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.