South Korea threatens free expression too…

OK, we have no doubt that The Interview is an abominably bad movie, and it is very irksome to have to agree with David Cameron, who is grandstanding about how Sony's pulling of the film is a threat to freedom of expression. Hollywood actors have been making similar noises. And of course this is being played up by the UK's right-wing The Telegraph and imperial mouthpiece Voice of America. But they happen to be correct. The fact that the movie is (probably—we won't be able to see it to tell for ourselves) ugly propaganda doesn't mitigate the fact that Sony's capitulation sets a very bad precedent. (Communities Digital News recalls the 1988 controversy over right-wing Christian threats against The Last Temptation of Christ.) Note that the supression is so complete that The Interview's official website is down, redirecting to the Sony Pictures homepage, and the trailer has been removed from YouTube. All this due to a bunch of almost certainly empty if bombastic ("Remember the 11th of September 2001") threats from an Orwellianly named and probably functionally non-existent cell, the "Guardians of Peace." Homeland Security said it has no evidence to suggest these threats would be carried out, reports Variety. But Sony folded like the proverbial house of cards, while issuing a statement complaining of being "the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault." This assault also includes the hack of Sony's computers, which US officials do say has been tracked to North Korea. (AP) But the notion that the DPRK has a network of sleeper cells across the USA… well, it sounds like a bad movie.

And there is an ironic parallel to this censorious threatening that is getting comparatively little media play. The left-opposition Unified Progressive Party (UPP) was on Dec. 18 ordered banned by South Korea's Constitutional Court for supporting North Korea's regime. In an utterly Orwellian statement, Chief Judge Park Han-chul said "there was an urgent need to remove the threat posed by the party to the basic order of democracy." The case was launched two months after key party members were arrested for allegedly plotting a pro-Pyongyang rebellion to overthrow the Seoul government in the event of a war on the Korean Peninsula. Both UPP supporters and anti-UPP conservatives gathered outside the court to await the decision, in a tense scene.

OK, we have no doubt that the UPP has abominably bad politics, and it is very irksome to have to agree with Kim Jong-un. But way to prove the superiority of Western democracy, South Korea! By banning a political party on the basis of what it advocates! 

Actually, to be fair, we haven't heard that Kim has weighed in on the UPP affair at all, and South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported two years ago that the party did actually make some statements opposing the North's nuclear weapons program and human rights situation in response to charges of being pro-DPRK. So if the UPP really isn't the Pyongyang vehicle being portrayed, the court's decision is doubly damning for the Republic of Korea's "democracy."

We hate to say it, but the "Guardians of Peace" and the South Korean Constitutional Court are birds of a feather… Do you think either side grasps the irony? We asked the same question in the mishegoss over the Red Dawn remake last year…

  1. The Interview: a (mercifully) short review

    Well, now that Sony has been shamed into allowing a limited release of The Interview (pay-per-view on YouTube, and a few art-house screenings), they are trying to pretend they never meant to supress it, but just couldn't find any theaters willing to show it. This is obviously bullshit, as evidenced by the fact that they removed the film's website (it is back now) and YouTube trailer (ditto). But the controversy has served Sony well. The Verge informs us that the online release alone has generated $15 million in just a matter of days.

    Fulfilling my odious duty as a political and cultural commentator, this blogger watched the film on YouTube last night, encouraged by BBC's finding that it packs "political punch." World War 4 Report's verdict? The "punch" was entirely due to the DPRK's reaction, not to the film itself. This movie is fundamentally about fart jokes, not geopolitics. The depths of boring stupidity plumbed in The Interview are almost impressive, in a perverse way. It does take a certain chutzpah to produce such a proudly stupid movie and assume it will make money. Inevitably it brings to mind HL Mencken's famous quote, "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people." Places like Vox are expending entirely too much verbiage stating the obvious: The Interview doesn't even rise to the level of satire. It is merely a gross-out movie of the most sophomoric variety, and would warrant no attention whatsoever if it weren't for the Kim regime's threats against it. Which makes us wonder, as we did in the case of last year's Red Dawn remake, whether the film's producers and the DPRK's leaders aren't secretly in league. We could think of less likely hypotheses…

    Oh, and speaking of Red DawnAs we noted, the original 1984 version was nearly an official piece of Cold War propaganda, given the advisory role of bellicose Secretary of State Alexander Haig. Deja vu all over again? On Dec. 17, Daily Beast claimed to have "unearthed several emails that reveal at least two US government officials screened a rough cut of the Kim Jong-Un assassination comedy The Interview in late June and gave the film—including a final scene that sees the dictator's head explode—their blessing." However, the only e-mails actually quoted are between Sony CEO Michael Lynton and a RAND consultant hired for the flick, Bruce Bennett, in which they reference unnamed figures at the State Department. And actually, the head-exploding ending was altered; in the final cut, it is one of Kim's underlings whose head blows up, while the dictator himself is dispatched less imaginatively with a missile to his helicopter.

    We have to say, if The Interview was intended as war propaganda, US imperialism didn't get its money worth. Red Dawn is highbrow compared to this shit.

  2. The Interview: convenient for Kim Jong-un

    Suki Kim, veteran English teacher in the DPRK and author of Without You, There Is No Us: My Time With the Sons of North Korea's Elitewrites convincingly in Salon that The Interview controversy has served Kim Jong-un's interests in distracting attention from the fact that his regime has been referred to the International Criminal Court by the UN General Assembly. She concludes: "What is unfortunate about this latest Sony scandal is that we seem to have played straight into North Korea's hands again. The movie is pulled. North Korea is feared. The ICC news is buried. Almost overnight, we have become paranoid and afraid, which is exactly where North Korea wants its subjects to be." Vox meanwhile notes with amusement that the DPRK's statement ostensibly denying responsibility for the Sony hack is, amid its typical histrionics, actually a muddle of equivocation. Except in taking open glee in the hack. That much is clear.