Rod Dreher

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NYPD Turns Backs on De Blasio

This is big. And this is bad news for the city:

A blue wall of silently seething police officers turned their backs on Mayor de BlasioSaturday night — literally.

As the mayor and his entourage snaked through a jammed third-floor corridor at Woodhull Hospital, where two officers had been pronounced dead just hours earlier, scores of grieving cops faced the walls — and away from the leader they believe has failed them.

Earlier, de Blasio approached a cluster of cops at the Brooklyn Hospital and offered, “We’re all in this together.”

“No we’re not,” an officer replied tersely, according to a cop who witnessed the icy scene.

Horrible day for the NYPD. I don’t blame them for this show of disrespect to de Blasio. If trust has broken down so much that the city’s police force sees the Mayor as the enemy, there are going to be some horrible days for all of New York City.

UPDATE: Gang, what I mean by “I don’t blame them” is not “they were right to do this,” but that I understand why they did it, in the emotions of the moment. It was as shocking as they intended it to be, and I hope they do not do it again. Similarly, I understand it when people whose family member has been killed by cops have over-the-top reactions to it, initially. I think we should extend some limited grace to people in those situations.

UPDATE.2: Oh God:

But the scene outside Woodhull Hospital [where the bodies of the two murdered officers were brought] wasn’t entirely supportive. “You’re a bunch of killers,” a passerby told cops standing sentry there, according to one police source. And short distance from the crime scene—where a crowd was backed up by the police tape—a few members of the crowd repeated “f**k the cops” within earshot of a Daily Beast reporter.

One 30-year-old local who gave his first name only as Carlos, didn’t hear the fatal gunfire but saw the hysteria aftewards and walked to the police tape.

“A lot of people were clapping and laughing,” he said.

“Some were saying, ‘They deserved it,’ and another was shouting at the cops, ‘Serves them right because you mistreat people!’” he said.

What do you want to bet word had spread among those cops that people in the neighborhood were clapping and laughing over the murder of their colleagues?

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Pyongyang Hollywood Confidential

Juliette "Jette" Kernion/Flickr
Juliette "Jette" Kernion/Flickr

 

James Poulos, feeling L.A.-noirish tonight, is not so sure that the Norks did the Sony hack, but he is sure that Tinseltown is scared to death because the place is a cesspit. Excerpt:

In fact, Hollywood has amassed so much undisclosed TMZ fodder that it’s willing to do whatever the North says. There is no margin for error, and no taking of chances. Spend enough time in the right/wrong circles here in L.A., and you’ll pick up a tabloid’s worth of sordid stories. Sometimes they’re open secrets. Sometimes they’re videos sitting on people’s phones. Almost always, they’re about the kind of behavior that ordinary Americans revile (or pretend to), but don’t really want to know about. Massive drugs. Massive prostitutes. Massive expenditures. All somehow sustained in a system that’s run by some of America’s most famous corporations—legitimate, law-abiding businesses, of course.

The Sony hack has revealed, above all, just how easy it is for this information to get out. Not just a drib or a drab, a gay rumor here and an orgy video there. Tons of it.
The Sony hack has revealed, above all, just how easy it is for this information to get out. Not just a drib or a drab, a gay rumor here and an orgy video there. Tons of it. There’s a remarkably delicate balance sustaining Hollywood’s conspiracy of silence around the gory details of its culture of excess. Once a tipping point is reached, a free-for-all will ensue.

For me, this is the epitome of mixed emotions. I would not mind one bit seeing those people hoisted on their high-and-mighty petards shamed for their bad behavior. But civilization depends hypocrisy, and the ability to count on certain secrets being kept. That’s hyperbolic, but only a bit. I do not need or want to read the e-mails of all the people I know. I don’t want to know who among the townspeople is cheating on his wife, who smokes crack, who is stealing from his boss, who secretly hates whom, and so forth. Nobody can live that way. A society without veils, without hypocrisy, is a society that is unfree.

And yet, if Hollywood’s filthy secrets leak, thanks to Pyongyang or a disgruntled insider, it will be indecent and scary … but I know myself well enough to know I’ll be clicking Gawker like everybody else, including you. Showtime at the Prytania!

