We have only begun to digest the full implication of the assault on Sony pictures. Assuming it indeed was perpetrated by North Korea, (and evidence is building that it may have been, at least partly, an inside job) in order to block a movie it does not like, the hack, and the extortion of a private corporation is an assault on the very idea of civil society that we Americans cherish.
[Update: According to the Washington Post, yesterday Paramount Pictures, the maker of Team America, pulled that film—a 2004 puppet animation satirizing Kim Jong Il, among other targets—from all theaters. Alamo Drafthouse’s defiant showing of it will apparently not take place.]
Last month, when hackers invaded the personal and medical information of every employee of Sony Pictures, and then threatened to bomb any theater that screened the studio’s new movie, The Interview, the reaction was clueless.
It was a Seth Rogen comedy about the assassination of Kim Jong Un, and the hackers were presumed to be the North Koreans or their proxies. Here was a private American company being punished by sophisticated cyber-attackers from abroad who menaced life and limb. But so what—Rogen and other Hollywood figures like Aaron Sorkin did nothing but complain about the disclosure of their private emails in the massive cyber attack. The entertainment press that covers them (such as the website The Wrap) was similarly preoccupied, hyping the gossipy highlights of those emails.
That this was shaping up as a much bigger event became inescapable yesterday, though.
No tourist, I think, ever said ‘If it’s Tuesday, this must be North Korea;’ for whatever else might be said about that country, it is certainly distinctive. Whoever has been there, as I have, is unlikely ever to forget it; indeed he is also likely, from a combination of continued horror and fascination, to buy books about it whenever they appear. Fortunately this is not a great call on anyone’s income.
Recently in Paris I came across a volume entitled (in English, though the book was published in France) Kim Jong Il Looking at Things. It consists of a series of photographs, taken from the official North Korean news agency, of the late Dear Leader on his tours of inspection of his country, examining close-up its agricultural produce and its industrial products. The pictures come with lapidary captions, always in the form of ‘Kim Jong Il looking at x’ or ‘Kim Jong Il looking at y.’
The idea to put these photographs together was that of an art director of a Portuguese advertising company, João Rocha. He put them first on a website that is said in the book, in that inelegant but expressive phrase, to have ‘gone viral.’ It was a clever and original idea, and well worth consecration in book form.