How Far Is North Korea Willing to Go to Derail a Critical Movie?

by Jim Geraghty

From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

Just How Far Is North Korea Willing to Go to Derail a Critical Movie?

Up until now, the hacking of Sony Pictures — suspected to be the work of North Korea, in response to the upcoming comedy film The Interview — has been mostly fun and games as long as you don’t work in Hollywood. (Our Tim Cavanaugh points out that we’re all chuckling about messages that constitute stolen property.)

The furious reaction from Pyongyang is particularly ironic, since having a hostile foreign state with nuclear weapons throw a temper tantrum and/or launch a cyber-war is basically the greatest publicity a film could possibly want. Considering the way they’re reacting, you would think The Interview has actual footage of Kim Jong Un dancing “YMCA” in pink underwear or something. (Actually, the film’s climax features an actor playing Kim Jong Un meeting a spectacularly unfortunate end. Spoiler and content warnings for that link.)

The fun just stopped:

The Sony hackers have threatened a 9/11-like attack on movie theaters that screen Seth Rogen and James Franco’s North Korean comedy “The Interview,” substantially escalating the stakes surrounding the release of the movie.

The attackers also released the promised “Christmas gift” of files. The contents of the files are unknown but it’s called “Michael Lynton,” who is the CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

“The world will be full of fear,” the message reads. “Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.) Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment.”

Past messages have included budgets to Sony films, salary information of top executives, and employee medical records and social security numbers.

There have been suspicions that the attack may have been launched by North Korea in retaliation for “The Interview’s” depiction of an assassination attempt on Kim Jong-un. The country has denied involvement but praised the attacks.

North Korea — or somebody working on their behalf — wouldn’t be dumb enough to launch a terror attack on American movie theaters on Christmas Day, would they?

Somebody’s getting nervous.

“The Interview” stars Seth Rogen and James Franco have canceled all upcoming media appearances following the latest threats made against theaters showing the movie, Variety has confirmed.

The duo has withdrawn from previously scheduled press appearances, including Rogen’s Thursday appearance on “Late Night with Seth Meyers” and a chat with Buzzfeed Brews, leading up to “The Interview’s” Christmas Day release.

According to insiders, Rogen and Franco are still scheduled to appear at Thursday’s New York special screening of “The Interview.” The two were at the Los Angeles premiere last week, but didn’t do press interviews.

Sometimes North Korea’s idea of saber-rattling is drawing the saber and stabbing you:

The ROKS Cheonan sinking occurred on 26 March 2010, when the Cheonan, a Republic of Korea Navy ship carrying 104 personnel, sank off the country’s west coast near Baengnyeong Island in the Yellow Sea, killing 46 seamen. A South Korean-led official investigation carried out by a team of international experts from South Korea, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Sweden presented a summary of its investigation on 20 May 2010, concluding that the warship had been sunk by a North Korean torpedo fired by a midget submarine.

The Norks’ entire concept of deterrence, and what kind of risk is acceptable in their metronomic brinksmanship, is completely different from ours.

Maybe the threat to movie theaters is nothing but bluster. But we’ve seen a gunman shoot up the Canadian Parliament, a guy out on parole take hostages and kill hostages in an Australian chocolate shop, and the Taliban massacre children in a school. The sense of what’s really “unthinkable” in our chaotic world gets a little narrower, week by week.

What, “two thumbs down” just isn’t enough for the Norks?

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