Jeffrey Schulman expresses his frustration at the banality of a crisis surrounding a movie.
The North Koreans hacked into a major western company, and caused an estimated $200 million in damage. They did this in response to the production of a film they didn’t like. In a fairer world, an attack on private property by a hostile state would be an act of war. Given the circumstances it looks like we have no choice but to tolerate this outrage. Justice is not worth a full scale land war in Asia.
Even so, it is an important moral victory that the movie was eventually released to the public. Had Sony failed to do so, the US government should have stepped in. Allowing freedom of speech to be curtailed by a foreign state is unacceptable. What if China threatened US trade if we did not ban a documentary about pollution in Beijing? Imagine Russia threatening mass killing in Ukraine if a book chronicling Vladimir Putin’s dirty work for the KGB were published?
As best I can tell, criticism of this need comes in two streams. The first says that the film is not particularly good. This does not matter at all; what matters is that it is being threatened by North Korea. It could be a fifth grader’s drawing and would still matter just as much if Kim Jong Un acted as he did.
The second argument would apply only in the hypothetical event of state action, where a firm would not comply. This argument says that a movie is not government property. That is frivolous. The Japanese state purchased the Senkaku islands which are part of a territorial dispute. No doubt it would have used eminent domain had the seller been unwilling. That the movie not beong physical does not bear on its status as property subject to state takeover.
We may not be able to eradicate Kim Jong Un but at least we can watch a movie about it.
Jeffrey Schulman is a second year student studying classics at the University of Toronto.