Sony, “The Interview,” and Running Government Like a Business.

It strike me that the situation with Sony and The Interview is a good example of why you can’t run government like a business. While the US government would have to make calculations about warding off future attacks, national reputations, etc. in the face of terrorist threats, all Sony (And AMC, etc.) had to do was calculate how much they would likely make v. how much they would likely lose if they released the film and then make a call.

If this was the new Star Wars movie you can be guaranteed that the release would be taking place.

On that topic,  Newt Gingrich calling this a “cyberwar” strikes me as a more than a bit hyperbolic:

FILED UNDER: Entertainment, Popular Culture, Terrorism, , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. C. Clavin says:

    Sony is a Japanese business.
    The Korean Child-King should not be allowed to threaten us.
    But it is not Sony’s problem. Their only problem is the bottom line. Even with Star Wars…when you calculate the potential liabilities…their decision is a no-brainer.
    Also…when was the last time Newt was right about anything? 16 years ago when he still believed in Climate Change?

  2. michael reynolds says:

    God may strike me dead for saying this, but Gingrich is right, and this is a lot more serious than you recognize. It is now impossible for Hollywood to touch North Korea as a topic. How long until ISIS or Iran are similarly off-limits?

    There is a real chilling effect here. I can guarantee you that scripts all over Hollywood are being rewritten or trashed because of this.

    Even in my own little sinecure I’ve had to deal with attempts at foreign censorship. My German publisher wanted me to remove any reference to gay characters. I refused. But I let the Swedes tone down a violent scene. And at the moment I have a Chinese publisher asking me to change all the Chinese characters in a book to Russians.

    Those decisions don’t end up being on my US or UK publishers, they end up being my call. So I’m giving up on the Chinese market because I won’t make the change, but I’m not sure all writers are in a position to do that. Intimidation has to be resisted, otherwise we subject ourselves to censorship.

  3. @michael reynolds: I take your point.

    I do think that this decision has as much to do with the shooting in Aurora as it does NK.

    My point is less that I am happy about the situation, but more that if Sony has made a profit/loss calculation here (along with the theaters) I am not surprised by the decision.

    To my main point: corporations use different calculations than do governments in these matters.

  4. Shawn L. says:

    To be fair, Sony is reacting more to the theater chains’ reactions. Sony was faced with a very patchy release, with potential viewers not knowing if they would be able to see it. This is not a surrender, it’s a retreat.

    So long as Sony reschedules (making the retreat merely a tactical one), I have no beef with them. I suspect they will be retooling their advertising to hype it as the film that North Korea doesn’t want you to see. Sony wants profit, it’s there to be had, but they were likely looking at a loss without rescheduling.

    It’s been only a day. The cancellation was the easy part. Getting a new release date however will be difficult. Especially since Sony will likely be looking for theater chains with a bit more spine, and contractual guarantees that the show will go on.

  5. Tyrell says:

    @Shawn L.: One option would be to go straight to bluray/dvd, Red Box, and pay for view. But a huge theater pemiere and opening date would be more dramatic. Imagine theaters packed with people. That would send a message the North Korean Kook.: bring it on !
    One thing for sure, North Korea will be helping Sony make a big profit.

  6. @Tyrell: I honestly think that the if Sony (and more specifically, AMC, Cinemark, etc,) though that would be the result of showing the film, it would be coming to a theater near you.

  7. gVOR08 says:

    Sony did make a business decision. It was driven by the theater chains, who also made business decisions. Presumably after consultation with their lawyers and insurers.

    I will fail to be surprised by the number of conservatives who will condemn these decisions. They seem to hate free enterprise when it doesn’t work out their way.

    The US government does need to respond. But I doubt we’ll hear about it when they do.