Distracting Ourselves (DOP #21 2014)

We can not let the terrorists win.

Sony Pictures has been the center of a dramatic and distracting scandal involving espionage, hacking, and political pressure related to the film “The Interview” which is a comedy that (allegedly) portrays a fictional assassination attempt of the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un.  A threat from the hacker group responsible for the theft and release of confidential company information has lead to several of the large movie theater chains refusing to show the film for fear of reprisals “in the style of 9/11”.   As a result of this mass exodus from its intended distribution plan, Sony has postponed the theatrical release of the movie while they investigate other options for distribution.

From a political and corporate stand point, this is a very big deal.  A large amount of confidential and potentially embarrassing data has been stolen, and the group responsible for the theft has managed to significantly alter the distribution plans of a major film company.  This whole fiasco will cost Sony significant amounts of time, money, and reputation before the whole sordid tale is finally ended.  It is such a serious event that the President of the United States took time to make a statement about the situation in his year-end press conference.

If you have been following our whole #25 Days of Peace journey, you may remember that I wrote about the possible implications of allowing computer crime to influence political decisions all the way back on December 3rd.  The stakes didn’t seem very high at the time, but I tried to warn of the can of worms that had been opened right in front of our eyes, and encouraged us to be aware of a coming conflict.  It would seem that conflict has arrived more quickly than expected.  Why bring this up you ask?  Well, I don’t intend to address to the topic of computer crime again in this post, and wanted to make it clear that I felt I have already addressed that topic.  In this post, I want to make sure that we get to the actual heart of the matter.


From the ol’ trending feed. It will continue to happen more frequently. Unless something changes.

We can not let the terrorists win.

As I have watched this scandal move from a short news story to a trending topic with ample coverage on my newsfeed, I have also been watching another very disturbing trend develop alongside of it.  While the computer crime and politicization of the response is bad, the trend developing alongside of it could turn out to be far worse than we realize.  If we don’t address this other issue soon, we may find our culture irrevocably changed for the worse.  In fact, it may already be too late to address it.  The problem may already have grown out of control, and we are only now beginning to see the symptoms.

We can not let the terrorists win.

The issue I see is that of our response.  As I have watched people weigh in on the issue from all sides of the political fence, I have noticed a few very disturbing trends.  Many share loudly that our freedom of speech has been attacked, and Sony’s capitulation to the pressure has resulted in a loss of our freedom.  Others are actually excited about President Obamas promise of a proportional response to the crime.  One young man even seemed giddy over what he saw as an opportunity to start dropping bombs on North Korea for its crime.  Unfortunately this young man is typically considered a very level-headed individual.

I get it, one voice in the wilderness does not a cultural statement make...

I get it, one voice in the wilderness does not a cultural statement make…

We can not let the terrorists win.

I submit that they already have.

We (my generation and younger in particular) have lost our sense of perspective.  If we think that a proportional response to the postponement of a movie is military action, we ARE the terrorists.  It is terrorists who bomb and kill those who do not agree with their ideology.  The right to freedom of speech is an ideology that we hold dear in the United States, and one the United Nations has included on its bill of human rights, but should we bomb another country for infringing on our right to speak freely?  What about the other countries right to speak freely?  Did you know that the North Korean government has been asking for this film to be stopped for several months now?  What if our perspective isn’t that our freedom of speech has been removed, but that the North Koreans have used the tool of computer based crime as the only way for them to enter a protest that will be heard on the world stage?  What if the North Koreans simply wanted to say that people should not make demeaning movies about the political leadership of other countries, but couldn’t make itself heard without a scandal to bring it to the attention of the media?

More from the trending column...

More from the trending column…

The United States doesn’t talk to North Korea, and we actively try to foil North Korean technological progress.  Are you familiar with Stuxnet?  To be super brief, Stuxnet is a computer virus designed by the United States.  Stuxnet has caused significant and more importantly physical damage to the infrastructure of Iranian nuclear facilities.   While there is no proof that the United States has deployed Stuxnet or a similar virus against the North Koreans, there is no shortage of articles suggesting that we are attempting to do so.  South Korea (our ally) has intimated that they are trying to disrupt North Korean facilities with a Stuxnet style virus of their own.  There have been a significant number of failed rocket launches from North Korea, and one has to wonder if some of those failures can ultimately be credited to a Stuxnet style weapon being used against them.

We could continue on this little tangent for a long time, arguing about what the North Koreans could do with the technology they are trying to produce, but we still haven’t gotten to the actual problem that we need to address.  So far everything else we have discussed has been a side note to what I feel is the real issue at hand.  Freedom of speech is a side note, possible North Korean justification for this attack is a side note.  We allow these issues to distract us, because we want to be distracted.

The real issue at hand is that not once, not one single time in the week I have been following this story has anyone bothered to mention the North Korean people.

No one has offered opinion on what the North Koreans might think of this attack.  No one has speculated about the desire of the people of North Korea to poke the hornets nest of the United States with a stick.  Not once has anyone tried to separate the North Korean leadership from the North Korean people.  No one has stopped to consider the human cost of the conflict we have entered.

The people of North Korea are not in a good position, they are typically very poor, and very isolated.  North Korea is called the Hermit Kingdom because so few westerners are allowed to enter, and no westerner is allowed to wander at will.  The government of North Korea shows you what they want you to see, and the rest of the information we receive is 2nd hand.  There are credible reports of significant human rights abuses being wantonly inflicted upon the people of North Korea.  There are credible reports of political prison camps for those who choose to dissent against the leadership of North Korea.  The state of North Korea requires a worship of government that would rival the religious worship found here in the United States.  Some of the poverty issues of the people can be linked to our own policies of embargo and economic sanctions that we use against the leadership of North Korea.

We are mad because we don’t get to watch a movie when we thought we would.

They can’t express their anger without risking imprisonment and forced labor.

We threaten a “proportional response” when we don’t get to watch a movie, they might not get to eat today.

I think it is about time we started caring about people, and stopped being so focused on ourselves.

Peace demands it.

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#25 Days of Peace (An Introduction)