Editorial: Self Censorship in Hollywood

In a dangerous precedent, Sony's decision limits everyone's rights



Hollywood is surrendering to North Korea’s dictatorship. The hackers allegedly allied to Dictator Kim Jong Un have managed to put Sony and Hollywood on their knees. “The Interview,” one of the most anticipated movies of the Christmas-New Year season won’t make it to the movie theaters.

One of the symbols of the entertainment society has lost its first battle in what president Obama has denounced as a cyber war. Sony and Hollywood’s self censorship is a defeat for everyone’s rights, and it raises many doubts for the future: Will dictators, terrorists and hackers be able to impose what we see, hear or share?

A lot has been said about the cybernetic attack suffered by the film company Sony, which decided to cancel the premiere —planned for this Christmas— of the satiric comedy about a successful assassination attempt on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The fact that the premiere has been suspended with no alternative distribution on the internet or pay-per-view, leaves a bitter taste, as external pressure has resulted in self censorship of a form of expression.

The paranoia surrounding North Korea’s autocratic regime and the extreme cult of personality towards the Great Leader are well known. This nuisance apparently led to a clever strategy that put the U.S. film establishment on its knees.

First, the hackers obtained tons of information from Sony, which they released selectively to cause specific damages. For example, they embarrassed executives by releasing e-mails that created a scandal for their derogatory content.

Later, the aggressors threaten with another 9/11 in movie theaters if the movie is screened. Film distributors, afraid that the threats will affect viewership, decide against screening it, which leads Sony to cancel the premier.

This is how terrorism wins: By creating such a fear that people change their normal behavior. Now we’re not allowed to laugh, which has always been the goal of dictators —from the Greek comedy to the ban on comedians in modern times.

It’s the fear of embarrassment and lawsuits —for invasion of employees’ privacy— in the case of Sony. It’s also the movie theatres’ fear of losing money, or that some lunatic does something crazy, as has happened before.

The suspension of “The Interview” sets a dangerous precedent that could be repeated by anybody who opposes a movie or other kinds of work. In order to win, cybernetic security of private companies needs to be reinforced. It should also be clear that movies are freedom of expression, and therefore they should not fall into the worst kind of suppression: self censorship.

Imagine if Chaplin had not filmed “The Great Dictator.” Everyone’s rights need more help, and also more courage than what the usually self-serving Hollywood has shown, as the very producers and actors of the film have denounced.