ethical issues: after all, the very same organisations that professed themselves shocked and outraged anyone would so much as look at the images and video leaked during the "fappening" (while telling everyone precisely where to find them, natch) didn't have the slightest qualms about spreading the news of Angelina Jolie being described as a spoilt brat and Sony executives telling hilarious racially flavoured gags about President Obama's favourite movies.  That North Korea could be ultimately responsible for the leaks seized upon just adds to the amusement.

Finally, there is the "cyberterrorism" aspect.  Cyberwarfare ranks only slightly behind anti-terrorism itself in the bullshit stakes.  Cyberespionage is a problem, yes, as proved by just how many designs the Chinese have ripped off in recent times, yet when it comes to actual direct threat to lives there simply isn't one.  As every single domestic appliance starts connecting to the internet for God knows what reason there might be, but those times aren't here quite yet.  This hasn't though stopped the usual suspects from shrieking about the Sony hack being an act of war, before even the slightest evidence has been produced to prove this really is the work of North Korea rather than just those with a certain amount of sympathy for the hermit kingdom.  Real state sponsored hacks in the past have been to steal things worth having, or to send a message directly to a country, if we take the Estonia attack for example as being the work of the Russian state, or say the Stuxnet worm.  As embarrassing as this whole incident has been for Sony, not to mention costly, no one could have seriously expected them to decide to pull the film entirely.  Credit must go to Obama for describing the attack as cybervandalism rather than jumping on the bandwagon, even if discussions are taking place about putting North Korea back on the state sponsors of terrorism list.

North Korea then.  Villain of choice for Hollywood film-makers who don't want to make their antagonists just generic terrorists, for which see Die Another Day, the remake of Red Dawn (the invaders were meant to be Chinese only for the studio to decide to make them North Korean in post-production) and Olympus Has Fallen.  Strangely, the latter two make the country seem threatening when it most assuredly isn't, at least to the wider world, as both South Korea and Japan have legitimate reasons to worry about the stability and sanity of those in charge.  The reason the country has made such an issue out of The Interview and didn't about say Team America is fairly obvious: Kim Jong-un is still consolidating his power and ranting about this outrageous American insult, or even doing something about it makes clear he is not to be crossed or underestimated.  It certainly isn't, as some have ludicrously suggested, that such a film could through the power of mocking alone help conjure up opposition to his rule.  If that was the concern, Team America would have received more of a response, although frankly Kim Jong-il's being "so ronery" is the best part of the entire, very flawed thing.

Directly responsible or not, Jong-un's point has been made.  As for the rest, they've responded in the only way they know how: by making it about themselves.

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