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How PC Helps Kim Jong-Un

The reader who posts under the name arrScott makes a brilliant point:

The most important thing Clooney said is this:

Here’s the brilliant thing they did. You embarrass them first, so that no one gets on your side. After the Obama joke, no one was going to get on the side of Amy, and so suddenly, everyone ran for the hills. Look, I can’t make an excuse for that joke, it is what it is, a terrible mistake. Having said that, it was used as a weapon of fear, not only for everyone to disassociate themselves from Amy but also to feel the fear themselves. They know what they themselves have written in their emails, and they’re afraid.

Sure, we need better cybersecurity, both in the private sector and in government as a national-defense priority. But in the meantime, the Pyongyang hack attack was exploiting more than just a hole in one company’s technology. It was exploiting a fundamental flaw in our national culture. As a nation, we’re quick to seize on any stupid damn thing any random individual says and get our umbrage up and whip up a national storm of fire-the-sumbich outrage. It’s ubiquitous: The cultural left does it over inappropriate shirts or social media jokes at the expense of women or sexual minorities or whatever, and the political right does it over pretty much anything anyone who’s not known to be a Republican voter says or does.

This attitude has to stop, or we will as a society increasingly be at the mercy of blackmail by hostile outsiders. We need opinion leaders, especially those on the right that have an entire media-political complex behind them to respond to the latest outrage du jour to say, “Who cares? It’s just a stupid joke in an email. Dig through my emails and you’ll find a few stupid comments, and I’m sure if you let me dig through your emails, I could find something that would make you blush if I revealed it. Let’s stop trying to humiliate individuals and talk about real issues, OK?” And more of us as individuals need to adopt that attitude, even – especially – when we do find the exposed comment or behavior a little outrageous.

And also, even if someone says something outrageous, the correct response is almost never for them to lose their jobs. Couple of weeks back, when that Tennessee political aide made a racist and borderline pedophilic comment about the president’s daughters, and then “resigned” from her job in a state legislator’s office, I took to my social media networks to object to her losing her job. Yeah, she said a stupid and offensive thing. Yeah, she discussed minor children in overtly sexual terms, which is morally disturbing. But it was one lousy post on Facebook. It’s horrible to demand that people lose their jobs – that families lose their livelihoods – because an ordinary citizen has one stupid Facebook post held up for national ridicule. We need to have a sense of proportion that allows us to disagree with each other on terms other than the loser gets fired from his job. If we keep this up – see also Hannity’s rant on Fox demanding that Jay Z never be employed or have his opinion consulted because he may have sold drugs in his youth – we’ll find ourselves at the mercy of any foreign power willing and able to threaten to publish our emails, browser histories, or whatever.

We need, as a nation, much stronger cultural inoculation against outrage.

That Amy Pascal felt she had to meet with the disgusting Al Sharpton to seek absolution for her dumb, unfunny, but very mild racially tinged comments in a private e-mail is more outrageous. I suppose Sony will be making a big donation to the National Action Network.

I don’t really care if people get offended, but the idea that people who say or write stupid things must be driven from their jobs or public life really is one of the worst things about the snowflakization of America.

UPDATE: Reader Michael Newman writes:

