THE BLOG
12/18/2014 08:40 am ET Updated Feb 17, 2015

Cowardly Sony Pictures Caves: The Slippery Slope of Self-Censorship

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Sony Pictures' act of utter cowardice and self-serving self-censorship in canceling the scheduled release of The Interview exposes Hollywood for what it is -- a fantasy world unable to cope with real-world problems.

For years upon years, Hollywood celebrities have lectured Americans with their out-of-touch political views and beliefs. Those celebrities generally are as vapid and vacuous as the sitcoms that flow out of Los Angeles television studios.

Now, when push comes to shove with threats from North Korea, Hollywood gets shoved over, like a wind blowing down its famous sign.

Want to silence Hollywood? Threaten it, hack into its computer system and reveal its dirty little secrets about the damning and disparaging things executives write in emails about their leading stars.

The executives who put their statements into email in the first place reveal their ignorance of the Internet by expecting that their email messages are private.

And then, when the embarrassing facts are revealed, Sony has the gall to ask the very news media outlets that work in symbiotic fashion with it to stop publishing them.

Under well-established principles of First Amendment law, those outlets, including Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety, are under no obligation to do so. Per the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling Bartnicki v. Vopper, if the news media lawfully obtain truth information of public concern, they are free to publish that information unless the government can demonstrate an interest of the highest order.

What's more, journalists can judge for themselves the newsworthiness of the information in them, despite what Aaron Sorkin might argue in the New York Times. Sorkin should save his speechifying tendencies for writing fictional TV series. Sorkin, of course, was the playwright for A Few Good Men but, alas, he can't handle the truth.

As the Washington Post's Erik Wemple writes:

It's not the media's job to judge the people who steal information. The media's job is to judge the stolen information itself: If it's worth publishing, then publish. Some may argue that media trafficking in the Sony documents will only encourage other hackers to break into other companies' systems. If that's true, then those companies should buttress their systems. But either way, that's not the problem of news outlets.

What country will be next in silencing Sony and other movie studios? Perhaps Vladimir Putin will not like some movie depicting Russia in a negative way. Will Hollywood kowtow and cave then?

The bottom line is that this has become a fiscal and free speech fiasco for Sony. It sends a terrible message to this country's enemies and it sends us down a slippery slope of self-censorship and silence. When Hollywood is asked to put up or shut up, it will shut up.