“The Interview” and selective outrage on cultural censorship

Art as much as anything else is important to society. Art has always been a way for human beings to mark achievements, express emotions, or capture their culture in a single moment for future generations to see. When that expression is stifled it should be considered detrimental to all of us. But for some reason artistic expression only seems to become an issue when certain voices are silenced.

When the news came out earlier this month that “The Interview” wasn’t going to be screened in the US (which was later changed to limited screenings) many people were upset. That news, combined with the news that the Steve Carell vehicle “Pyongyang”, a movie he was doing with Gore Verbinski would not even be filmed, a few celebrities took to Twitter to announce that it was a “sad day for creative expression.” A thousand thinkpieces were launched.

“The Interview” is a Seth Rogen comedy starring himself and James Franco and is about a tabloid reporter and his producer who are hired by the CIA to assassinate Kim Jong Un during an interview they’d managed to arrange with him. Anyone who is familiar with Seth Rogen’s movies already knows to expect the same silly, slapstick movie with babbling and incompetent protagonists à la “Pineapple Express” and “The Green Hornet.” However the added elements of a movie set in Korea that has a cast list of primarily White main characters — and depicts the graphic assassination of a living dictator — should make anyone cringe.

The fact that this movie exists shouldn’t really garner any attention. There are plenty of stupid comedies that come out every year, a lot of them by Seth Rogen. So what exactly made this movie go from being just another comedy to a political statement seemingly overnight? The mysterious hack of Sony, which released sensitive emails and personal information of Sony employees and other celebrities, has been deemed a cyber attack from North Korea, by the US Government. (The North Korea link’s truth is still being widely debated in tech media.) In the emails there is a back and forth between the producers, Seth Rogen, and the CEO of Sony about how the fictionalized Kim Jong Un is assassinated in the movie. This exchange coupled with the cancellation of movie screenings caused many to state that this stifling of creativity means that the “terrorists have won.”

What’s glossed over about the emails is the culture of sexism and racism. In the emails, actresses and female producers are called names and have their sanity questioned for being even the slightest bit demanding. This is a big contrast to the way Rogen is treated about his intended ending for “The Interview,” where he was allowed to re-shoot and work on the until all parties were satisfied. In another email, a producer explains how she doesn’t think African-American actors in lead roles — including giants like Denzel Washington — can garner enough box office success because they believe that “the international motion picture audience is racist.”

It seems that yes, it is a sad day for artistic expression, but not in the way that many would think. Many female and/or POC filmmakers and actors have a hard time getting the backing they need to get their projects done — for example, the Toussaint L’Ouverture biopic that Danny Glover has been working on since 2008, or the Cleopatra movie for which Angelina Jolie was called a brat in the leaked emails — and it seems as if Sony, and possibly other companies, are ok with it.

“The Interview” gaining so much attention for being cancelled after the Sony hack shows exactly who Hollywood thinks has the right to artistic expression and who doesn’t. Sadly when it comes to major motion pictures, it looks as if that sad day is every day.

Promotional poster for "The Interview" movie (via Wikipedia)

Promotional poster for “The Interview” movie (via Wikipedia)

AFD Ep 37 – Immigration and Cyberwars

“AFD Ep 37 – Immigration and Cyberwar”
Posted: Tues, 05 Feb 2013
Play Now
Description: Bill and Sasha discuss recent unusual developments in Congressional races and then examine the push for immigration reform. Then Bill looks at the NY Times report on the new classified cyber warfare policy review from the Obama Administration, before updating us on the situation in Mali (and neighboring Niger).

Bachmann wants to use nukes vs. a cyber attack

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) revved up a huge crowd in Minneapolis by saying the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty would limit American response options to a diverse range of threats… including preventing a nuclear retaliation against a cyber attack. Whoa there, cowboy! Steve Benen (The Washington Monthly):

To be sure, attacks on a country’s computer networks can be severely damaging. But even Bachmann, as confused as she is, has to realize that responding to a cyber attack with a nuclear bomb would be the most insane act in the history of humanity. Does she understand what a nuclear bomb does?

So to answer Bachmann’s question, no, the United States will not use a nuclear arsenal to respond to a cyber attack. That doesn’t mean we’d welcome a cyber attack; it doesn’t mean we’d let a cyber attack slide; it doesn’t mean our conventional weapons couldn’t serve as a sufficient deterrent.

It’s been said that the banning of above-ground nuclear weapons tests has been a major factor in an increasingly clueless American population on what power nukes really have. My entire generation and everyone after is post-Cold War, so we’re generally even more detached. The argument goes that without these tests to remind people visually of the awesome power of them, nuclear weapons become a dangerous abstraction. However, there are serious environmental and global health consequences to above-ground tests, which is partly why we don’t do them now.

But when elected officials like Bachmann start saying crazy stuff like this, I start to agree that America might benefit from one or two big, new tests just to jog the collective memory of the country.

Actual footage of Operation Castle Bravo:

You don’t screw around with nukes.

This post originally appeared on Starboard Broadside.