Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

December 15, 2014

Sony versus North Korea

Filed under: Film,Korea — louisproyect @ 7:29 pm

In the hack of the century, Sony Corporation emails were released to the media with shockingly inappropriate statements made by studio executives about their employees and public figures, including President Obama.

Despite Hollywood’s tilt toward the Democratic Party, private communications reveal contempt for the chief executive who is the butt of stupid racial jokes. Scott Rudin and Amy Pascal, two extremely powerful Sony execs, exchanged email on their way to a fundraiser for Obama at Jeffrey Katzanberg’s mansion in November 2013.

Pascal: “What should I ask the president at this stupid Jeffrey breakfast?”

Rudin: “Would he like to finance some movies.”

Pascal: “I doubt it. Should I ask him if he liked Django?”

Rudin: “12 YEARS.” (A reference to “12 Years a Slave”.

This is the same Rudin who bragged about his ”The Manchurian Candidate” being ”a very, very angry movie”, one that is “honestly distressed about a lot of things going on in the country right now” in 2004. In 2013, when Hollywood was coming out with some tame “social” dramas like “The Wolf of Wall Street”, Rudin described this as “fantastic news for those of us who love trying to make them and have to fight hard for those opportunities” as if Wall Street would tremble at the prospects of Leonardo Di Caprio crawling across the floor after taking Quaaludes.

Meanwhile, Pascal is a major donor to the Democratic Party who is married to Bernard Weinraub, a former business reporter for the NY Times. One of the hacked emails revealed an exchange between him and Maureen Dowd over the proposed content of an article she was writing about “an old boy’s network” controlling Hollywood. There was agreement between Dowd and Weinraub that the article should not be “too antagonistic”.

One imagines that this would have meant sweeping some revelations, courtesy of the hacked emails, under the rug:

1) Men are paid more than women

Sony’s 17 biggest-earning executives are predominantly white men. According to a spreadsheet called “Comp Roster by Supervisory Organization 2014-10-21,” Amy Pascal, the co-chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment is the only woman earning $1 million or more at the studio.

2) It’s not just executives

Sony paid Jennifer Lawrence less than it paid Christian Bale or Bradley Cooper, her co-stars in last year’s hit movie “American Hustle.” Lawrence was paid 7 percent of the movie’s profit, while Bale and Cooper received 9 percent, according to emails sent to Pascal.

The emails contain unflattering comments about Hollywood superstars like Angela Jolie, who is referred to as “a minimally talented spoiled brat”. I think I’ll offer critical support on this.

The hackers call themselves the Guardians of Peace, a fairly obvious reference to the North Korean government’s likely role in organizing the hack. It was angry over the new film being produced by Sony titled “The Interview”, a “comedy” about a couple of American TV reporters being lined up by the CIA to kill Kim Jong-un when they gain access to him under the guise of doing an interview. Ha-ha-ha. Dan Sterling, who wrote jokes for Jon Stewart, was the screenwriter. Ha-ha-ha.

As it turns out, Scott Rudin produced another “comedy” about North Korea, this time demonizing Kim Jon-il, the current dictator’s father. Titled “Team America: World Police”, it was supposedly a satire on American military power. It incorporated the “edgy” style of “South Park”, the cable TV show written and directed by Trey Parker, the film’s director/writer. In my CounterPunch review of a J. Hoberman book, I referred to the long time film critic and scholar’s take on Trey Parker’s film:

In the service of human interest, Team America recruits a replacement commando from the Broadway hit Lease. (He’s first seen singing “Everybody Has AIDS.”) His job is acting, something that intrinsically amuses animators Parker and Stone. Their marionettes vomit, bleed, and explode into organ parts. Indeed, these puppets show more guts than the filmmakers, who direct their fire at very soft targets: French and Egyptian civilians, a Communist dictator, and a bunch of Hollywood showboats. Despite some pre-release Drudge-stoked hysteria regarding an “unconscionable” attack on the administration, no American politicians appear in the movie. (The movie has since garnered Fox News’s seal of approval.) Nor do any media moguls. The filmmakers never satirize anyone who could hurt their career—not even Michael Moore enabler Harvey Weinstein.

When a Sony executive learned that the film concluded with a graphic depiction of Kim Jung-in’s head being blown to bits, he rightly worried that North Korea might be prompted to respond. After he asked the film’s creative team to tone down the conclusion, co-star Seth Rogen blew his stack over the threats to artistic freedom as revealed in a hacked email: “This is now a story of Americans changing their movie to make North Koreans happy. That is a very damning story.” This is the same Seth Rogen, by the way, who made headlines defending Israel against the BDS movement a few months ago.

In today’s NY Times, there is little interest in trying to understand why North Korea was moved to hack Sony emails (although I would have been overjoyed to see them under any pretext). Instead, the emphasis is on Japanese fears about the rogue state:

While many Americans seem to see North Korea as too distant to keep them awake at night, many Japanese see it as a very visible threat. Until three decades ago, North Korean agents occasionally snatched people off beaches in neighboring Japan to serve as Japanese-language teachers, and long-range North Korean rockets on test runs still fly ominously over Japan’s main islands.

Now I wouldn’t put it past the North Korean government to commit any number of heinous acts, but I wonder what the real story about “snatched people” is in light of this report from the March 11, 2002 NY Times:

In court, Meguni Yao, the former wife of a Japanese leftist, said that when the couple lived in North Korea during the 1980’s, she tried to lure lonely Japanese students, some of them studying abroad, to North Korea. There they were to either join a government-supported ”Japan Revolutionary Village” or to train North Korean spies for work in Japan.

Is it possible that the “abductees” were simply young Japanese leftists who made the mistake of relocating to North Korea? Who knows?

What I do know is that North Korea has ample reasons to be afraid of and angry at both Japan and the USA. Keep in mind that Japan colonized Korea in 1910 and imposed a vicious regime that even the anti-Communist south regards as a stain on the country’s history. Korea was a source of raw materials and cheap labor, corresponding to the model identified in Lenin’s essay on imperialism. During WWII up to 200,000 Korean women were forced to become prostitutes to serve the Japanese army, euphemistically called “comfort women” while twice that number of men were sent to work in Japanese war plants against their will. Meanwhile, after the fashion of Nazi German’s Dr. Mengele, the Japanese experimented with captive Koreans in Unit 731, as Nicholas Kristof reported in the March 17, 1995 NY Times:

He is a cheerful old farmer who jokes as he serves rice cakes made by his wife, and then he switches easily to explaining what it is like to cut open a 30-year-old man who is tied naked to a bed and dissect him alive, without anesthetic.

“The fellow knew that it was over for him, and so he didn’t struggle when they led him into the room and tied him down,” recalled the 72-year-old farmer, then a medical assistant in a Japanese Army unit in China in World War II. “But when I picked up the scalpel, that’s when he began screaming.

“I cut him open from the chest to the stomach, and he screamed terribly, and his face was all twisted in agony. He made this unimaginable sound, he was screaming so horribly. But then finally he stopped. This was all in a day’s work for the surgeons, but it really left an impression on me because it was my first time.”

Whatever other sins he is guilty of, Kim Il-sung, the founder of the ruling dynasty in North Korea, deserves historical accolades for driving the Japanese out of Korea. For this transgression, he was punished by the USA that under the fig leaf of UN-sponsored conflict resolution, invaded Korea and killed 290,000 North Korean soldiers and was responsible for nearly 3 million civilian casualties in the south and north combined. That is about 10 percent of the total population in 1950. Can you imagine how the USA would react if a country that had invaded and killed 30 million of its citizens would react to a “comedy” that climaxed with the assassination of its president? Of course, that is completely hypothetical question given the fact that the USA has ruled the world for the better part of a century. Eventually that will change under the impact of economic transformations that will render the imperialist monster toothless—the sooner the better.



  1. It’s rare these days to see commentary on N. Korea put into some proper historical context.

    Like every US war in the 2oth centrury there was a pretext manufactured to whip up the public to support war.

    Like every Major War in the 2oth century it was prosecuted by Democrats. (The Panama Invasion and the 1st Gulf War don’t count as wars since only one side was shooting).

    Few recall that in N. Korea the US 1st deployed and refined the use of dropping Napalm bombs on people.

    That’s right. Mao warned MacArthur that if he crossed some geographical line ( I think it was the 43rd parallel?) he’d be at War with Red China. The demented MacArthur defied Truman (who was himself a racist nutcase that practically needed a straight-jacket to prevent him from pushing the nuclear button according to books by his aids) and crossed that line.

    You can’t bluff (unless you’re Obama in Syria) on International ultimatums so Mao sent in waves of ill-equipped troops who were massacred in the tens of thousands by Napalm.

    The irony is that these troops killed were actually the natural allies of the US since they were primarily conscripts of the sons & daughters of expropriated landowners!

    The US repeated this slaughter of its own natural allies later in ’92 when it sent waves of B52 bombers to pound for weeks meager sand bunkers filled with Iraqi Shia conscripts lying in the desert, any of whom would loved to have martyred themselves against Saddam Hussein.

    Atilla the Hun had nothing on Uncle Sam when it comes to unrelentingly mindless human slaughter.

    The holes in this culture are as black as anything found in the Cosmos.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — December 16, 2014 @ 12:36 am

  2. “The Interview” is a US propaganda vehicle, pure and simple.

    See how the military industrial complex shaped its content, particularly the assassination of Kim Jong-Un, here: http://antiwar.com/blog/2014/12/18/state-dept-the-interview/

    Comment by Richard Estes — December 19, 2014 @ 2:29 am

  3. http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/12/north-korea-is-not-funny-the-interview-sony/383885/2/
    Adrian Hong penned this op-ed for the Atlantic which faults the movie, not for it’s anti-regime stance, but for finding humor in the North Korean situation to begin with. I was wondering what your or any of your readers’ take on it was. Hong is involved in an NGO called Liberty in North Korea and is often regarded as a North Korea expert, but I don’t know too much about him other than that.

    Comment by Rob — December 19, 2014 @ 10:32 am

  4. I worded my first sentence in that last comment a little weird. I didn’t mean to imply that a stance against the Kim regime in NK is something that should be faulted. I have no sympathy for the current system that rules North Korea. I guess I meant to refer to the film’s apparent jingoistic spirit.

    Comment by Rob — December 19, 2014 @ 10:39 am

  5. CNN, which is inflicted gratis on the football-chewing denizens of the office building where I work in Northern Virginia, has been staging a nonstop blitz of fearmongering over the Sony hack. I could swear I actually saw Wolf Blitzer’s head come off and roll around the four corners of the screen chattering like a set of key-wound false teeth.

    I wish to declare the following:

    I am not the least bit terrified by this act of so-called “cyberterrorism.”

    I don’t give the tiniest fraction of a fuck that somebody made nasty remarks about a few politicians and celebrities behind their backs and now it’s out in the open. As if you couldn’t bathe in this shit on Twitter any day of the week.

    Nor do I care in any way if the intellectual property of Sony Corporation has been communistically infringed. Screw Sony Corporation. Not a single tear will I shed.

    My personal guess is that Sony knew “The Interview” would be a big money loser and have decided to suppress it only so that they can gin up a whirlwind of paranoid bucks when they (inevitably) decide to change their brave little minds and release the thing after all.

    Nothing has amazed me more this month than the apparent fact that the suckers are taking this nonsense seriously. That’s the true nightmare in this situation. People are actually taking this horseshit seriously.

    Comment by Pete Glosser — December 19, 2014 @ 9:04 pm

  6. Whatever other sins he is guilty of, Kim Il-sung, the founder of the ruling dynasty in North Korea, deserves historical accolades for driving the Japanese out of Korea.

