George Clooney has once again found a way to insert himself into an international story where he has conveniently cast George Clooney as the lonely heroic crusader of all that is good and brave and righteous. This time he’s not grabbing a piece of the spotlight shining on a dead princess, this time it’s a terrorist attack from a foreign government against a major movie studio and the entertainment industry at large.
According to Clooney, no one would sign his petition that made clear to North Korea that Hollywood will not be intimidated by cyber-terrorism and threats of 9/11-style attacks against customers and exhibitors. Now Clooney is out and about in the entertainment media thoughtlessly and callously shaming the industry as a whole for not being as brave and righteous as he is.
Apparently, Clooney doesn’t have a firm grasp of just what it is that Hollywood is up against. America and the entertainment industry are in completely uncharted waters. Through cunning and resourcefulness and ruthlessness, this hack is piece by piece dismantling a major American business. Moreover, these same hackers have threatened to do the same to the rest of Hollywood.
The monsters behind this hack aren’t basement-dwelling losers. This is the terrorist regime of North Korea – a nuclear power that might be receiving some help from no less than China. And yet, with no plan, no safeguards, no protocols in place, Clooney is asking people to put a big fat target on their backs for these capable terrorists to take careful aim at.
That isn’t bravado or courage, it’s suicide.
Hollywood is not prepared to fight North Korea. And until they are, they need to strategically retreat.
You don’t provoke a monster until you are prepared to fight the monster.
Keep in mind that we’re not just talking about millionaire executives and celebrities. Most of Sony’s workforce is made up of working and middle class people who are almost certainly living in constant fear of what these diabolical hackers could do with their medical records and Social Security numbers.
Until Hollywood is positioned to fight back from a position of strength (more on this below), any foolish bravado puts untold numbers of innocent people at terrible risk.
Even if it is in the name of the noble cause of free expression, when North Korea threatens you, the only wise recourse is to take them seriously and at their word.
It is the federal government’s job and primary duty — not Sony’s, not Hollywood’s, and not George Clooney’s — to protect the First Amendment from North Korea or any other foreign terrorist threat.
It is also the federal government’s job to protect Hollywood’s right to free expression, and as of now the government is failing miserably.
Going forward, though, if this is handled correctly by both the Obama Administration and Hollywood, America and Sony can still win this fight.
The government and the airlines have done an admirable job of keeping the airline business afloat in the wake of serious terror threats. There’s no reason why a similar approach can’t allow Hollywood to go back into the business of being Hollywood.
But it will take time.
In the name of protecting the First Amendment, safeguards, protocols and systems need to first be put in place to protect studios from devastating hacks, shield them from certain liabilities, and a whole host of things I would never think of. As someone on Twitter suggested, we call it the “Defense of Creative Freedom Act of 2015.”
Once these protections are in place, then Sony can release “The Interview” into 3500 theatres (I’ll pledge right now to buy 25 admissions); then the Hollywood community can sign petitions and scream nanny-nanny-boo-boo at the monstrous midget.
Of course Hollywood must fight, but they must fight smart. It’s frustrating, but in this unprecedented situation, that’s going to take time, and we need to give them the time before we start calling them cowards and un-American.
If Sony doesn’t release “The Interview” on 3500 American screens by June, I’ll happily join the chorus declaring them all cowards. In the meantime, let’s give them a little breathing room to find a strategic way out of this nightmare.
John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC