In Which Everybody Blames North Korea for Something

Five Sony Pictures films were placed online for torrenting over the weekend alongside a file containing confidential financial information. While this is assuredly a boon to the dozen or so people actively anticipating the remake of Annie, it is best thought of as another stepping stone on the company’s well-trod path of financial downturn. The group responsible for the attack goes by the sorta-clever GOP (Guardians of Peace, apparently), but it’s unclear what their exact motivation for attacking Sony is. One hacked Sony twitter account described Michael Lynton, chief executive of the Pictures division, as assuredly hell-bound. Due to the nature of the financial data leaked, which included executive salaries, one of the mundane explanations for the hacking is that this is some sort of retribution for the layoffs the company has undergone in recent years.

But where’s the fun in mundane explanations? You see, there’s an upcoming movie called The Interview. If you haven’t heard of it, the basic conceit is that a celebrity talk show host (James Franco with Seth Rogen as his producer, naturally) score an interview with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. The CIA then tasks the duo with assassinating him. It’s understandable that this movie would offend Kim; it would be challenging not to be offended by a film playing your murder for laughs. Various North Korean officials have referred to the film as terrorism, called for Obama to block the movie’s release, and promised stern retaliation.

At this point you should expect for me reveal that, yes, The Interview is being released by Sony Pictures. It’s become a somewhat popular theory that state-sponsored North Korean hackers are behind the leaking of the latest film in the Shia LaBeouf canon, that they’re attacking Sony’s wallet indirectly as punishment for daring to insult Kim Jong-Un’s name.

Of course, it’s not exactly easy to say with certainty that North Korea is behind it. That’s the whole point of hacking: anonymity. The theory is also hurt by the fact that hacking Sony’s financial data is hardly a novel idea. Three years ago, before James Franco even had the idea of murdering the leader of a sovereign nation, several dozen million Playstation accounts were compromised, forcing the shutdown of the company’s online gaming service for several weeks. That said, Sony is a Japanese company, and given the Kim dynasty’s feelings towards the country is isn’t entirely implausible that North Korea has been hacking the company for years simply out of nationalistic spite. It’s unlikely, but not implausible.

But this blame does reflect a lot on what our idea of North Korea has become. We’ve twisted them into somewhat of a comic-book villain, enacting bizarrely impractical revenge schemes like releasing movies a week before they’re out in theaters and digging extremely long tunnels to launch an underground invasion against South Korea. The country commits far more than their fair share of travesties, don’t get me wrong, but it still says quite a bit about our culture when we choose to focus more on a dictator’s zany antics instead of his death camps.

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