    Virtually all of Kim Il-sung’s anti-Japanese actions were carried out in Manchuria, as part of the Chinese Communist Party-led Northeast Anti-Japanese United Army. His only significant success against the Japanese in Korea itself was a 1937 raid on Japanese civil government offices in the town of Poch’ŏn, near the border with China. The Japanese subsequently launched a major anti-guerrilla campaign that pushed the United Army further into the northeast (an event commemorated in North Korea as the “Arduous March,” along the lines of the “Long March” in CCP historiography); they eventually ended up in the Soviet Union, where Kim became a major in the 88th Brigade of the Soviet Army’s Far East Command. The Far East Command was primarily concerned with preparation for the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, and Kim’s unit was specifically tasked with gathering intelligence there. (Kim’s own claim that he spent part of the 1940s leading guerrillas at Mount Paektu—and that Kim Jong-il was born there and not in the Russian Far East—should be taken with a huge grain of salt.) Korean forces participated in the eventual Soviet offensive against Japan, but it was halted before reaching Korea due to poor supply lines, and the Japanese forces in Korea quit as part of Japan’s general surrender in mid-August 1945 (though there were some mopping-up operations afterwards). The 88th Brigade was disbanded and a number of its members (including Kim) finally arrived in Korea in mid-September to take up new posts in the Soviet zone.

    To be sure, Kim had genuine anti-Japanese credentials, and a degree of renown from his activities in Manchuria in the 1930s. He also likely provided some useful assistance to the Soviets in their operations against Japan. But he was largely unknown to the domestic resistance in Korea (including the underground Korean Communist Party) and there’s little reason to think he played a significant role in ending the Japanese occupation of Korea—much less the almost single-handed leadership ascribed to him by North Korean sources. The unfortunate fact is that the Japanese faced no major challenge to their rule in Korea during the war years, thanks to the classic imperialist combination of sheer ruthlessness and longstanding co-option of the local ruling class.

    Comment by Jean-Michel — December 28, 2014 @ 11:05 pm

  7. The right-leaning sentiment of South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone has already been acknowledged by the newly coined terms South Park Republicans and South Park Conservatives. Stone’s comment, “I hate conservatives, but I really fucking hate liberals” gives the game away. Under the guise of the old “curse on both their houses” we find his true preference thourgh what he “least” hates.

    Comment by George — December 29, 2014 @ 6:28 pm

  8. Please dont’ fall for the accusation that North Korean is responsible for this hack – an assertion by the USG that now now become an assumption of mainstream media discourse. Given the specifics of how this event developed, it was always somewhat ridiculous, and has been pretty thoroughly discredited by cyber experts like Marc Rogers. The hackers were goofing around with “God’sApstls,” the GOP [!], Salted Hash, and the Stephen King of children’s books, before the media brought up the North Korea/Interview angle.

    Maybe it was N.Korea, maybe not. Nobody knows, and the bald assertion of certainty and the consequent cry for “sanctions” and aggression are entirely unjustified.

    Let’s recognize what’s going on here: Only North Korea, or some similar villainous enemy of the US, fills the whole frame nicely – absolving Sony of any responsibility for avoidable security lapses and reinforcing the “terrorism” fear-mongering that is now the prime narrative of the US government and media. That’s why the assumption of North Korea guilt will persist. That beast needs to be fed.

    We should also be aware that The Interview was a government-vetted cultural production and a tool to promote assassination. The nastiest version of the scene where Kim Jong-un is killed by blowing up his head was explicitly lauded by American intelligence professionals because it might inspire Kim’s actual assassination.

    It’s another example of close Hollywood-intelligence-government cooperation in film production, the likes of which we have seen recently in Zero Dark Thirty and Argo—“just” entertainment that just happens to reinforce, through accidentally-on-purpose cooperation, the dominant US government narrative about who’s crazy and what’s funny.

    See:the analysis at: Goosebumps: A Scary Sony Story

    Comment by The Polemicist — January 3, 2015 @ 12:47 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: