WASHINGTON, December 19, 2014 — It has been a day of strong statements from Washington. The FBI has officially declared that North Korea is behind the attack on Sony Studios over its satirical movie starring James Franco and Seth Rogen. President Obama chuckled over the film, saying that he “loves Seth and James,” though we doubt that he had “The Interview” on his holiday film list.
The Interview, about a bumbling talk show host and his producer who are recruited by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, created a temper tantrum response from the infant terrible dictator. This ultimately led to national theater chains refusing to show the film, forcing Sony to pull the film from its expected December 25th release.
After saying that Sony has suffered significant losses, Obama added that “Sony made a mistake,” because what happens when other government’s don’t like a news report, or worse, when a news reporter decides to self censor in fear that “someone” won’t like a report.
›Sony is a corporation. It suffered significant damage, threats against some employees. I am sympathetic to the concerns they faced. Having said that, yes I think they made a mistake. — President Obama
Sony, a Japanese corporation, is not in business to battle dictators or assume risks on behalf of their actors, their distribution theaters, or the American public in general. Sony has responded to the claim that they “caved,” saying that they suffered from the worst cyber attack on American soil to date, that they are committed to getting the film out where it can be viewed, but that they are not able to release the film now because theaters are refusing to show it.
In weighing Sony’s response, we should consider that North Korea likes to lobe missiles toward the Sea of Japan and that their next show of force towards Japan could also be cyber.
Obama promised that “something” will be done and that the United States “will respond proportionally” to the cyber attack on the studio, which includes the threat to harm theater goers “at a place and time we choose.” He declined, however, to elaborate further.
The President’s statement was a strong and welcome statement on free speech and his understanding of the threat of cyberattack and cyberwarfare.
(I)magine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of somebody whose sensibilities probably need to be offended. That’s not who we are. That’s not what America is about.
We will see in the next two years what America is about.
President Obama took questions from five reporters, all women, starting with Politico’s correspondent Jennifer Epstein. The following questions were all taken from female print reporters.
After letting America know that he is ready for the fourth quarter of his presidency, Obama left for his Hawaiian vacation with the promise that things will finally get done.
Happy New Year.