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Excerpt: "It's pretty tasteless for the United States - a country complicit in so many assassinations of foreign leaders - to make a comedy movie about assassinating a foreign leader."

Screenshot of the scene in which Kim Jong-un is assassinated, which the movie portrays in excruciating slow-motion. (image: Columbia Pictures)
Screenshot of the scene in which Kim Jong-Un is assassinated, which the movie portrays in excruciating slow-motion. (image: Columbia Pictures)

'The Interview' Is Propaganda Masquerading as Comedy

By Ken Klippenstein and Paul Gottinger, Reader Supported News

02 January 15


t’s pretty tasteless for the United States – a country complicit in so many assassinations of foreign leaders – to make a comedy movie about assassinating a foreign leader. Though Hollywood’s lack of tact wasn’t much surprise, it was shocking to learn that the State Department signed off on the film. If, say, the Venezuelan government formally approved a film about the assassination of Barack Obama, one suspects Washington would accuse them of quite a bit more than poor taste.

As easy as it is to dislike The Interview – a comedy about the CIA assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un – one must concede that it had its comic elements. For example, the film’s assertion that North Korea’s nukes can reach the U.S., when in reality, North Korea possesses “no real long-range missile threat,” to quote expert Markus Schiller of RAND. Or the fact that it is Brian Williams, the putative exemplar of journalistic objectivity, who reports this fiction about the nukes’ ability to reach the U.S., in a cameo he has as himself. Or the part where North Korea is ominously deemed the most dangerous country on earth, despite the fact that the North likely has only a few small nuclear weapons – quite unlike the U.S., which has thousands of far more destructive nuclear weapons (and is the only country to ever have used nukes).

No less farcical is the fact that the U.S. government expects Americans to fear North Korea, which has a military budget 74 times smaller than that of the U.S., and has military hardware so outdated that their planes are literally falling out of the sky.

To call the movie propaganda is hardly polemical; Bruce Bennett, a North Korea expert, himself praised the film’s value as propaganda to Sony, which consulted him about the movie. Bennett is a senior defense analyst at RAND, a respected think-tank with which the government frequently confers. Bennett told Sony’s CEO:

[A] story that talks about the removal of the Kim family regime and the creation of a new government by the North Korean people (well, at least the elites) will start some real thinking in South Korea and, I believe, in the North once the DVD leaks into the North (which it almost certainly will).

The fact that the State Department greenlighted the movie further suggests its value as propaganda. (That Sony would even ask for the government’s opinion is a fine illustration of the warmth of Hollywood’s relationship with Washington.)

Even by propaganda standards, The Interview was surprisingly racist. James Franco’s character says “Konnichi wa” (Japanese for “hello”) to Koreans. There are cracks about Koreans eating pet dogs, and about how a Chinese word resembles American slang for the penis. In this way the film fits nicely into the long tradition of orientalist bigotry the U.S. has shown toward enemies in Asia.

The jester is supposed to mock the king; Seth Rogen instead mocks his government’s avowed enemy, Kim Jong-Un. This should be seen for what it is: pandering.

Sixty years of threats, sanctions, and military buildup in the Pacific has neither removed the Kim family from power nor prevented the North from obtaining nuclear weapons. The only successful policy has been negotiation. For example, following negotiations with North Korea, the Clinton administration managed to freeze development of the North’s nuclear reactor and assist in opening relations between the two Koreas.

Contrary to widespread illusions, North Korea desires negotiations with both the U.S. and South Korea. Yesterday, Kim Jong-Un proposed talks with South Korea at the “highest level.” North Korea even offered to cooperate with a U.S. investigation into the Sony hack.

The FBI’s assertion that North Korea was behind the Sony hack is a convenient narrative for the U.S. government, as it justifies the standard policy of ratcheting up pressure on the North. However, many computer security experts are skeptical that North Korea was behind the attack.

Alex Holden, founder and chief information security officer of Hold Security, has encountered North Korean hacking efforts in the past. He told RSN that it appears unlikely that North Korea was behind the hack. Hold stated:

[The hackers’] comments about social media, understanding value of Social Security numbers, good control of grammar (but use of poor English) are all indicators of someone who has exposure to our culture. Based on what we know about North Korea, it is not a likely scenario.

Rather than being a highly sophisticated attack, characteristic of state-sponsored hacks, Holden said the attack seemed “not ‘cutting edge’ but rather a typical abuse of stolen credentials.”

Holden also remarked that the computer security employed by Sony appeared flimsy:

[It] is hard to imagine good security when the hackers spent so much time inside Sony’s network undetected and downloaded so much data without triggering any alarms. This access, duration of the breach, and amount of network traffic caused by siphoning all the data should have been noticed – hence it casts my doubts about Sony Pictures’ state of security.

Despite growing evidence challenging the belief that North Korea executed the attack, the establishment media’s dutiful reporting of the U.S. government narrative has had its effect. A CNN/ORC poll from December 21, 2014, reports that 61% of Americans believe the Sony hack was an act of terrorism, and 76% of Americans would support increasing economic sanctions on North Korea – which could harm the already impoverished North Korean people.

The Interview’s depiction of the North Korean government makes it seem worthy of Bush’s “axis of evil” epithet. This portrayal serves to prevent an understanding of the context for the tension between the two Koreas.

It is worth considering why North Korea developed nuclear weapons in the first place. While it’s not possible to be completely certain, the timing of the North Korea’s announcement that it possessed a nuclear weapon gives some hints. The Bush administration had cut off negotiations with the North and in 2002 included North Korea in the “Axis of Evil.” A little over a year after Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech, the North announced it had a nuclear weapon. And while nuclear development had been ongoing, its announcement came just over a month after the U.S. invaded Iraq.

For these reasons, Korea expert Bruce Cumings has called the North’s nuclear weapon “Bush’s bomb.”

George Orwell’s “1984” contains a passage about how people are routinely made to watch a video depicting their totalitarian government’s most loathed enemy, Emmanuel Goldstein. For two minutes each day, they’re compelled to yell hysterically at the video, expressing their contempt for Goldstein. The ritual is clearly designed to reinforce the people’s hatred of the official enemy and distract them from their grievances with their own abusive government.

The Interview is basically Orwell’s ‘Two Minutes Hate’ expanded into 112 minutes and directed at one of the U.S. government’s many Emmanuel Goldsteins – Kim Jong-Un.

Paul Gottinger is a journalist based in Madison, WI. He can be reached on Twitter @paulgottinger or email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Ken Klippenstein is a staff journalist at Reader Supported News. He can be reached on Twitter @kenklippenstein or email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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