As someone who has been scratching out a living in Hollywood for nearly 15 years, I cannot begin to express how depressed and disillusioned I’ve been by the industry’s behavior over the past few weeks. To be clear, my anger is not at Sony or its executives. There has been so much lazy moral preening among my peers on the “artistic” side of Hollywood about Sony’s “cowardice” in pulling the movie, but what were they supposed to do? You can’t release a movie that no theater is willing to exhibit. And Sony Pictures is just one (and likely the least profitable) branch of a much larger multinational corporation whose real decision makers in Japan have likely been angry about this project from the day they heard about it, and were not about to expose themselves or their shareholders to further liability beyond the three major lawsuits already filed and the many more surely to come. Artists in Hollywood may hate the fact that they need capital and therefore capitalists to realize their artistic vision, but that’s reality, and if they can’t deal with that, they should forget about making movies and turn their garages into pottery studios if they need an artistic outlet. All these people forgot, during the orgy of catty high school schadenfreude that followed the publishing of hacked emails, that an act of terrorism occurred here, and the real victims weren’t Amy Pascal, Scott Rudin, Seth Rogen, or even Sony in general. The victims were all of us Hollywood “little guy” artists whose livelihoods and opportunities for creative expression were just dealt a potentially lethal blow.
A terrible precedent has been set here, and you can bet this will happen again. Next time, it likely won’t be a big, star-driven studio movie, but one of those little indies that make up a disproportionate share of the watchable movies for anyone over the age of fourteen, and court controversy with far more frequency than your typical bland studio fare. My favorite film of 2014? “Calvary,” a little Irish film about a weary but good priest (played by the marvelous Brendan Gleeson) dealing with the catastrophic loss of faith and trust in his community in the aftermath of the abuse scandal. The movie is far too layered and nuanced to fit neatly into a “pro-Catholic” or “anti-Catholic” description, but that doesn’t mean zealots on either side of that divide might conclude otherwise. Some of the other movies on my Top 10 list include movies dealing with the fraught subjects of abortion (“Obvious Child”), long-term gay relationships (“Love is Strange”), and Edward Snowden (“Citizenfour”). All of these titles played on maybe 200 screens nationally at their peak of release, which means that most cities, if they were lucky enough to get them at all, got them on one screen at some art house theater. No sophisticated hacking required if you object to one of these titles. Just call in an anonymous bomb threat, and Presto!- the offending film is driven from your community. And when it happens, cable news will not do 15 minute segments on it, and the LA Times will dump it in the Calendar section, because none of these films have the A-list celebrities to drive their suppression into the national conversation. This is what George Clooney understands, and is why he’s racing to the barricades to defend a stupid stoner comedy in the loftiest “artistic expression” terms imaginable. Even those of us who choked on the “smug” from his 2006 Oscar speech should be glad to have him right now. And while I am too small-time a player to be asked to sign his petition, I would sign, Hancock-style, so that bullying POS in Pyongyang couldn’t miss me. Hancock and the many other great men alongside him pledged their “lives fortunes, and sacred honor” to defend the principles that made a dream factory like Hollywood possible. An excessive concern for the first two during this catastrophe has caused too many in Hollywood to drop the third, and in time they may lose the second as well. Another thing those great men of 1776 understood? “If we do not hang together, we shall surely all hang separately.” At least for the present crisis, Hollywood needs to stop the divide between “artists” and “suits” and come together as filmmakers. And Americans.

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Hannah’s Graduation

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From The Little Way of Ruthie Leming:

In those final days of summer, Ruthie’s feet hurt intensely. One early September afternoon, Mam sat with Ruthie on the couch at Ruthie’s place, massaging her daughter’s feet. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, they both burst into tears. Not a word passed between them. Several minutes later, mother and daughter gathered themselves, wiped their eyes, and resumed their conversation.

“Ruthie,” Mam said resolutely, “This does not mean your mama is giving up hope.”

“Me neither, Mama. We just needed to cry.”

That August, Hannah moved into the dorm at LSU to start her first year of college. Ruthie was thrilled that Hannah had settled on LSU, because it was so close to home. She wanted to be part of Hannah’s big moving day. “I hope Hannah’s not on the third floor,” Ruthie told Mam that morning, “But if she is, Mike says he’ll carry me up the stairs, and I’ll help her get the room set up.”

As it turned out, Hannah’s room was on the ground floor. But Ruthie was still so exhausted after walking from the parking lot that she could only sit quietly while Hannah and her father carried her things in.

By then, Ruthie could no longer hide how much she was hurting.

Hannah’s mother died two weeks into her first semester in college. Hannah stayed in school, but took on a job to help pay her way. For most of her college career, she has worked full time, and taken a full course load at LSU. She maintained her scholarship with a high GPA, and this morning, graduated one semester early.

She is going to spend the next six months at home helping her father and her sisters, and then leave the nest for good. We are very proud of her.

