Yesterday, as Sony Pictures announced that it would not release the Seth Rogan/James Franco movie The Interview because of threats from North Korea, the Center for Inquiry stepped up and said it would be glad to host screenings of the film:
In a letter to Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton, CFI president and CEO Ronald A. Lindsay expresses his disappointment at Sony’s capitulation to threats by still-unknown individuals, as it sends a troubling message that even powerful corporations will censor ideas that might offend certain people.
“Much of our work is centered on securing the right to hold and express unpopular opinions and beliefs in places where dissent is crushed through persecution, violence, imprisonment, and death,” writes Lindsay. “It is a sad turn of events that a powerful source of free expression such as Sony Pictures could choose to give in to a shadowy group’s intolerance of dissent.”
It’s not the first time the organization has done something like this. In 2006, in response to the violent uproar over the Muhammad cartoons featured in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, the CFI-overseen magazine Free Inquiry published several of the images in their pages, leading Borders bookstores to remove the issue from their shelves:
Paul Kurtz, the editor in chief of Free Inquiry, said, “To refuse to distribute a publication because of fear of vigilante violence is to undermine freedom of press — so vital for our democracy.”
Odds are Sony won’t take CFI up on its offer, but that’s all the more reason for more groups to follow their lead here. If the movie is shown everywhere — or at least if that offer is made by many groups — there’s strength in numbers and a showing of solidarity. (Hell, it doesn’t even mean anyone has to watch it.)
Well done, CFI. Even if the movie isn’t screened in Buffalo, this is the message more Americans need to hear.