Christmas came early for Communist dictators.
Kim Jong-Un, a fan of Friday the 13th, The Godfather, and Rambo, nevertheless succeeded in reviving the Hays Code this week. Instead of forbidding the pornographic violence of his favorite films, the tyrant banned a film that showcased the pornographic violence of his regime. Hollywood meekly acquiesced. It’s good to see that the industry that gave the world The Human Centipede retains some uncrossable lines.
On Wednesday, Sony Pictures pulled the Christmas release of The Interview, a Seth Rogan-James Franco comedy about two goofballs enlisted by the CIA to assassinate Kim Jong-Un, after a hacking campaign from a country whose satellite-spied darkness suggests a people mired in 19th-century technology. The real CIA, comprised of men so unlike Rogan and Franco, no doubt works feverishly for retribution; perhaps hacking into their Etch-a-Sketches or abducting random abacus beads over the DMZ will unleash the chaos there that they unleashed here.
If anyone rates a vendetta against Sony Pictures, surely Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd do. The Interview appears as a Spies Like Us ripoff. But this is Hollywood, whose top-ten grossing films for 2014 consist solely of sequels, remakes, and films based on old comic-book characters. Creativity, like courage, need not apply.
Wednesday also saw the Obama administration move to normalize relations with the abnormal regime 90 miles south of the Florida Keys. The president traded three Cubans jailed in America for one jailed American in Cuba. Unfortunately, 11 million remain imprisoned on the island penitentiary.
We hopefully await the liberalizing impact on Cuba. But as Hollywood’s cinematic attempt to depict North Korea indicates, cultural exchanges with totalitarian regimes occasionally rub the tyranny off on America rather than America’s freedom off on the totalitarians. Akin to Hollywood switching the villains in Tom Clancy’s Sum of All Fears from Islamic terrorists in the book to neo-Nazis in the movie, the censorship of The Interview moves us closer to Article 7 of North Korea’s “ten principles of the party”—“We must impose the absolute authority of our leader”—than it moves the Hermit Kingdom to the Constitution’s First Amendment.
As Castro and Kim dominated the headlines, pundits pondered the news this month that the economy of China overtook the American economy earlier than anticipated. Perhaps we should be grateful that Henry Luce’s American Century lasted 140 years. But it would have been nice had a more benevolent power than the not-so-Red-anymore Chinese eclipsed America’s economic might.
To the extent that our free market has influenced China’s development, that’s wonderful. But it’s clear that Chinese Communists, like the North Korean Communists who owe their power to them, influence the West, too. The deletion in the People’s Republic of scenes unflattering to the Chinese from Skyfall, a James Bond movie suspiciously flattering to the Chinese, represents the tip of the influence iceberg. Movie studios, eager to penetrate the Chinese market, self-censor.
A regime outraged by Western films needn’t embark upon a crass campaign of cyber-terrorism. They need only, it seems, allow their citizens to purchase great numbers of movie tickets to direct the films in a manner pleasing to them.
Events seemed to march in a different direction 25 years ago this month. The Romanian people’s 1989 Christmas gift of a bullet to Nicolae Ceaușescu’s head put the exclamation point on a transition from Communism to freedom that otherwise played out more peacefully than the transition to Communism earlier in the century. Today, some Communists appear as capitalists; others remain as crackpots. But the impulse of Western leaders, in Washington, Hollywood, and beyond, to placate rather than frustrate the strongmen who frustrate the lives of so many persists.
How does it make ours a better society by buying their cigars and becoming their Leni Riefenstahls?
Lenin’s prediction, “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them,” appears now more late than wrong.