UPDATE: Hannah posted on her Facebook page this very short clip of Ruthie that I took at Hannah’s high school graduation in 2011. At this point, Ruthie had about 14 weeks left to live:

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George Clooney, for America

Strong stuff from the actor George Clooney, who could not get a single soul in Hollywood to sign his petition in support of Sony against the North Korean cyberattack. Excerpts from the Deadline Hollywood interview:

Here, we’re talking about an actual country deciding what content we’re going to have. This affects not just movies, this affects every part of business that we have. That’s the truth. What happens if a newsroom decides to go with a story, and a country or an individual or corporation decides they don’t like it? Forget the hacking part of it. You have someone threaten to blow up buildings, and all of a sudden everybody has to bow down. Sony didn’t pull the movie because they were scared; they pulled the movie because all the theaters said they were not going to run it. And they said they were not going to run it because they talked to their lawyers and those lawyers said if somebody dies in one of these, then you’re going to be responsible.

More:

We have a new paradigm, a new reality, and we’re going to have to come to real terms with it all the way down the line. This was a dumb comedy that was about to come out. With the First Amendment, you’re never protecting Jefferson; it’s usually protecting some guy who’s burning a flag or doing something stupid. This is a silly comedy, but the truth is, what it now says about us is a whole lot.

And:

Do whatever you can to get this movie out. Not because everybody has to see the movie, but because I’m not going to be told we can’t see the movie. That’s the most important part. We cannot be told we can’t see something by Kim Jong-un, of all f*cking people.

Read the whole thing.

Let’s say you are The New York Times or the Washington Post, and you have a big story on North Korea, or a group like ISIS. You know that if you publish it, they might come at you and hack into your computer system and distribute all the information they find there. What do you do?

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What I’m Grateful for this Advent

 

I have not been able to give my full attention to this blog in the past couple of weeks. For reasons not under my control, I have had an insane deadline on my Dante book. It will be published sometime late next year (the date hasn’t been firmed up yet), but because of various ancillary — and unusual — factors related to this particular project, I had to hurry up and get it done. Many people don’t realize this, but publishers work far ahead of the actual publication date.

Anyway, I’m still about to start the third draft, and there will be a fourth and final one … by Monday’s deadline. So, I’m berserk at the moment. Last night I took some time to go to vespers, because I had to clear my head. Our little mission church is never more beautiful than during evening prayer, with only the light from the candles illuminating the nave. I found myself reduced very near to tears of gratitude for what our church has meant to me. I have never grown spiritually as I have in these past two years in that country chapel, with its people (including our dear friend Jack, a founding member, who died suddenly in October). The beauty of the sung prayers, the darkness of a winter’s evening, and the glow of the candlelight put me in a reflective mood, and I was … just thankful, is all.

I also thought about one of the best things that happened to me in 2015: visiting the Benedictine monastery in Norcia, the Italian town where St. Benedict was born. Those monks, most of them Americans, are one of the great treasures of the Roman Catholic Church. I can’t say strongly enough what a place of peace, grace, and light that monastery and its monks are. I wish we could have stayed there a week.

I am an ex-Catholic, and a confirmed Orthodox Christian, but I met a warm and genuine welcome in Norcia. Spending time with those monks reminded me of why I still love the Catholic Church, and of the things that are best within it. If you are a Catholic who is weary of the Church for whatever reason, please do your best in 2015 to make a pilgrimage to Norcia — and please consider supporting them financially, and in your prayers. Theirs is a stronghold in the mountains, and an oasis in the desert. Just like my little Orthodox church home is here in the hill country of the Deep South.

We need to celebrate places of light like these. I wish I spent more time writing about them. After I get this book behind me, maybe I can.

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Matthew Franck Sorts Out Marquette

I wish to revise my previously stated position on the Marquette snowflake situation to wholly endorse Matthew Franck’s take at First Things. It strikes me as the most balance and sensible take I’ve read so far. Excerpts:

There are no heroes in this story, only knaves and fools. Oh yes, and some victims of others’ bad behavior. But let us not, as the trendy academic word is nowadays, “valorize” anyone in the tale.

He goes on to find fault with every single person in this story. More:

It should be time for someone at Marquette to remember that the university is not Hobbes’s state of nature, the war of all against all where grasping for power over others is all that matters. Time for someone to remember what a Catholic university (yes, even a Jesuit one) actually stands for. Time for someone—a provost, a president? (I know, now we’re in the stratosphere of stupidity)—to break the cycle, to say “stand down” to everyone involved, to un-suspend McAdams, to recommend remedial pedagogical advising for teaching assistants, and to reassert the freedom of Catholic opinions at a Catholic university, even on the part of lowly undergraduates. That would be a start.

