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Marketing Madness

Is it just me or does anyone else think like me that this whole uproar over the supposed foreign “threat” to Americans’ freedom in the form of warnings against showing a low-brow Hollywood comedy, “The Interview” is a pathetic farce?

It hit bottom for me today when I read in the New York Times that viewers who flocked to one theater to see this over-hyped move kicked it off by collectively pledging Allegiance and singing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”

First of all, let me point out that if the tables had been turned and some other country’s film industry had cranked out some movie depicting the assassination of the current president of the United States, does anyone think that the US government would not go ballistic in protest, no doubt threatening trade boycotts or worse — maybe drone attacks on the studio in question? (Certainly that would be a possibility if the offending nation were Islamic.)

But on top of this, we already know that the initial claim that the threats against theaters showing the film, and the hack of Sony, the film company that made the movie, was wrong, and that they were not the work of the North Korean government, but rather of some private hacking organization. It wouldn’t surprise me to someday discover that Sony, stuck with what looked like a dog, paid some shady outfit to “hack” them and make threats all in order to build “buzz” around the film’s release.

Whatever or whoever it was behind the threats against this film, it worked like a charm. Americans, who probably would have ignored this movie like a remake of “Ishtar,” have been flocking to it in a jingoistic fervor to see Kim Jong-un’s head explode, even as the US government, which had been threatening retaliation against North Korea, has now had to back away from those threats as it becomes clearer that Pyongyang was not behind them.

What is really sad though, is to see US citizens proudly emptying their wallets for inflated tickets to see this sorry production (which was actually long before North Korea even protested about the film) and crowing that they are “standing tall” against threats to American “freedom of expression.”

Where were these supposed heroes of free expression when Washington was pressing the cable companies not to include the English version of Al Jazeera in cable packages? Where were they when we learned, in 2004, that the Bush/Cheney administration had successfully pressured the NY Times to withhold from publishing, from September until after the presidential election, an exclusive article by reporter James Risen that the NSA was massively spying on all Americans — keeping that issue out of public discourse until Bush was successfully–and narrowly — re-elected? Where are these ardent defenders of media freedom today as the Federal Communications Commission prepares to approve a merger of Comcast and Time Warner to create on single monopolistic cable company? And where are they as the government sits on a secret indictment of Wikileaks founder Julien Assange, the Australian journalist whose only “crime” is exposing documents proving the corrupt, authoritarian and criminal behavior of the US government. Assange has been trapped for over two years in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London dodging extradition to Sweden on a spurious charge of sex abuse — a charge which is widely known to be merely a device to get him to Stockholm, where the US prosecutors could get him extradited trial on espionage charges in the US.

The jingoistic yahoos who are flooding theaters to watch Kim’s head explode on screen are not defending media freedom. They are participating in just another marketing campaign by a huge media corporation that needed to do something to rescue a dog of a film that it found itself stuck with.

If they really wanted to be freedom’s heroes, US filmgoers would be lining up at theaters that are showing the movie “Kill the Messenger,” an excellent drama based on a real story. It exposes how the CIA used its contacts and perhaps even paid agents who work inside the largest and supposedly “free and independent” corporate media organizations, to spread lies and destroy the reputation of Gary Webb, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who had exposed an incredibly cynical and criminal program by the CIA in the 1980s to facilitate the massive import into the US of cocaine from Latin America in order to raise money from the drug cartels which it used to fund arms for the Contra army fighting to overthrow the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

(Such viewers could have even had their exploding head, since Webb, either in an act of despondent suicide after having his career and marriage destroyed, or as a treacherous act of CIA murder as many suspect, ultimately died of two shots fired into his mouth, the first of which blew away his jaw, and the second of which entered his cranium and killed him.)

Instead, the over-hyped film “The Interview” is now a blockbuster, with theaters packed by jingoistic bozos, while “Kill the Messenger” is relegated to a handful of art houses.

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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