Who is responsible for pulling the film The Interview from its planned Christmas Day release in the face of threats from terrorist hackers? Was Sony craven, as many have suggested, or was it the theater chain owners who triggered the decision to pull The Interview because of liability concerns, as Sony responds?
I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know this: Totally removing a movie, or any other form of expression, from widespread public distribution because of threats is censorship and sets a terrible precedent. Does anyone really dispute the conclusion that somewhere in Pyongyang or some other rathole the terrorist hackers are high-fiving over their success in this instance, and that terrorist groups elsewhere haven’t taken note of the new weapon that has now been added their arsenal? What movie, book, play, or TV show is going to be the next target of this technique?
The Interview isn’t the kind of movie I would ever go to a theater to see, but that’s obviously not the point. The next time it might be controversial biography I’ve been eagerly anticipating, or the next installment of the Game of Thrones series because the terrorists disagree with how religion is depicted by George R. R. Martin. Regardless of the subject, a free society cannot tolerate a world in which terrorists dictate who gets to see, read, or consider what.
One other point: if I were an author, actor, or historian, I would be thinking long and hard about who brings my work to market and whether they have the courage to do it in the face of threats. I don’t think I’d want to entrust my creative work product to a company, or a theater chain, that crumbled and caved in the face of threats. Are actors, directors, and producers going to shy away from Sony projects?