On Sony and the Western Response

President Barack Obama said Friday that Sony should not have pulled “The Interview” after a North Korean hacking, and he pledged to answer the attack. “We will respond,” he told reporters.

“Sony’s a corporation. It suffered significant damage, there were threats against its employees,” Obama said at his annual year-end news conference from the White House. “I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced. Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake.”

He added that he wished “they’d spoken to me first,” so he could tell them not to set a bad precedent by caving into hackers’ threats. He explained that this could eventually lead to self-censorship if the media did not want to offend “somebody whose sensibilities probably need to be offended.”

  • Obama: Sony made a mistake by pulling ‘The Interview’, Everett Rosenfeld | @Ev_Rosenfeld, CNBC.com, Friday, 19 Dec 2014 | 4:22 PM ET


Editors’ Note: While published late, this post was written before the release of Sony Movie’s film called “the Interview”

In the nineteenth century, the British Navy was more than just a military asset. It preformed most of the actions of the state. It was the key diplomatic tool and a tool for economic trade. A Captain in the British Navy could marry anyone and often time acted for the Crown. The reason was simple:  this was the only way that the British could control the most important economic asset to the world – the High Seas.

These actions had an interesting consequence. Because the British Navy became a largely unchallengeable force, the rules of the British State had a way of extending around the world. When the British decided to move away from Privateers, the rest of the world did.  The British Navy boarded ships which with impunity and let their rules dictate actions. Consequently, it is not surprising that most of the Naval Insurance Companies and trade at the time took place under British Law. London, as a result, became a place of international finance. In fact, the impact was so large that over a hundred years after the decline of the British Empire, London is a place of international finance. This history though has not informed our actions as it comes to Sony, North Korea and the movie “The Interview”.

For when the British Monopolies/Corporations had trouble, the British Navy would always be sent to resolve the issue. The British Navy has large sway to negotiate on behalf of the Corporate Entity, use diplomacy, negotiate as a representative of the Crown or proceed to use military force to solve any problem. Now the reasons why the British Navy was used are simple. Given communication in the nineteenth century was not instantaneous, Governments have few choices. They needed to have mobile, educated decision makers. In the case of the British, the navy provided all of that and more, in spades.

Now given that we have instantaneous communication in the Internet Age, it is easy enough for Governments’ to take on the roles previously left to Navies.  In other words, it is easy enough for any Western Government – this includes and is not limited to the Governments of the US, Canada, the United Kingdom and France – to intervene. For all of them have made comments as to how Sony should have been more forceful. Yet none of those same Governments’ have recognized the bind that Sony was in. The largest five movie theatre chains in the US and the largest chain in Canada were just some of the distributors that refused to show the movie. There was talk that cable companies or Netflix-like distributors were also likely to decline to show the movie. Consequently, the problem was simple: even if Sony released the movie, which companies would be brave enough to show it? Only a government could step in and solve the problem. Just as was done in the nineteenth century.

Why hasn’t the Canadian, French, British or American Governments stepped in to buy the $45 USD million dollar movie? Any Western Government could step in and buy the movie. They could take the loss. They could release the movie to the public and make it a public domain property. Such an action would affirm the idea of Free Speech and the liberty that individuals have in the Western World to comment without question.

Yes, it would mean that Governments would have to interfere within the market. However, isn’t that better than not being able to speak freely about the world around us? Governments have a responsibility to protect us. Usually, proportionate responses are the best. What would be more proportionate than ensuring that we as a free society ensure that no legal person – immigrant, refugee, corporation, corporate actor, church, NGO or not-for-profit – is hurt by the actions of a foreign power? In this case, an air raid, an invasion, sanctions or other governmental action would be overblown. While we all agree that we have to improve our internet security provisions, in the meantime, why not allow all governments to protect corporations by intervening in the market? This is a bold suggestion but most good policy ideas require bold action. In this case, it is an action which will add to the liberty of each person in society without having any of usual draw backs. There is no Tyranny of the Majority or trampling of rights. All we are saying is that we all stand together. That is my Liberal Solution. Let the Government play in the Market this time. Let a Government by “The Interview” and release it, so we can all pan or celebrate the movie.

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