TV & Movies

Is It Wrong to Read the Sony Hack Emails?

Aaron Sorkin says yes, and even though I’ve read every one, I’d have to agree


Angelina Jolie encounters Sony boss Amy Pascal post- Sony hack (Photo: AP)

Angelina Jolie encounters Sony boss Amy Pascal post-hack (Photo: AP)

Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams didn’t make as much money from American Hustle as Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale. Channing Tatum wrote a caps-heavy email celebrating a box office victory. Angelina Jolie’s bosses think she’s a spoiled brat. That new Bond film is plagued by troubles.

This pretty much sums up the quality of the information we’ve gleaned from extensive reporting on the recent Sony hack by a group bent on stopping the release of the Seth Rogen film The Interview, which takes the assassination of Kim Jong-un as its plot. (It’s rumoured that the hack was generated or supported by North Korea, which didn’t find the plotline amusing).

Mundane stuff, really—meaningless in the grand scheme of things—and yet utterly compelling to those of us (read, me) who pour over gossip sites and blogs with the same enthusiasm that a Victorian heroine reads her bible.

But is the insatiable appetite for gossip also facilitating the aims of a group of cyber-terrorists bent on revenge? As much as I wish I could say otherwise, the answer is yes.

In fact, the only thought-provoking analysis of the hack coverage has come from one of its victims, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. In an op-ed for the New York Times, Sorkin went after media outlets that have chosen to mine the data stolen by the group.

Sorkin called the outlets like Variety, The Daily Beast and Huffington Post “morally treasonous” and “spectacularly dishonorable” for the way in which they’ve gleefully dug into the stolen documents.

He argues that that nothing of any true merit has been revealed to justify the breach of privacy, or more importantly, the implicit support of a group that has actually threatened Sony employees and their families with harm.  (They’re not done yet, either. The group, which calls itself Guardians of Peace, has told Sony to prepare for a “Christmas gift.”)

It’s hard not to agree with Sorkin’s point about the low-level value of the info being disclosed. The news that women in Hollywood don’t get paid as much as men is hardly rocking my worldview. The wage gap is a global problem not a local one. And you don’t need to look at starlets’ salaries to draw that conclusion.

Compounding the strangeness, some of those publishing the material have admitted they’re made queasy by their own decisions. The editor of Variety has said he’s uncomfortable about his role in publishing the info, but he’s basically shrugged his shoulders and said, Ah, hell why not?

Others have claimed that the hack story is valuable because it reveals how vulnerable we are to being hacked ourselves. But that’s not a take I’ve seen employed widely. In fact, there’s little investigation into the hacking itself, or its implications. The general consensus is that this is a celeb gossip windfall.

As someone who’s read basically every single post on the Sony hack—and greedily—I think it’s prudent to be honest about my choice. I have to admit to myself that a) I’m taking bait laid out by awful people that mean to do innocent people harm and b) I would be absolutely horrified/terrified if I were the person who had been hacked.

And if it were me in the position of victim I would be making the same argument as Sorkin. I’d be urging people to consider the meaning of their actions and to connect them to larger ideas about the way we want to live and the obligations we owe to those ideals and how important it is in this case not to take the cyber bait.

And oh, boy, I’d really be hoping somebody was paying attention to that.