The Interview: How We Should Respond to Terrorist Nonsense

by Benjamin Studebaker

American funnymen James Franco and Seth Rogen made a comedy called The Interview for Sony in which their characters attempt to assassinate Kim Jong-un, the supreme leader of North Korea. Someone really didn’t like this movie and really didn’t want Sony to release it–a mysterious organization known as “Guardians of Peace” hacked and leaked a series of Sony e-mails and threatened a 9/11 style terrorist attack if the film were released as planned. No one is certain, but the US government suspects that the Kim regime is behind the threats. It is, at the very least, supportive of them. North Korea’s National Defense Commission says:

The hacking into the Sony Pictures might be a righteous deed of the supporters and sympathizers with the [North] in response to its appeal.

Amazingly, Sony and the major American movie theater chains capitulated, cancelling the release. Was this the right thing to do?

Here’s the trailer for The Interviewin case you haven’t seen it and are curious:

Maybe it’s a good movie, maybe it’s a bad movie–I haven’t seen it, I don’t know. In any case, it’s beside the point. The question is, if someone threatens us with violence to stop us from seeing a movie, is the appropriate response to give them what they want, or to resist?

Terrorism is a strategy. The goal of the strategy is to extract political concessions by committing indiscriminate violence (or threatening to commit said violence). Terrorists believe that if they can make us afraid, they can get what they want. When we show fear, when we capitulate in the face of violence or threats, the terrorist strategy succeeds. Other people see that the terrorist strategy is a successful one, and this encourages them to use it. The more we give into terrorism, the more terrorism we get.

The decision by Sony and the movie theaters to pull The Interview was made fearfully. It gives the terrorists what they want, and it sends a message to loony people everywhere that terrorism works. It shows that by threatening violence, you can get whatever you want, no matter how ridiculous or silly it might be.

This is a big mistake. We’re sacrificing our long-term security for temporary safety from a threat that is not even credible. In the big picture, we’re inviting more people to use terrorism against us down the line. We’re not making anybody safer–we’re creating a more dangerous world, one that we and our children will have to live in.

So what should we do instead? I have an idea.

I grew up in a town called Valparaiso in Indiana. From time to time, the city would set up a projector in the park and show movies. I want every town in America to stage a public showing of The Interview, all on the same day, all at the same time, with everyone tweeting about it like Kim Kardashian’s rear end just appeared on Peter Pan Live. And while that’s going on, I want the Blue Angels to sky write “F— YOU” in Korean all up and down the coast of North Korea.

We need to show terrorists that when they threaten us, not only will they not get what they want, they will get even more of what they don’t want. We need to collectively dare them to follow through with their threats. And if they do follow through? What do we do then? We carry on. Like nothing happened. We don’t stick it on TV 24 hours a day, we don’t make gaudy speeches about how “our nation saw evil”. We shrug it off like it’s nothing.

Sure, behind the scenes, our police and intelligence forces try to find and arrest all those who commit terrorism or threaten to do so. But the rest of us? We don’t modify our behavior one iota. We send a clear message to the terrorists–we will not be intimidated, we will do whatever we please and there is nothing at all they can do about it, no matter what violent, disgusting crimes they commit. We will negotiate and talk like civilized people with anyone, but we will never bend in response to violence.

That is what strength looks like. Every person who acquiesces to violent demands endangers all of us for short-term selfish gain. It’s cowardly, it shames our society, and it needs to stop. Sony must do the right thing and allow people all across the country to gather in parks and town squares to watch this movie, to show these so-called “Guardians of Peace”–whoever they are–that we’re not afraid of them, that they have no power over us. They can threaten us with everything in the book, and you know what we’ll say?

Do you like my idea? Then let’s make it happen. Share it with everyone, especially Sony. Let’s all watch The Interview together as a nation.