The events of the past week surrounding the impending release of the movie “The Interview” have been troubling on many levels. First, they clearly illustrated our vulnerability to cyberattacks and they brought into question the corporate world’s level of preparedness to defend against such attacks. Second, they placed into question the degree to which Corporate America understands and accepts its role as “good citizen”. Sony’s response was one of narrow self-interest. Their behavior in this instance was myopic at best, reckless and irresponsible at worst. Third, the implications this incident will have on freedom of speech and expression are breathtaking and cannot be overstated. President Obama was crystal clear in his remarks at his Friday press conference when he stated that we cannot allow ourselves to be blackmailed by the threat posed by such cyberattacks.
No groups are more proficient at spinning a negative than politicians and Corporate America. They employ people for this precise purpose. They analyze the best way to approach a problem and assess the potential positives and negatives. In this incident the CEO of Sony saw fit to blame the theater chains for its decision to cancel the release of The Interview. Yet, while he was quick to cast blame on the theater chains, his corporation, composed of some of the most creative minds in the world, failed to attempt to come up with a creative solution to this problem. Instead they practiced the age-old remedy of “duck and cover”. They were more concerned about the embarrassment of the release of controversial E-mail communications than the broader issues at hand. This incident also laid bare the short sightedness of our media. If our journalists adopted a policy of refusing to publish, broadcast or telecast such material the threat of its exposure would be voided. This may sound unreasonable and be contrary to “the public’s right to know”, however, in fact, what is our need to know, and how does this impact on our broader freedom of speech? Salacious material, while entertaining to some, provides only short-lived satisfaction and does more harm than good. In this world in which all electronic communication is vulnerable to exposure we all need to be more careful about what we write and more selective about what is okay to expose. If the market dries up, so too will the effort to expose such material.
This also brings into focus the need for Corporate America and Federal officials to work arm in arm to defend against and deal with cyberattacks. These attacks impact on all of us in myriad ways. The hacking of financial files in recent months has at the very least moved all of us to be more careful with password protecting our accounts. Unfortunately, we have only just begun to see the ugly face of cyber warfare. It can impact on all facets of our life. There are individuals employed by nations who spend all of their time developing the methods and the means to attack our industrial, financial, and governmental infrastructure. It is time for us to become aware of the potential danger and develop a national strategy to deal with it.
As in all warfare, there is a danger in giving up too much to achieve victory. In my last blog post I discussed how our leaders willingly corrupted our values in the way in which they dealt with some of our prisoners during the Bush years. In this case, we must not be willing to give up our basic freedoms to protect ourselves. If we do that there is nothing left to protect. I propose that we make the showing of “The Interview” a national event. It should be shown simultaneously on all cable channels and all networks for free. This act will make a strong and clear statement to the thugs in North Korea and provide a model to the world of what freedom of speech really means. Whatever we do, we can never again allow the actions of Sony, North Korea or any other corporate or governmental entity to jeopardize our freedom of speech.