Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Can you libel North Korea? Is it all a film industry plot for attention?

It is one of the old gags of being a reporter-type person who covers a lot of crime activity – “You can’t libel the mob!”

No matter how critical one is in the details they write about organized crime, what are the gangsters going to do – file a lawsuit and testify under oath that you’re wrong?

I COULDN’T HELP but remember that thought when I read an Associated Press dispatch from Seoul, South Korea, about how the North Korea government late Sunday accused the United States of spreading “reckless” rumors about its alleged involvement in a hacking of Sony Pictures computers.

The wire service reported that a National Defense Commission statement said officials planned “our toughest counteraction” against the United States, which it said is a “cesspool of terrorism.”

It also said the North Korean government has proof that it had no connection to the computer invasion that wound up disclosing sensitive information about Sony and stirred up enough attention and fear about the upcoming film “The Interview” that Sony officials decided not to release it at all.

Now I’m not going to claim to have any specific detail about U.S. foreign policy or North Korean affairs. Although it wouldn’t shock me to learn that the people who actually did break into the Sony computers are not actual government officials, but sympathizers of the Communist regime that we technically have been at war with since 1950 (although no shooting has taken place since 1953).

ALTHOUGH I DON’T expect anyone to seriously offer proof of that. Because that would involve people, possibly even Kim Jong Un, to have to “take the stand,” so to speak, and tell the truth.

It’s easier for them to spew trash talk. Just like much of our own government’s rhetoric that has blown a potentially third-rate film up into an international incident. We’re talking about putting North Korea back on the list of nations that engage in “state-sponsored terrorism.” Considering that we’re going to have to remove Cuba from that list because of the plans to restore diplomatic relations, it means there’s a vacancy to be filled.

For those of you who have been hiding away in a cave (perhaps the one that Osama bin Laden once used to hide from the U.S. military), this is the film meant to be a comedy about two men hired to assassinate Kim.

But it is a comedy because the two would-be killers are portrayed as a pair of bunglers and the film tells the story about all the things that go wrong during their escapade.

IT MAKES “GET Smart” sound downright intellectual. It sounds like something that should have starred Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels (the crew from “Dumb and Dumber”).

It’s a stupid laugh, and if the North Korean government had any sense, they’d use the film against us as evidence of just how far our society has declined. Instead, they took it seriously and are reacting like nitwits, which had enough people connected to the film industry in this country concerned that the release of the film on Thursday was cancelled.

Which gave us that “Saturday Night Live” sketch this weekend where Michael Myers’ “Dr. Evil” character lambasted Kim as a buffoon and a disgrace to evil leaders the world over.

It also has Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., talking about trying to get a print of the film somehow (I’m not sure if he has that kind of connections) so he can show it during the fundraisers he will have to have in coming months if he is to have enough campaign cash to get re-elected in 2016.

HOW MANY PEOPLE are now going to pay $2,000 or so per ticket to watch an allegedly verboten film? How much unwarranted attention is “The Interview” going to get?

Then again, perhaps Myers’ involvement was appropriate. Because this whole saga has taken on the inane character of a storyline from one of the Austin Powers series of parodies about James Bond-type films.

Which actually makes the conspiracy-theory portion of my intellectual makeup wonder if Sony is eternally grateful for the attention that caused them to stop the film’s distribution.

When it does finally get out, people will think they’re making a political statement by going to see it. Instead of just watching what could have turned out to be a corny story that would have been out of the movie theaters shortly after the coming of the New Year.


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