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Rape & Snowflake Lawyers

Harvard Law School Library (Photo: Jason/Flickr)
Harvard Law School Library (Photo: Jason/Flickr)

At what point will we reach Peak Snowflake? This New Yorker bit by Harvard Law School Prof. Jeannie Suk surely points in that direction. She complains about the school’s students being unwilling to discuss law concerning sexual violence, because they’re a bunch of coddled snowflakes:

Imagine a medical student who is training to be a surgeon but who fears that he’ll become distressed if he sees or handles blood. What should his instructors do? Criminal-law teachers face a similar question with law students who are afraid to study rape law.

More:

But my experience at Harvard over the past couple of years tells me that the environment for teaching rape law and other subjects involving gender and violence is changing. Students seem more anxious about classroom discussion, and about approaching the law of sexual violence in particular, than they have ever been in my eight years as a law professor. Student organizations representing women’s interests now routinely advise students that they should not feel pressured to attend or participate in class sessions that focus on the law of sexual violence, and which might therefore be traumatic. These organizations also ask criminal-law teachers to warn their classes that the rape-law unit might “trigger” traumatic memories. Individual students often ask teachers not to include the law of rape on exams for fear that the material would cause them to perform less well. One teacher I know was recently asked by a student not to use the word “violate” in class—as in “Does this conduct violate the law?”—because the word was triggering. Some students have even suggested that rape law should not be taught because of its potential to cause distress.

Suk says that in discussions with other law school professors around the country about teaching rape law, she finds it’s becoming hard to do all over. Students, she writes, are now afraid to talk about it at all, either because they are afraid of being injured by the discussion — reflect on that: lawyers in training afraid to talk about something — or afraid of being accused of injuring others. Suk:

For at least some students, the classroom has become a potentially traumatic environment, and they have begun to anticipate the emotional injuries they could suffer or inflict in classroom conversation. They are also more inclined to insist that teachers protect them from causing or experiencing discomfort—and teachers, in turn, are more willing to oblige, because it would be considered injurious for them not to acknowledge a student’s trauma or potential trauma.

See what’s happening? These activists have medicalized ordinary speech, such that they consider being confronted with information that makes them uncomfortable, including information (such as studying rape law) that is vital to the jobs they are being trained to do, as an assault. This is exactly why I have raised the alarm in the past about gay activists in high schools pushing for “safe” environments for gay kids, with “safe” being not a place free from physical or verbal abuse (which everyone should support), but a place where they don’t have to hear anything that they don’t like, because it makes them feel “unsafe.” It’s a way of shutting down speech you don’t want to hear by equating it with assault.

I find it absolutely stunning that young people today, especially young people in an elite law school, are being trained by the culture to anticipate having their feelings hurt. By the time these neurotics and their enablers in the academy burn out, they will have done a lot of damage to the universities, to their professions, and to who knows how many people who will have had to fight false accusations of harassment simply because they wanted to talk about ideas, and mistakenly thought that’s what a university was for.

A year at Harvard Law School costs $82,000. And you may get a Harvard Law degree without having learned a thing about the law governing rape and sexual assault, not because the professors refuse to teach it, but because your classmates are like a pack of Victorian hysterics who take to the fainting couch when they see an exposed ankle.

By the way, Suk shows how this state of affairs law school profs are dealing with is the fruit of feminist theory. Ah, progressivism.

