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Does Sony’s kibosh on ‘The Interview’ set a bad precedent? – Part 2

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

     Joining us now to look more closely at the impact of Sony’s decision to pull the movie “The Interview,” we are joined by David Rothkopf, the editor of “Foreign Policy” magazine, and, in Los Angeles, Sharon Waxman, the editor in chief of The Wrap, a news Web site about the entertainment industry.

    Sharon, I want to start with you.

    Sony seemed to have the sympathy of creative types, entertainers, directors, but now that’s changed. What happened in the last 24 hours?

  • SHARON WAXMAN, TheWrap.Com:

     Yes.

    Apparently, at the premiere in Los Angeles, there was a standing ovation after Seth Rogen publicly thanked Amy Pascal, the co-chairman of Sony, for putting out the movie. I think he probably feels very differently today.

    I just think the creative community feels that they had the rug pulled out from under them. They were sure that the studio was going to go ahead, despite the threats, and put the movie out. On the other hand, the studio really had to take those threats seriously, as did the theaters that had booked that film.

    If there were to be any kind of violence or anything untoward that happened, I mean, would it really be worth it for putting out a movie?

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

     David, what about this precedent?

  • DAVID ROTHKOPF, “Foreign Policy”:

     Well, I think it’s a terrible precedent. I think the idea that Kim Jong-un can start censoring movies in the United States of America merely by reaching out a cyber-hand and touching a company is a terrible one.

    And I think it raises a lot of questions for the White House and for Washington. This is a world in which these things are just starting. More and more countries are gaining this capability. More and more terrorist organizations are gaining this capability. Are we going to let them impinge on our style of life here, or are we going to come up with firm, clear responses that deter them from doing it?

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

     So, David, staying with you for a second, what about Sharon’s point? If Sony had released this, and if, God forbid, something did happen at one of these theaters, they would be held to task for saying that this is irresponsible, you knew this was coming, the hackers warned you of some sort of terror threat.

  • DAVID ROTHKOPF:

     Well, first of all, I think Sony could have gone gotten together with the theaters, gotten together with police, gotten together with industry associations, gotten together with the government, and done everything that they could to ensure security within these theaters.

    Secondly, foreign countries that attack the United States soil do so at the risk of a response, and we have seen what happens when people do attack us here. And so it’s much clearer that when you take physical action against us, we know what we are doing.

    Finally, movies sometimes do open that produce violence in the theaters, and the movie companies have been less reluctant in past cases than they have in this case. I think we live in an atmosphere of fear right now in the United States, where there’s a lot of paranoia about this kind of thing.

    And what we’re letting ourselves be — happen to us is that outsiders who are not afraid of breaking the rules are starting to dictate our way of life in a way that’s very, very destructive, and it needs to stop.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

     All right, Sharon, what about the idea that people are now second-guessing Sony’s decisions from the get-go? Why even green-light a film, especially even when the CEO of your company says don’t do this, and then the executives throughout this thing say don’t do this?

    Right now, we couldn’t necessarily make a film in America that threatened the life of the American president. That would have the Secret Service all over us.

  • SHARON WAXMAN:

     Yes, I think that that’s a very valid point.

    It’s not — the hack started on November 24, but the concerns over the potential repercussions of making this movie, which, again, is a light Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy, and it’s a very silly movie, from what I hear from people who have seen it.

    Nonetheless, it touches a sensitive aspect for an enemy of this country, or for somebody who is a crazy dictator in a faraway place. And, most particularly, it depicts his assassination. It doesn’t just poke fun at him, like “Team America” did. It actually depicts his assassination.

    And that’s something very different about that. And I don’t know if that would have been considered acceptable for a country — for another country that we have dealings with or don’t have dealings with, say, Iran, or something like that.

    So I think that the question is, what was the thinking at the top of Sony when you have the CEO of Tokyo — because these e-mails have now been leaked. And it’s clear that there was conversations going back and forth, particularly about the assassination scene. Can have his face melting a little bit less? Can we obscure that with the fire? I think we are OK now.

    And then you have also leaked e-mails between Amy Pascal, the Sony chairman, and Seth Rogen saying, look, this is the first time in 25 years Tokyo has ever tried to interfere in our involvement in a movie, please understand, and Seth saying, really, well, I’m not going to — I don’t want to be dictated to by the suits, which is, of course, what the artist will always say.

    But, nonetheless, the decision was made to move forward as the writers of the film wanted to, depicting a real-life assassination. And I think that there is some questioning of the judgment behind that call.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

     David, I see you shaking your head there.

  • DAVID ROTHKOPF:

     Well, I think — I think, well, you know, it’s appalling that, you know, artists are being interfered with.

    There have been plenty of movies in which foreign governments, foreign leaders have been depicted badly. And where does it stop? Do we allow the potential threat of a cyber-attack influence the way a magazine covers something? Do we allow it to influence the way a play…

  • SHARON WAXMAN:

     It does already. It does already.

  • DAVID ROTHKOPF:

     Well, it — no, it doesn’t.

    I don’t believe that it does. It certainly wouldn’t — it certainly wouldn’t affect the way we cover something at our magazine. And I don’t think it would affect the way The New York Times or The Washington Post covers things.

  • SHARON WAXMAN:

     I think we know perfectly well that the responses to some of the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in Europe and other places has, indeed, had violent response and has, tragically, had a chilling effect on free speech.

    I’m not saying I’m in favor of it, believe me. I’m saying that that is the reality of the world we live in.

  • DAVID ROTHKOPF:

     The threats are a reality. How we respond to the threats are the challenge of this time. And I think…

  • SHARON WAXMAN:

     Agreed.

  • DAVID ROTHKOPF:

     … we — there’s a challenge that the film community has to respond to. There’s a challenge that the rest of the business community that will be more vulnerable to these threats have to respond to.

    And there’s a real challenge for the U.S. government to come up with responses to this kind of thing that actually deter people from taking this kind of action.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

     All right, David Rothkopf from “Foreign Policy,” Sharon Waxman from The Wrap, thanks so much for joining us.

  • SHARON WAXMAN:

     Thank you.

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