I’m a ranter by nature. That’s my thing, my raison d’etre. I don’t often rant about politics, mostly because I am far outranted there. Anything I can say has been said a hundred times better and a hundred times louder.

But today, reading the news idly and watching horrifying news trickle in from the various elections, I had a thought. And it’s one that I haven’t heard articulated before, so forgive me from departing from my usual spiel for a moment. I promise I’ll be back to ranting about pop culture and movies soon enough.

Andrew A. Sailer is a registered Republican, which often surprises people as I travel in circles where saying one is a registered Nazi would generate less scorn. The reason for this is coming of age in the Clinton era, when there seemed to be no accountability for any number of moral and ethical failings so long as the stock market stayed high. I stay thusly registered because of a strong streak of contrarianism–telling me that all the cool kids are doing something is a great way to get me to never try. I also have a strong fiscally conservative streak.

But that’s neither here nor there. My point is that because of this iconoclasm, I often get told exactly what people think about the Republican candidate de jour. And it’s usually that the candidate is a dangerous radical who will start a world war the second their finger is on The Button. I’ve heard it said that everyone from Reagan to McCain was a trigger-happy fundamentalist, even such milquetoasts as Mitt Romney. It’s become such a staid refrain that among my relatively few friends on the right, being vehemently attacked has become something of a badge of honor: if you’re being shouted at by people you disagree with, you must be doing something right.

But something’s happened now. My pals on the left have cried wolf once too often. So now that there is a candidate who really is their worst fears given life and physical form, they’ve got nothing. He’s as trigger-happy as they said Reagan was, as intolerant as they said Bush was, as bullheaded as they said McCain was. But since it’s all been heard before, and hollowly, it falls on deaf ears. It seems like the old refrain of “if they’re attacking them, they must be onto something.”

When you cry wolf one too many times, no one heeds you when the real wolf is at your political door. And then, ladies and gentleman, we are all devoured.

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You’s think that, given a title like the one above, that I’d be ranting against Hollywood’s lack of innovation, its crass celebrity culture, its smug sense of self-satisfaction, or any one of the numerous sins the industry has committed in the 100 years of its existence.

You’d be wrong. I come before you today to rant about something very different: Hollywood’s double standard when it comes to censorship and activism.

One of the major points that industry professionals have emphasized is the ability of their movies to make social points and advance worthy causes, addressing racism, classism, other -isms, and oppression at home and abroad. And it’s true that movies have done that…up to a point. But it’s only recently that the line in the sand has become clear.

Remember in the 1970s and 1980s, when the Soviets were the go-to bad guys? Films weren’t afraid to point out the brutal nature and horrific human rights abuses committed by the communists. And yet, in films today, you never see the few contemporary communist regimes–with one exception as we shall see–portrayed as the rights-abusing boogeymen that they often are. Why is that?

The answer is simple: money. The old Soviet bloc, and other states that espoused similar versions of nastiness in favor of a future utopia that would never be (as opposed to the fascists, who espoused similar versions of nastiness in favor of a past utopia that never was)…they never screened American films, or did so only rarely. There was no money to be lost by pointing out horrific crimes, because there was no chance of Hollywood movies unspooling officially behind the iron curtain.

That’s all changed. In a move that can only be described as Machiavellian brilliance, nasty regimes have opened up their markets to Hollywood films with strict central control. You can make your millions from a movie-hungry foreign audience…but only if the powers-that-be say so. This creates a powerful economic incentive not to piss off a given country, like China, by calling attention to any social points or worthy causes. Thus instead you have craven sucking up to the selfsame governments where once there might have been criticism, like the scenes added to Iron Man 3 or the evil, inept Americans as a contrast to the heroic, competent Chinese government in Transfourmers: The One With Swords and Dinosaurs.

Perhaps a worse example has just been dumped on our laps, though: The Interview. For a long time, North Korea has been one of the few acceptable movie bogeymen, with its abuses and excesses and brutality always on glittering display, because the Hermit Kingdom, like the Soviets of old, allowed no American movies outside of the Kim family’s private theater and there was therefore no chance of alienating a revenue-paying audience. Only the Nazis, discredited and repudiated and dead to history, were more reliable villains throughout the 2000s and 2010s–hell, several movies and video games (like the remake of Red Dawn and the first-person shooters Homefront) were reworked at a late date to swap out Chinese villains for North Korean ones in defiance of all logic. North Korea was “safe.”

But that’s all changed. The Interview apparently touched a deep nerve with the North Koreans, portraying as it does the attempted assassination of King Jong-Un. So the Koreans retained a group of hackers to sabotage Sony, the producer and distributor of the film. Releasing internal documents, emails, and even a few completed films…all this hurt the filmmakers where it hurt most, in the wallet. Realizing that they were in the same position to lose money through hackery, theater chains have begun pulling the movie entirely. They’re billing it a “safety” issue, but it’s really a monetary one–North Korea has proven, at least for now, its ability to cost Hollywood money, and no one wants to pay that price for their principles.

So, in an even more craven move than crudely editing Wang Xueqi and Fan Bingbing into Iron Man 3 to suck up to China, the fear of revenue loss has essentially allowed the world’s most brutal dictator veto power to censor media critical of him. People are dying under jackboots in the Hermit Kingdom as they have been since 1945, but rather than let even a relatively mild “Springtime for Kim Jong-Un” satire unspool safely, Hollywood would prefer to quietly go back to making money.

I’m sorry. That’s craven, it’s crass, and it sets a dreadful precedent for everyone who doesn’t like their portrayal in free media: if you cost people enough money either by denying them revenue or hacking it away, they’ll meekly let you go about your business. That, in my mind, is the biggest reason to seek out and see The Interview if you can find anyone brave enough to distribute it: to send the message to those selfsame craven, crass bean counters that there are bigger things at stake than their damn bottom line. A thousand reboots, a thousand thousand remakes, a thousand thousand thousand vanilla rom-coms before handing the veto stamp to those who deserve the harshest, glitziest spotlight the industry has shone upon them.

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