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Affluent Yankees Demand Cuba Classic

Children playing in a Havana slum -- but hey, no McDonalds to spoil their communist childhoods! (Photo: Fredo_photo/Flickr)
Children playing in a Havana slum -- but hey, no McDonalds to spoil their communist childhoods! (Photo: Fredo_photo/Flickr)

Will Wilkinson socks it to Americans whining that the new era of relations with Cuba is going to junk up the island with Mickey Dees and Starbuckses. Sic ‘em, Will:

Cuba is a showcase of dilapidated anti-commercial mid-century nostalgia, and I too sort of wish I had gone to see it, just as I wouldn’t mind having seen Soviet Leningrad. Come to think of it, it would be pretty interesting to see the slave ships coming into harbor in prebellum Savannah. What a scene those auctions must have been! But the human part of me, the moral part, as opposed to the aesthetic and amorally curious tourist part, can only regret that slaving Savannah and communist Russia lasted as long as they did, and today I can be nothing but hopeful that something like freedom is finally coming to the Cubans.

This reminds me of that episode of SNL’s Sprockets just after the Berlin Wall fell, in which host Dieter (Mike Myers) welcomed an East German experimental filmmaker who had come through the open wall to the West. The filmmaker was played by Woody Harrelson, who came out dressed in garish Western tourist clothes, and was wearing a helmet with beer can holders on either side, and tubes connecting to his mouth. Here’s a partial transcript:

Dieter: Welcome to Sprockets. I am your host, Dieter.

It has been a very busy week here in Berlin. Jourgen von Keitel’s exhibit “Scabs On Canvas” opened at the Schussel Calle, the Gertrude Bromf troupe previewed their performance in wax at the Theater of Unhappiness, and the Berlin wall was dismantled. For the masses the wall’s collapse represents freedom and opportunity. But for me, it is a chance to meet the most brilliant countercultural filmmaker in the East, Gregor Voss. Seen here on East German television last year, Voss, the suppressed visionary whose films include “The Dead Coat”, “Irritant Number 4″, and “Here Child, Finish Your Nothing”, he entered the West three days ago, and has agreed to appear on Sprockets and speak with me, his greatest fan. Please welcome Gregor Voss.

[ Gregor Voss steps out ]

Dieter: Welcome to Sprockets, Gregor Voss.

Gregor Voss: Whoo! Yah, is great to be here, Dieter.

Dieter: Gregor Voss, your presence intimidates me to the point of humiliation. Would you care to strike me?

Gregor Voss: This is fantastic I can’t believe I’m here! Hello West Berlin! Ich bin ein West Berliner!

Dieter: Tell me, in your film, Irritant Number 4, the only two images were a baby’s head and a toilet. Did you mean for me to scream?

Gregor Voss: Scream, ja, ja, ja. Look at this, look at this, Dieter, I’ve got great stuff here. Mountain Dew! A Remington Microscreen! They tell me it shaves as close as a blade.

Dieter: I see genius. By seemingly embracing the cliches of the West, he is underscoring its excruciating banality.

No, actually, he was having a blast enjoying all the fun consumerist crap that the West had for years. Here’s the whole transcript, which of course doesn’t do the skit justice.

Anyway, +1 to Will Wilkinson.

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North Korea’s Trigger Warning

o-THE-INTERVIEW-TRAILER-facebook

The US Government has determined that North Korea is indeed behind the Sony hack. And now Sony has cancelled release of The Interview following the hackers’ threats to wage terrorism on US theaters that show it. Read all about it here.

Now I have to watch what even Sony itself (according to hacked internal e-mails) believed was a crappy movie, just because that crazy commie country cannot get away with forcing the cancellation of a movie with threats of committing acts of violence in the United States. (Don’t think it’s a crappy movie? Watch the trailer.) It was bad enough that they committed unprecedented cybercrime, but threatening to kill Americans, in our own country, for showing a film? This must not stand.

Sony should either release the movie on the Internet, or accidentally on purpose leave a clean digital copy of it on the counter at the nearest Starbucks, and arrange for someone to upload it and distribute it over the Internet. This bad movie will become a worldwide sensation, and Fathead will be a planetary laughingstock.

Tonight, production on a new thriller starring Steve Carell and based in North Korea has now been cancelled. So film studios are afraid that what happened to Sony will happen to them. It is easy to imagine that studios and publishers will be intimidated into canceling or never taking on all kinds of projects on a wide variety of topics, simply out of legitimate fear of cybercrime or worse. Troubling.

I cannot believe I have to submit myself to the torture of watching James Franco onscreen, but it’s my patriotic duty. Come on, Sony, let us have the movie.

UPDATE: Yep:

 

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