What Choice Did Sony Have?

by Dish Staff

Frank Rich feels that that Sony’s hand was forced:

We are witnessing, in Alan Dershowitz’s phrase, the “Pearl Harbor of the First Amendment.”

But this story is far bigger than the threat to the First Amendment. And the vituperation being aimed at Sony for canceling the film’s release — coming from both the left and the right — is a sideshow that misses a bigger point. Before Sony capitulated, every major movie theater chain in the country had pulled out of showing The Interview. The Wall Street Journal reported that the nation’s largest cable company, Comcast, would have refused to show the film — and no doubt would have been joined in this veto by all the other cable and satellite providers if Sony had considered such a distribution alternative. So if Sony canceled a film that couldn’t be shown anyway, was that a cancellation or just a certification of reality? If Sony is a coward, they all are.

Stephen Carter defends Sony and the theaters:

Despite all the calls for Sony to stand up to the blackmail in the name of artistic freedom, it seems to me that the criticism is misdirected. Nothing will detect and respond to the reality of fear as swiftly as a market, and here the market has spoken. The relevant market actors are moviegoers. Theater owners are guessing that with “The Interview” in their multiplexes, holiday audiences will stay away in droves. From everything.

I’d like to think the owners are mistaken. I’d like to think that were “The Interview” in the theaters, millions of us would flock to the mutiplex and watch a movie – any movie – as an act of protest, to show the world we aren’t afraid. But I can’t say that in predicting the opposite the theater owners have made a wrong call. And if they’re right, so is Sony.

Douthat fears that such financial incentives will hurt movie-making:

[F]or studios already inclined to recycle comic book villains and reboot Reagan-era properties and resurrect Captain Jack Sparrow from here to eternity, the fate of Sony — whose post-hack problems go well beyond the lost revenue from “The Interview” — will offer just one more reason to stick with the tentpoles, one more reason to play it safe with superheroes, one more reason to pause before greenlighting an original story and say, “okay, but maybe if the villains were neo-Nazis instead?” (And that’s just until the neo-Nazis find a hacker of their own …)

Alyssa Rosenberg wonders “whether we’re just offloading responsibility for our increasingly violent and polarized conversations about media on to a convenient villain.” She contends that “Guardians of Peace just took advantage of a style of conversation about culture that too often devolves into threats of violence”:

[A]ggrieved groups of any type don’t even need a tech genius. Even if Sony is mainly canceling “The Interview” primarily out of hopes that it will stop the Guardians of Peace from releasing more stolen data rather than about specific fears of an attack, “exhibitors are worried about legal liability if violence breaks out at one of the film’s screenings,”Brent Lang explains in Variety. White supremacists show up as villains everywhere, from action movies like “White House Down” to prestige television dramas like “Breaking Bad.” They also plot real-world violence, like a 2008 plan to assassinate Barack Obama during his campaign for the presidency. If someone out there wants to push back against racists’ status as bogeyman of the moment, they just need to threaten to shoot up a movie screening or a premiere.