The Sony Hacking Attacks Turn Violent

Following the release of troves of sensitive data, the Guardians of Peace hacker group is now warning of violent attacks if the anti-North Korean flick The Interview reaches screens.

Kevork Djansezian/Reuters/The Atlantic

The juicy, indecorous, and predictably embarrassing disclosures from last week's hacking of the Sony Pictures network inspired everything from tabloid splashes and lawsuits to yet another crash course on journalism ethics. "Are reporters simply working as tools in a possible North Korean cyberwar?" Anne Helen Petersen asked. "And so much for our national outrage over the National Security Agency reading our stuff," Aaron Sorkin chided.

Apparently, we are still missing the message. According to the Guardians of Peace, the hackers who claimed responsibility of the hack, the casus belli for the Sony operation is the upcoming Christmas release of The Interview, the new Seth Rogen and James Franco joint, in which the duo set out to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. On Tuesday, the group upped the stakes significantly by issuing semi-veiled threats to attack the movie premiere and "the very time and places 'The Interview' be shown."

More ominously yet, in the group's e-mail, it called on Sony and any place planning to show the film to "Remember the 11th of September 2001."

The slightly incoherent screed went on, "If your house is nearby, you'd better leave. Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment."

As the BBC pointed out, while North Korea denied involvement in the hack, it called the breach a "righteous deed" possibly executed by "supporters and sympathizers."

Tuesday's development certainly got the attention of the Department of Homeland Security. An official in the agency told reporters that it is "aware" of the threats:

We are still analyzing the credibility of these statements, but at this time there is no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters within the United States.

Nevertheless, the entire discourse now changes from rotten spoils of the Sony hack to the broader issue at hand, the line between censorship and provocation. While plenty of readers seemed to have enjoyed the salacious Hollywood dish delivered up by the Sony hack, the fun is over.

In a telling reaction to Tuesday's violent talk, Rogen and Franco canceled a number of press appearances for The Interview.