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Amidst the Sony Hacking scandal, and the issues that resulted from it, George Clooney attempted to be a voice of reason. When Sony decided to pull The Interview from theaters after cyber demands and threats, Clooney took action, and asked the heads of studios and important people in the film industry to sign a petition uniting them in an agreement to stand strong against the hackers.
Clooney informed his peers of the reality of the situation and the threat it imposes on our entire lifestyle, not just one specific comedy movie. The petition explained what studios, networks, and businesses need to do so to prevent a worse situation from occurring. He read the petition in an interview with Deadline:
"This is not just an attack on Sony. It involves every studio, every network, every business and every individual in this country. That is why we fully support Sony’s decision not to submit to these hackers’ demands. We know that to give in to these criminals now will open the door for any group that would threaten freedom of expression, privacy and personal liberty. We hope these hackers are brought to justice but until they are, we will not stand in fear. We will stand together."
And in response, out of the large number of people that Clooney reached out to, not one person signed. Which is incredibly shocking, considering that the petition sounds fairly reasonable. But, Clooney explains that the powerful people in Hollywood were all too fearful to place themselves in a position threatened by the hackers. They were waiting to see if one would sign, and then maybe they would follow suit. But no one wanted to be the first to sign the petition, and therefore nobody ever signed.
Clooney is afraid himself, but of what this dismissal really means for the industries of creative expression. And he’s not the only person who’s noticed. Even George R.R. Martin expressed his disgust. Clooney also went on to explain in the interview that this is going to change the world of movie distribution. If studios, like Sony, can’t stand up for their movies, are too concerned about a not-so-credible threat (which Clooney adds is really about losing money since theaters first chose not to show it), then the entire industry is going to change. People are going to find it much more difficult to distribute. After talking with Amy Pascal, co-chairman at Sony, Clooney told her she needed to get that movie out there. He said:
"Stick it online. Do whatever you can to get this movie out. Not because everybody has to see the movie, but because I’m not going to be told we can’t see the movie. That’s the most important part. We cannot be told we can’t see something by Kim Jong-un, of all f*cking people."
Because at that moment, creative expression is being stunted. Even President Obama said that the studio made a mistake, and "we cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship in the United States."
Despite this petition not being signed, and the absolute mess that has resulted by caving into the cyber threats, at least Clooney is making his peers, and the industry aware of the mistake they made, and how dire the consequences could be. By being aware, hopefully it can guide future mistakes on being a part of a cause of censorship such as this one.