Dick Move, Sony

The_Interview_2014_poster“If you’re thinking of going to see or download “The Interview”, Don’t. Just, don’t. After seeing it, I wanted to take a shower. It’s the kind of movie that, if you were on a plane watching it (where I see most movies these days), you’d want to be sure that nobody nearby could see that you were watching it. It’s like 22 Jump Street, but without the complex plot. It’s like Dumb and Dumber, but without the production values. The movie makes you wish that you were of another species. It also wasn’t all that funny. Amazing that the worlds first Cyberwar was waged because of this POS.”

The instant I saw the trailer for ‘The Interview’ starring James Franco and Seth Rogen I knew it was the type of movie I would avoid at all possible costs. Watching the trailer for it one October afternoon in a local movie theater was painful. Right about the time the conceit of the movie is revealed – assassinating North Korean leader Kim Jung-un – my husband and I looked at each other in distaste and mild shock. We leaned together, I whispered furiously, “This will go over well…” “Who greenlit that?” my husband wondered. It looked stupid, vapid, tasteless, offensive, juvenile and unfunny. In short: a waste of time and film. I expected it to bomb the weekend it opened and die a quiet death.

Fast forward a month to the 24th of November and the Sony hack that some are calling the first Cyberwar. Others, however, myself included, have reservations about calling it a Cyberwar, and see this as corporate espionage happening to a foreign company.

When it started the hackers did a series of data dumps over several weeks that encompassed everything from personal health information to salaries; there was credit card information, passport and social security numbers, music, movies and emails. Lots and lots of emails. News organizations like CNN and sites like Gawker read and disseminated what was in those emails, unable to resist being the first to report the contents of stolen information.

Each day brought new salacious gossip about major Hollywood players. Of particular interest were the emails of Amy Pascal, the head of Sony Pictures. The tone of her emails paint her as a less than compassionate figure.

Unless you were hiding in a bunker or steered clear of the news completely there was no avoiding the intense coverage of the hack and the information released.

I don’t think anyone believed the damage those stolen emails could do – not even Pascal, and she knew what was in them. It briefly raised the questions about the expectation of privacy of things said in personal emails, but in a larger way served to illustrate the reality that there is no such thing as privacy.

Sony has been desperately trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube and has been threatening legal action against everyone from private citizens to Twitter and ABC. Sony is trying to get them to stop publishing their corporate secrets, and the general consensus is, “We didn’t steal it so it’s not unethical for us to report on what we found. Up yours.”

There really are no good guys in this situation. Everyone from the hackers to the awful Sony executives to the bottom feeding media printing information gotten through corporate espionage – they all suck.

One interesting thing about the Sony hack is that ‘The Interview’ was never mentioned when it first happened. On November 24, 2014 when the hack happened no Sony employees could access their company computers or email. There was an image of a skull with these words: “Hacked by #GOP. Warning: We’ve already warned you, and this is just the beginning. We have obtained all your internal data including secrets and top secrets. If you don’t obey us, we’ll release data shown below to the world. Determine what you will do till November 24, 11 pm (GMT).”

That’s it. No mention of the dog of a movie, ‘The Interview’. No initial outrage or demands about halting the release of it. In fact, it wasn’t until December 9, 2014, that the hackers demanded halting the release of ‘The Interview’ – 16 days after the initial hack.

At first Sony pictures was resolute about releasing the film. As they held steady more stolen information was released.

Some unnamed members of the FBI hinted that they’d been able to link the attack to North Korea, but the government didn’t come down definitively and say the insular country was behind the attacks.

Finally, an ill-defined ‘9/11-type’ threat against theater-goers hit the internet, and that made theater owners back away from the film. In short order the top 5 theater chains in the country had dropped the film and would not be showing it on its Christmas day opening.

On December 17th Sony pulled the plug on the theatrical release of ‘The Interview’.

If major players in Hollywood were angry at Sony before they were furious now. The proverbial wrath of the heavens opened up against the entertainment juggernaut.

Sony executives were called cowards, traitors and much, much worse. It was said that North Korea was calling the shots. Having a movie pulled because of threats meant that there would be a chilling effect on future controversial projects. Hollywood rightly asked itself what kind of projects might get passed up or put a stop to because of cyber-threats?

The usual partisan types somehow managed to make this a failing on the President’s part, and in a display of breathtaking cognitive dissonance they demanded a fast government reaction to the corporate hacking of a Japanese company. Never underestimate partisan hackery.

Suddenly, the country was indignant that they wouldn’t be able to see a film most wouldn’t have gone to see with a gun to their head.

The backlash got stronger by the day. There were questions about what would happen to the movie? Would it ever be released? What about the first amendment? Why would Sony let itself be censored? What kind of message does it send? And most important: If you cave in on this movie where does it stop?

The hue and cry reached its zenith on December 23, and Sony finally caved in about caving in. It decided to release ‘The Interview’ on Christmas day after all.

Some 331 independent theaters, including those owned by George R.R. Martin and Michael Moore, said they would run the film. These theaters made room to screen the film and reaffirm our constitutional right to free speech.

Everyone cheered and Sony looked like the good guy – for about an hour. Then they announced that they were also going to release ‘The Interview’ on pay per view through Google, YouTube and Xbox on Christmas Eve, 24 hours before it would be in the theaters.

Dick move, guys. Total dick move on top of a metric ton of dick moves.

Sony undercut the independent movie theaters who put aside screen time to play their steaming turd of a movie by releasing it online a day early. That means no ticket sales, no popcorn or sodas or candy sales for the independent theater owners. Just empty seats for a crappy movie whose only sizzle factor was that it had been briefly banned. But that ban was over the day before, and in computer time that’s an eon.

Sony’s dick move meant that there was only $2.8 million million in ticket sales for 331 theaters over the Christmas weekend ($2100 per screen – just dismal). Compare that with Sony’s online sales of $15 million for Christmas Eve through Sunday and you can really see how they screwed independent movie houses. Trying to recoup $80+ million dollars sunk into the film on the backs of small theater owners is unethical. That seems to be a trend with them.

Sony has treated employees, contractors, distributors and movie houses with utter disdain, but what happened to them needs to be addressed. The question is by whom? Us? Japan? The World Court? The local jurisdiction where this is being done?

As I said, I find it a stretch to call this a Cyberwar. I think Cyberwars are associated with governments, infrastructure and defense, and as important as Madonna’s new album is, this is corporate espionage not an act of war.

And that’s where I run out of ideas. I have no clue how to protect something as complex as a multifaceted multinational conglomeration. Anything I say will be woefully inadequate. I wish I had an answer.

It seems the only thing I can do is hope the white hat hackers are more committed to the cause than the black hat hackers, and that countries start working together to combat cyber-crime.

What is the take-away here? Never ever write anything in an email you wouldn’t want published for the whole wide world to see and judge you for.

Abandon the notion of privacy because not one person, company or entity is safe from being hacked. Not one. Act as if your life is on display – because it is.



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