Romney urges Sony Pictures: Fight back and release "The Interview" for free online

By gum, he sounds like presidential material to me. Your move, Jeb.

More than 13,000 retweets as I write this. Clearly there’s a demand for countermeasures among an American public that doesn’t like the idea of foreigners, especially savages like the Kim cabal, holding veto power over their culture. (Too bad China, Kim’s chief patron, already sort of does.) Am I right, though, in thinking that no major Republican pol aside from Romney has said anything about this yet? Newt Gingrich called the hack attack on Sony America’s first clear defeat in cyberwar but he’s not “major” anymore the way that Paul, Cruz, Walker, Rubio, and, yes, Romney and the rest of the ’16 gang are. Why so quiet? Obama’s not saying much either:

“Well, the cyber-attack is very serious. We’re investigating, we’re taking it seriously,” Obama said in the interview. “We’ll be vigilant, if we see something that we think is serious and credible, then we’ll alert the public. But for now, my recommendation would be that people go to the movies.”

No finger-pointing at North Korea, no vows of retaliation, although he may have strategic reasons for that. One unnamed U.S. official told NBC News yesterday that America “can’t let this go unanswered,” so retaliation — probably — is coming. In keeping with the cyberwar spirit of plausible deniability, Obama might be playing this low key so that when the power mysteriously goes down at North Korea’s military bases, he can kinda sorta pretend that he’s surprised by it. Although … in that case, why are the feds leaking to U.S. media that they think the NorKs are behind all this? It’s easier to preserve plausible deniability when you’re not making public accusations. As it is, it looks like our reprisal might be the cyberwar equivalent of Ukraine recently being invaded from the east by mysterious troops with no national flag on their uniforms. Everyone, including the enemy, will know who’s responsible, but some measure of deniability for political purposes is maintained.

As for Romney’s idea, I’m not sure why he seized on Ebola as the cause Sony should champion instead of, say, charity for the families of Japanese and South Koreans who’ve had relatives killed or captured by the North. Maybe Mitt figured that would only antagonize Kim further, which Sony would be reluctant to do. Also, he’s assuming that Sony wants to release “The Interview” but was thwarted by theater circuits that refused to show it. Is that really true? The hackers threatened the theater groups with terrorism but they’ve already done actual cyberterror damage to Sony; if the film was released, Sony almost certainly would have been their main target in the aftermath with more leaks from the trove of data that the hackers lifted. I think Sony was relieved when the theater circuits walked, as it gave them a reason to pull the film entirely and let this episode quietly fade after a few days of terrible press. That’s why they’ve already ruled out releasing the film in other formats. If they followed the Romney/National Review plan, they might end up getting cybernuked anyway. And A.J. Delgado may well be right: If Sony releases the film somehow, even for free, it could complicate their claim against insurers to recoup some of the cost of the film. A total loss might be the only way to get paid.

Exit question one: Would more politicians be speaking up if “The Interview” weren’t a dumb stoner-ish comedy but a serious film with greater artistic merit? I’m actually glad it’s the former and not the latter. Having a lame movie at the heart of this clarifies the principle that all speech, not just “high value” speech, should be safe from censorship by a foreign government. Exit question two: Where does this attitude come from? Explain it to me, because I don’t get it.

Russia and China have nukes too and don’t take criticism well. Iran will soon be in the same boat. Are they off-limits now? Let’s make a list of who it’s safe and not safe to goof on. Al Qaeda must be at the top, right?

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Jazz Shaw 5:31 PM on February 04, 2023