Negotiating with terror

Carly Besser Opinion Editor

I remember how Americans rallied together after former President George W. Bush dropped the famous line, “America does not negotiate with terrorists.” Our anger following the attacks on Sept. 11 was energized by sheer patriotism and an attitude of never backing down from those who oppose us.

It’s a nice sentiment. Everyone wants to be proud of the country they live in. However, the recent headlines about certain movie theaters refusing to play “The Interview” stirred endless conflict and hypocrisy. After hackers under the alias of Guardians of Peace leaked personal documents belonging to Sony Pictures Entertainment, they made the ominous threat that those who watch “The Interview” will be attacked. There is speculation that the hackers were extensions of the North Korean government, and tried to have the film removed because of its satire of leader Kim Jong Un.

Unfortunately, in this case, we did temporarily negotiate with terrorists because the film was not shown in most major theaters. There are stark differences between the events surrounding Sept. 11 and our response to the Guardians of Peace. In one case, we seemed fearless in our decision to bypass negotiation. In the other, we cowered and partially respected the wishes of cyber terrorists. While they are different, there are components of both events that are similar.

As a reaction to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, we almost unanimously agreed to give up what were formally considered unalienable rights. It was a negotiation with our government in exchange for our protection.

We gave up our right to privacy after the Patriot Act allowed the government to tap into our telephone calls.

The way we fly will never be the way it was. Everything in your suitcase is a potential bomb, including the shampoo I was forced to throw away because the bottle was too big. These are things we gave up so we could eradicate the terrorists we became so afraid of.

The decision to remove “The Interview” from major theaters was not the decision of the government. In fact, President Barack Obama shared his distaste about it. It was the decision of theater companies and Sony. 

However, it is still an abandonment of our First Amendment rights to withhold the film. We have a freedom of expression and speech. The decision to pull the movie was a violation against the director’s expression and it was also a violation against Americans who wanted to enjoy the film.

We gave up our rights for protection against unverified terrorists that made empty threats.

Sony decided to save face by showing the film in independent theaters and offering it on YouTube, but I’m still disappointed in our initial response to the unsubstantiated threats.

We’re not even sure if they were made by the North Korean government. The FBI casted doubt after publicly announcing it was more than sure.“The Interview” could barely be considered propaganda because of its comedic aspect. Sony’s cowardice was unnecessary. 

Column by Carly Besser, Opinion Editor