Earlier this week, Sony Pictures graciously suggested that it wouldn’t object if any major theater chains decided to drop “The Interview” from their schedules. If you’ve ever said to a woman, “I wouldn’t object if you took those panties off,” you’ll understand what was being conveyed in Sony’s statement. Insofar as you don’t become the head of a major theater chain by becoming a complete moron, by this afternoon Sony was able to state that it was withdrawing “The Interview” from distribution as a consequence of all those independent business partners of theirs deciding not to carry the movie.
To explain why, I have to briefly digress into my personal theory of why the American political system has completely failed Americans over the course of the past forty years and why Occupy Wall Street could have gone some way to redress that balance. But I’ll make it quick.
Imagine a horizontal line with a left end and a right end. Not tough, right? Okay, that’s the famous two-party system. In that model, every political position is at some place on that line. Abortion on demand, regardless of fetal age or reason for wanting it done? That’s all the way to the left. Mandatory prayer and saluting the flag in schools? All the way to the right.
The way the system is supposed to work is this: Both sides stake out their positions on the far sides and the American people decide where the slider will be moved on that issue. Right now, abortion is cheap, legal, and easy, but there are restrictions regarding parental consent for minors and the age of the “tissue” in question. The American people have decided to move the slider away from third-trimester procedures, and they might move the slider a little bit further to the right as a consequence of this last election. The American people rarely move the slider all the way to the right or left — or, at least, to their perception of all the way right or left. The slider is now effectively all the way to the left on gay marriage thanks to a coordinated media campaign that has portrayed gay marriage as the most important social issue, no, strike that, the most important issue, period, facing the country today. As a consequence, the slider was “re-centered” at what had previously been the leftmost point. Remember that, it will become important in a bit.
I like to say that Mr. Obama’s tenure has produced a country where gay men are free to marry but they can’t afford the wedding they want because there are no jobs to pay for it.
Not everybody thinks that’s funny.
For a conservative counter-example, look at concealed carry. It’s now the law in nearly every state. The NRA et al very intelligently moved the guns debate from nerdy stuff like 100-round drum magazines and .50 BMG semi-auto rifles to the idea that a woman could prevent being raped if she carried a gun. The bad news is that having a gun isn’t the same as having the opportunity, and willingness, to use it. The good news is that the statistics on rape keep losing buoyancy, so maybe it’s not as big a deal as we all thought. Consider this: Rolling Stone had to go through the trouble of making up a rape incident on America’s campuses, but just twenty-three years ago I actually observed the aftermath of a date rape in a dorm at university and chased said date-rapist halfway across campus with the stated intent of kicking his ass.
He outran me at about the 500-yard mark, near King Library, when my right knee gave out and I dropped like a stone to the pavement. However, I did see him again, the following weekend, in the room of the same girl who claimed he’d raped her the weekend before. They were kissing and she’d unbuttoned her shirt halfway. Whatever lesson I could have learned from this I promptly abandoned as it did not fit with my left-leaning feminist-ally mindset of the time. But the college students of today are not the college students of 1990. They’ve been re-centered by a media that plays God with people’s minds.
Back to politics. The purpose of the two-party system is to give people a choice. But in order to give the people a choice, you have to have elections, and in order to have elections, you need money to campaign. Which means that there’s a third influence at work: corporate and one-percenter money. Think of it as a magnet placed above that aforementioned line. There’s still a left and a right to the line, but now the entire line bends towards the magnet. So a given law will be somewhere on that left-right spectrum, but it will always bend towards the corporate money.
There is no magnet or force opposing the corporate money, because in all but the most sharply drawn social issues “left” and “right” are simply an illusion. Think about this: Was there any effective opposition, left or right, to DMCA? Of course not. Did anybody with any power push for Net Neutrality? Have any Congressmen or Congresswomen, left or right, ever done anything to undermine BP or ADM or GM or Chase or Goldman Sachs?
While you’re worrying about abortion or gun rights or gay rights or free sexuality or flag burning, the entire body of legislation in this country is being written to permanently enshrine the existing distribution of capital. The media bleats night and day about Ferguson while the Fed engineers the largest transfer of wealth in history from the middle class to the one percent. We worry that Christ is being taken out of Christmas and ignore the fact that all the presents under the tree come from sweatshops in China.
When Occupy Wall Street appeared on the scene, I thought we had rediscovered the only possible opposing force to that corporate magnet: populism. Populism says that sure, you can send the jobs overseas, but we’ll burn the containers in the docks. You can steal the money and give it to Goldman Sachs, but we’ll make it unsafe to be seen entering the GS elevator. You can show whatever crap you want on the TV or the Internet, but if gets too outrageous we’ll knock over the broadcast tower. Good, solid populism does with force of arms what the corporations do with the force of money. It’s a balancing force.
Not that I endorse violence in the course of justice — but isn’t the perversion of our legislative bodies by corporate money a form of violence that is no less repugnant? When laws are passed to place companies like Monsanto above the law, does that not necessarily suggest that the only way to deal with those companies is extra-legal? When we hand out lifetime prison sentences to marijuana dealers but let the bankers of Goldman Sachs go free, does that not suggest that someone should be measuring ropes for the people whom the law cannot touch?
Of course, Occupy Wall Street got shut down the minute they started occupying the ports. It was easy for the cops to shut them down because OWS hasn’t yet attracted the attention and empathy of the entire generation of jobless veterans out there. Once those guys get involved — once those guys realize that nobody’s ever going to have any work for them and they’d better take matters into their own hands — then we’ll have some real change in this country. When the day comes that Wall Street can’t pay as many guns as a talented populist demagogue can recruit for free, we’ll have some real change in this country.
Which brings us to the Sony hack and the threats of violence. I am no friend of North Korea. I’m not even a friend of Dennis Rodman, who is a friend of North Korea. But I’m pleased to see someone stand up to the media machine and knock it flat on its ass. I’m pleased to see the untouchable opinion leaders and tastemakers of this country revealed as the lying, hypocritical, racist, thieving scumbags they are. I’m happy that these people have been subjected to the same losses of privacy and identity that they’ve foisted on ordinary Americans.
Global media companies like Sony have been attacking the fundamental values and identities of Americans for more than half a century now and it’s time they got a taste of their own medicine. For too long, our media overlords have believed that they could attack and destroy as they chose from their bully pulpits and that nothing could be done in return.
When Seth Rogen and James Franco made “The Interview”, they must have felt awfully powerful as they considered their ability to lampoon an entire culture and country. No doubt they expected some backlash from North Korea, but they expected that it would fall on the American and South Korean soldiers overseas, not on their own pocketbooks. They thought they were invincible, untouchable, above reproach or risk except within their own media community.
Turns out they were wrong. Now let me tell you this: anything North Korea can do in “cyberspace”, the #GamerGate community can do just as well or better. Any threat of violence that North Korea can make against a movie theater can be more effectively made by Americans. And Sony showed that they will crack at the first threat of aggression or violence. From now on, the global media will have to consider the repercussions of their actions, particularly when those actions are meant to attack or denigrate a group of people. In other words, they’ll be just like the rest of us, who have to consider the impact on our jobs, our lives, and our families of every statement we make in public.