President Obama said Friday he thinks Sony “made a mistake” in choosing not to release “The Interview” in the wake of the devastating hacking attack which he blamed on North Korea, while vowing that the U.S. “will respond.”
He mocked the North Korean regime for launching an “all-out assault” over a satirical movie, but he also chided Sony for responding by shutting down the movie’s release.
“I think they made a mistake,” Obama said.
While saying he sympathizes with their situation and the concerns they faced, he said: “We cannot have a society in which some dictator some place can start imposing censorship here in the United States.”
Obama said that if somebody can “intimidate” a company out of releasing a satirical movie — in this case, one about a plot to execute North Korea’s leader, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco — “imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary that they don’t like or news reports that they don’t like.”
I completely agree with Obama on this one.
However, we can’t evade the role our own government — particularly his own administration — has played in the appeasement of violent, terrorizing regimes such as North Korea.
For years, the American government has been buying North Korea’s “favor” through pleas for peace and various and sundry guarantees to economically prop up the malignant Communist dictatorship that still plagues its own people.
And the United States has been appeasing other enemies as well. Examples include, but are not limited to: Insisting that ISIS beheadings have nothing to do with religion; treating Iran as a potential ally despite its open sponsorship of much of the world’s terrorism; and basically giving away the store every opportunity it gets (Russia, Cuba), apologizing for being an “arrogant” nation for all its past success in defeating dictatorships such as the Nazis and the Communists.
Given the way we generally treat our enemies, and the low esteem in which, as a nation, most of us appear to hold ourselves, then why are we surprised, much less outraged, when one of the world’s nastier dictatorships pulls something like this? And how do we criticize Sony for refusing to stand up to dictators when our own government routinely fails to do so?
If there’s any good in this episode, at least it provides an opportunity for Americans to grasp what a dictatorship actually is like. I define a dictatorship as a government that holds power over all the activities of its people, political/personal as well as economic. The United States is not a dictatorship. But for a moment in time, we know what one feels like. A dictatorial government (assuming North Korea is indeed responsible) has exercised the power to keep a movie deemed offensive to the government out of theaters. It’s a real, hard and absolute fact. If that doesn’t send a chill down the spine of every American who retains any appreciation for the value of individual rights and freedom, then it’s hard to imagine what will.
We constantly have it pounded into our heads that there is no right or wrong, no good or bad — that one society, or one form of government, is no better or worse than another. But there is a difference. The difference is illuminated by whether that movie shows in the theaters on schedule, or it does not.
Despite the fact Obama’s own foreign policies actively encourage dictatorships to do things like this to us, Obama’s most astute and accurate statement was: “imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary that they don’t like or news reports that they don’t like.”
This is a lesson not just with respect to the policies of foreign governments. It also applies to our own government — or any government. Unless you’re an outright anarchist, you accept the fact that a government must retain certain powers in order to protect the individual rights of its citizens. But given those powers, a government may (unless severely checked) at any time start to cross over the line and restrict the activities of citizens to — on privately funded property — watch, read, speak or say whatever they wish.
It’s hard for those of us who have always lived in relative freedom to grasp what it’s really like to live under a dictatorship. Look at the blank screens or replaced movie title marquees at your local movie theaters where “The Interview” was to have played. And think about how fragile the space between freedom and dictatorship actually is.
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