Musings on Contemporary Waffle

Sony, “The Interview”, and Civility — Mistaking Impertinence for Virtue

Don’t watch!

There’s rather a lot of self-importance being displayed by all of the people that Frank Bruni mentions this week in his column, who are “sanitizing” their on-line correspondence because Sony Pictures got hacked. “If it happened to them”, their reasoning seems to go, “then it could happen to me”.

First, it was a sign of importance to have 1M Twitter followers. Now it’s a sign of impertinence to not cull the herd.

And all because Sony executives broke their own rules about the use of company emails?

The first thing the rest of us who start at any company are told is that work emails are not private. It’s terribly unfortunate that it had to be North Korea to teach this lesson to Sony executives, since the rest of us already know we’re being watched at work, and from a lot closer than North Korea.

Anyone who doesn’t know in 2014 not to store anything unprofessional, personal, or in poor taste on a work computer is a fool. Don’t call it an attack on privacy when the thing was never private to begin with. And anyone who is only now taking care to choose words more carefully in general, words that will live somewhere on-line, whether in “private” or on a public forum, begs the question why now and not before? The idea that we should behave as civilly “on-line” as in a public park on a Saturday afternoon seems rather late in coming to these people.

But what riles me most about this story of executive impertinence is that we are all being encouraged to defend our fundamental freedom of expression by lamenting the shelving of a movie, “The Interview”, that uses terrorism to get laughs (blowing up Kim Jong-Un). Charlie Chaplin made fun of Hitler with poignant irony. He didn’t need to blow his head off. Which of these executives thought this thing would be funny in an era of jihadi fundamentalism emphasized by hourly suicide bombings?

I guess it goes to show that Seth Rogan is not Charlie Chaplin, and that terrorism for laughs is not funny. And that the insularity of the movie industry is truly remarkable.

As such, I find it ironic and absurd that we are being encouraged, against threats of real terror, to “go to the movies” and watch another infantile, moronic blockbuster ostensibly to preserve the investments of Hollywood backers and the decisions of vainglorious movie executives, and call it a defense of our fundamental freedom of expression as if we were defending “Ulysses” against the censors of the 1930s.

If there is anything to stand up for today, it is for the freedom to express more civility in daily modern human interaction, whether on the Internet or in Hollywood movies or in the streets and squares of the world, and not less.

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