By BARRY WEISLEDER
Hollywood, Wall Street, and the White House are celebrating the release, albeit delayed and via the internet and small cinemas, of the third-rate comedy “The Interview.” The film is about a plot to assassinate the leader of North Korea. Pyongyang took exception to the idea, and threatened to retaliate, which set off a spate of verbal and cyber warfare.
While there’s much ado about “freedom of expression,” this has little to do with the case. In fact, thoughtful defenders of freedom will avoid getting caught up in the question about whether the film “deserves” to be shown. That’s a subordinate point in the real world drama.
The larger issue is actual Hollywood and Washington bullying. It is the reality of their ceaseless efforts to economically punish, and militarily intervene, against any country or any people who defy the Empire—and who try to exercise national sovereignty.
As much as we find the North Korean regime abhorrent, we should insist that it is the task of its workers and farmers to replace it with a socialist democracy. Clearly, that’s not the agenda of Sony, Obama, or Wall Street. Our task is to expose why the latter are making such a big fuss about the distribution of this film. Our job is to try to deprive their campaign to resuscitate the blood-soaked image of imperialism of any legitimacy it might have in the public mind.
Corporations like Sony censor artists all the time. They rarely depict anything, much less a “good cause,” unless they can pervert it to their priorities, especially profit-making. You don’t have to think way back to McCarthyism and the scores of artists who were purged and blacklisted in the 1950s. Consider today’s cinematic landscape: How many Ken Loach films get the funding or promotion that Seth Rogan comedies enjoy, much less the largesse bestowed upon flicks like the Terminators 1, 2 and 3, or Transformers 1, 2, 3 and 4?
Socialists defend freedom. We make no apologies for Stalinism or totalitarianism of any kind. But many freedoms in our world are at risk, and have been brutally crushed. What should our priority be? Where do we start?
Start by opposing what our rulers, and what their compliant media, “choose” to do. With regard to Korea, keep in mind that our capitalists, the Canadian establishment, in alliance with all the partners of the UN-sanctioned war, led by the USA, wrecked havoc on the Korean people in the early 1950s. Chinese sources estimate that North Korea suffered 290,000 military casualties, 90,000 captured, and a “large” number of civilian deaths. Over a million people overall died in the process. And that’s no comedy punch line.
Since then, Washington has threatened to use nuclear weapons against North Korea. This gave the DPRK the incentive to obtain such weapons as a deterrent. That seems to be working.
I like Canadian-born Seth Rogan and his screwball comedy, in small doses. But that’s beside the point. What should be our attitude towards those “cultural” institutions that celebrate imperialist war, that defend Israeli apartheid, justify sexism and homophobia, and excuse the exploitation of humanity and the plunder of nature?
It is true that the Kim Jun Un regime is abhorrent. It sits atop a repressive state that appears to be plunging headlong into a system of capitalist exploitation, and is thin-skinned to boot. Yes, North Korea might have done better just to ignore the wretched, third-rate Sony flick. But Koreans have paid a very high price for imperialist dominion over Asia. And they remember. So their outrage against foreign arrogance, villification and bullying is understandable. Not so ironically, foreign threats, however they are “packaged,” tend to reinforce the authority of the abominable Kim Jun Un regime.
As movie reviewers have pointed out, many Hollywood films have been made that depict a plot to assassinate a U.S. president. So what’s the big deal here? Well, I ask this: How many of those films have portrayed the would-be assassins of the U.S. president as the “good guys?” Or even as hapless stoners?
What does promotion of “The Interview” now represent? Is it a blow for freedom of expression, or for imperial hypocrisy and bullying?
And about “freedom,” let’s keep in mind an old saying: Freedom of the press exists only for those who own one. And don’t forget the golden rule: He who has the gold, makes the rules.
Some data from Wikipedia:
According to the data from the U.S. Department of Defense, the United States suffered 33,686 battle deaths, along with 2,830 non-battle deaths, during the Korean War. U.S. battle deaths were 8,516 up to their first engagement with the Chinese on 1 November 1950. South Korea reported some 373,599 civilian and 137,899 military deaths. Western sources estimate the PVA suffered about 400,000 killed and 486,000 wounded, while the KPA suffered 215,000 killed and 303,000 wounded.
Data from official Chinese sources, on the other hand, reported that the PVA had suffered 114,000 battle deaths, 34,000 non-battle deaths, 340,000 wounded, 7,600 missing and 21,400 captured during the war. Among those captured, about 14,000 defected to Taiwan, while the other 7,110 were repatriated to China. Chinese sources also reported that North Korea had suffered 290,000 casualties, 90,000 captured and a “large” number of civilian deaths. In return, the Chinese and North Koreans estimated that about 390,000 soldiers from the United States, 660,000 soldiers from South Korea and 29,000 other UN soldiers were “eliminated” from the battlefield.
Recent scholarship has put the full battle death toll on all sides at just over 1.2 million.
Barry Weisleder is national federal secretary of Socialist Action (Canada) and the Canada news editor of Socialist Action newspaper.