I was barely aware of The Interview until, while sitting through a trailer for what seemed like just another idiotic leaden comedy, my youngest informed me that the North Koreans had denounced the film as "an act of war". If it is, they seem to have won it fairly decisively: Kim Jong-Un has just vaporized a Hollywood blockbuster as totally as if one of his No Dong missiles had taken out the studio. As it is, the fellows with no dong turned out to be the executives of Sony Pictures.
I wouldn't mind but this is the same industry that congratulates itself endlessly - not least in its annual six-hour awards ceremony - on its artists' courage and bravery. Called on to show some for the first time in their lives, they folded like a cheap suit. As opposed to the bank-breaking suit their lawyers advised them they'd be looking at if they released the film and someone put anthrax in the popcorn. I think of all the occasions in recent years when I've found myself sharing a stage with obscure Europeans who've fallen afoul of Islam - Swedish artists, Danish cartoonists, Norwegian comediennes, all of whom showed more courage than these Beverly Hills bigshots.
I said on Rush on Monday and with John Oakley in Toronto on Wednesday that The Interview was an "edgy" comedy only in Hollywood terms. Ever since Team America, the Kim dynasty has been the homicidal nutjobs it's safe to make jokes about. Produce a comedy about the Iranian mullahs or the ISIS honchos or any of their coreligionists and you risk finding a far more motivated crowd waiting for you at the stage door. Best to stick to the North Koreans, the one member of the axis of evil you can play for laughs.
In my new book The [Un]documented Mark Steyn (personally autographed copies of which make a delightful Christmas present your loved one will cherish forever), I have an entire section called "Last Laughs" - on banned jokes, canceled comedies, the plays we'll never see, the books we'll never read. On page 363, I quote Stephen Breyer, one of the genius jurists of America's Supreme Court, arguing that maybe free speech didn't extend to upsetting Islam - that provoking Muslims was a classic example of "shouting fire in a crowded theatre". And I commented:
More importantly, the logic of Breyer's halfwit intervention is to incentivize violence, and undermine law itself. What he seems to be telling the world is that Americans' constitutional rights will bend to intimidation...
It is a basic rule of life that if you reward bad behavior, you get more of it.
And, as I've been saying since America Alone (personally autographed copies, etc, etc), it was always naive to assume that the lessons of such cravenness would be apparent only to Islam. As I said to John Oakley on the radio, why shouldn't Kim Jong-Un cut himself a piece of that action? How about, say, Putin?
Free speech is in retreat around the world. Twenty-five years ago, through all the violent demonstrations and murders of associated figures, The Satanic Verses remained in print and in almost every bookstore. Were it a new book being pitched today, no publisher would take it. I see that, following the disappearance of The Interview, a Texan movie theater replaced it with a screening of Team America. That film wouldn't get made today, either.
Hollywood has spent the 21st century retreating from storytelling into a glossy, expensive CGI playground in which nothing real is at stake. That's all we'll be getting from now on. Oh, and occasional Oscar bait about embattled screenwriters who stood up to the House UnAmerican Activities Committee six decades ago, even as their successors cave to, of all things, Kim's UnKorean Activities Committee. American pop culture - supposedly the most powerful and influential force on the planet - has just surrendered to a one-man psycho-state economic basket-case that starves its own population.
~Today, Thursday, I'll be in Montreal with the legendary Tommy Schnurmacher live on CJAD at 10am Eastern. Join me later, south of the border, with Hugh Hewitt at 6pm Eastern.