Sentences from Sony

We have learned in testing that moviegoers respond favorably to Kim Jong-Un when he is seen as more of a recluse who can be charming at times as opposed to a person who is simply a dangerous dictator.

There is more here, on possible commercial reactions to The Interview, interesting throughout.  The pointer is from Adam Minter.


Sell SONY!!!!

I think this illustrates a difference in perception between North Korea and, say, Al Qaeda. If Al Qaeda was offended by some movie (say the last Batman movie which featured some type of Middle Eastern prison that was nonetheless within walking distance of Gotham city), people would be up in arms about all theaters pulling the movie. Yet not so much North Korea, why?

Al Qaeda is recognized as having an actual agenda is is assumed to be a somewhat rational agent. Hence most of us will give credit to the anti-appeasement argument with them. If we pull one movie they will keep making demands.

North Korea, in contrast, is perceived as an irrational state lead by a child-man dictator. In other words, most in the west see it as essentially an entire nation that is literally mentally ill. We are willing to indulge them a bit because we are not quite sure how ill they really are and just like a deranged person may try to stab you over a napkin on the ground, this is the type of state that may start a nuclear war over a Seth Rogan movie.

Is this perception correct? Is North Korea not just mentally ill 'on the ground' but also at the top? Is the inner circle populated by cold rationalists cynically exploiting propaganda to control the masses or have they actually drunk the most Kool-Aid of the entire bunch?!

I doubt that they are that irrational compared to Al-Qaeda... If that was the case, someone/some group inside NKorea's power structure would "have taken care" of Kim-whatever-un already. It is just, that you/we maybe dont understand their utility function ("how to keep absolute power") correctly.

Can you cultivate insanity at the bottom and yet keep the top sane? What if the utility function at the top has rewarded what is essentially insantiy rather than simply rewarding those who can manage internal political dynamics while presenting a unified face to the rest of the country?

Presumably there is an internal logic to NK's actions. But their structure of governance is opaque to the outside world, so we don't know what it is. Their actions appear random and unmotivated to us, but that does not mean that they actually are. Think of how schizophrenic America's foreign policy must appear to an outside actor that doesn't understand democracy or that our entire government changes every eight years or so.

Al Qaeda's known attacks and this particular North Korean hacker attack are not perfectly comparable.

For one thing, we did not receive the same style of threat plus consequences warning during 9/11. By contrast, the crisis the hackers were promising in this case was avoidable because the demand was pretty specific and achievable. (I think Al Qaeda's demands, even if known perfectly in advance, would have been much more difficult to achieve.)

For another, the severity so far has been much lower. The impact in this particular case has been limited to the fortunes of one specific movie production. It's much less severe than Al Qaeda's 9/11 attack.

Finally, it may be relatively easy for Americans to distance themselves from the impact of cancelling the release of this particular North Korea related movie (some really well paid studio executives we don't care about lose their jobs, various investors lose some money, and a large corporation headquartered in a foreign country takes a financial hit.) But, distancing yourself from 9/11 attack was not nearly as easy.

So, maybe it's not only about the perceived rationality of the attackers. Maybe it's also about the nature of the consequences.

Boonton December 22, 2014 at 9:48 am

If Al Qaeda was offended by some movie (say the last Batman movie which featured some type of Middle Eastern prison that was nonetheless within walking distance of Gotham city), people would be up in arms about all theaters pulling the movie.

This is nonsense. There has been massive self-censorship when dealing with Islamists. Yale University Press declined to print the Danish cartoons. Someone even pulled a book completely. Newspapers have declined to reproduce pictures. People have been disinvited to talk on campus.

The fact is our Elders and Betters are gutless spineless weasels who have made such a fetish out of selling out to the Soviet Union, they now cannot stand up to a small number of Islamists who don't even need to threaten to behead anyone before their victims collapse in fear.

North Korea has just got the measure of the Baby Boomers.

But the newspapers did and the argument for not publishing was that the cartoons themselves were offensive, not that publishing them would result in a terrorist attack. The 'self-censorship' was mostly IMO about the human instinct to try to be perceived as polite.

No. Yale removed the cartoons from a book they were publishing on the cartoons.

And yes, because of terrorism concerns

First of all the movie is "desperately unfunny", according even to Sony. It is a risk-reward thing. If the reward is low, then even a little bit of risk will make the expected gain to become to low to bother, from Sony's point of view. Making N Korea a scapegoat is also kind of convenient, for Sony executives (or the State Deparment?), who really should know better ...

Unfunny or not the movie is making Sony $0 at the moment despite their massive sunk costs. Any sales they make now is all revenue for them.

There would be an incentive not to have your name associated with a turkey that ended up seeing the light of day. Businesses having to eat sunk costs is not uncommon.

I don't think this is unprecedented. I recall way back in dinosaur times somebody made a movie of the old comic strip "Brenda Starr" with Brooke Shields. It ended up snarled in litigation and buried forever somewhere.

I bet a number of people wished they had just eaten the sunk costs in "The Two Jakes" (sequel to Polankski's brilliant "Chinatown").

It looks like Brenda Starr with Brooke Shields came out:

It's tough for me to accept the notion that people see a turkey and associate it negatively with the studio, unless the studio is perhaps Disney or Pixar. Or if we're talking about people in the business, and not the viewing public.

I refuse to watch another Oliver Stone movie after having sat through one too many bombs of his, but I couldn't begin to tell you what studio any of his films were associated with.

Few go to movies based on the reputation of the studio behind them...esp. large mainstream studies like Sony which put out a wide array of different types of movies.

Not all the costs are yet sunk. The movie needs to be marketed and there are probably other costs down the distribution chain. It is possible for ticket sales to be so awful so that even these smaller incremental costs cannot be recouped.

Plus, this loss might be insured, but distribution of the movie might jeopardize collection.

I wonder if Peter Taylor, the UK Sony exec, got in trouble for speaking the truth about James Franco.

Observe that Angelina Jolie has released a film portraying the Japanese army in WWII as brutal human-rights violators. Accurate, but it is difficult to imagine a similar film released today featuring the Chinese Communist Party.

I doubt China's Communist Party would object to showing Japan as brutal.

I've yet to see a reason to assume that it's NK's doing.

Apparently the US governement is certain enough about this being NK's doing that they're currently shutting down NK's internet.

Seems like a better strategy would be to disable NK's internet firewall and censorship, but then that might not be possible. Also, is this something many North Korean's will notice?

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