The Brave New World and The Same Old War

The Pentagon’s Twitter account was hacked by Islamist terrorists on Monday, and everything about that seems strange.
There’s the disconcerting fact that the United States’ military “tweets,” for one thing, and the even more unsettling realization that an Islamic State terror gang best known for hacking heads off hostages is now able to hack the Pentagon’s computers. That the breach occurred while the President of the United States was giving a speech about “cyber-security” to the Federal Communications Commission adds another implausible twist to the plot. The very term “cyber-security” sounds strange to our old-fashioned and low-tech ears, and the missives that the Islamic State was able to post on the Pentagon’s “tweets” include such worrisome neologisms as “CyberCaliphate” and “CyberJihad.” The statements include threats on American military personnel and their families, too, and much gloating about the Islamic State’s cyber victory over the infidel American government.
It’s nothing to worry about, we are assured by the highest sources. Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren dismissed the incident as “little more than a prank, or as vandalism,” adding that “It’s inconvenient, it’s an annoyance, but in no way is any sensitive or classified information compromised.” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said it was “something we take seriously,” but added that “There’s a pretty significant difference between what is a large data breach and the hacking of a Twitter account.” An unidentified intelligence officer told the press that “Hacking a Twitter is about the equivalent of spray-painting a subway car.” None of this, unfortunately, is sufficiently reassuring.
The hackers also posted the names and addresses of high-ranking military officers, at least for long enough to communicate the information to any terror networks affiliated with the Islamic State, and that’s data that the officers and their families will surely consider sensitive. We assume that Twitter serves some important function in the national defense, as well, and even a temporary loss of that capability should be regarded as more than an inconvenience. In light of the recent breach of the Sony Corporation’s computers that shut down a Hollywood movie release, as well as the past security breaches caused by a college drop-out security consultant and a transexual Army Sergeant, ┬áthere is also reason to worry that the pranksters might have more troublesome abilities. Any urbanites who can recall the lawlessness that followed the spray-painting of subway cars knows that even the most petty acts of vandalism must be thwarted to preserve order.
Even if the incident is as inconsequential as the highest sources say, it’s still an unhappy reminder of the dangers the world still poses. The Islamic State now controls a swath of the Middle East the size of Indiana as well as at least the out portions of the Pentagon computer system, and the president can no longer dismiss them as the “jayvee team” of Islamic terrorism. Al Qaeda was said to be on the run, but it has recently murdered 17 people in Paris to avenge their Prophet and are issuing new threats. “The tide of war is receding,” the president once proudly proclaimed, but even the Pentagon’s Twitter page says it is not.

— Bud Norman

Even “Team America” Can’t Rescue Free Speech

Although we are not fond of the comedy of Seth Rogen, we were nonetheless dismayed to hear that his latest motion picture is being pulled from theatrical release because of terroristic threats by the North Korean government. When the tinpot dictator of a third world basket case can determine the choices of the American movie-going public it is a blow to free speech, and we are fond free speech. When the likes of Kim Jong Un can even halt a screening of “Team America: World Police,” the kind of movie that free speech was invented for, we are doubly outraged.
“Team America: World Police” isn’t a movie we recommend to everyone, as it is only suited to certain unrefined tastes. The polite word for its style of humor is Rabelaisian, but such a highfalutin term isn’t quite appropriate to such a deliberately foul-mouthed and dirty-minded puppet show. Those whose minds are already in the gutter and whose stomachs are strong enough for such fare will find it hilarious, though, and notice it has more shrewd points to make than the next ten indie flicks that will play your local art house put together. First released in 2004, the movie spoofs the Bushian patriotic fervor of America in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, but that’s mostly rendered with the sort affectionate understanding that the great Preston Sturges brought to his classic satires “Hail the Conquering the Hero” and “Miracle of Morgan’s” during the similarly proud days of World War II. By far the harshest barbs are aimed at Islamist terrorists, the late North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il, and their equally anti-American sympathizers in Hollywood. “Team America: World Police” is such a convincingly scathing indictment of Hollywood’s limousine liberalism that it’s a wonder Hollywood ever released it, but at the time Hollywood didn’t have the ready excuse of not wanting to offend any of the various Kim Jongs of North Korea.
Since the original release of “Team America: World Police” the North Koreans have been cast as the villains in several movies, including that awful remake of “Red Dawn” which somehow retained all the stupid improbabilities and bad acting of the original but somehow omitted all the popcorn-chomping patriotic fun, probably for lack of politically correct and liability-proof options. Hollywood stopped doing commie villains as soon as the Cold War ended, and even wound up re-making “The Manchurian Candidate” with some vaguely Koch Brothers-ish corporation as the bad guys plotting world domination, and was more likely to release an adoring bio-pic of Che Guevara. Neo-Nazis still make an occasional appearance in the movies, but that beloved cliche has mostly played out from overuse. Christians and Republicans and especially Christian Republicans can always been employed to stop a high school dance or say unpleasant things about a cross-dresser or complicate someone’s abortion or provide some other villainous plot twist, but that’s only good for the women’s market, and is insufficiently violent for the action-adventure fare that brings in the really big box office, and it probably doesn’t translate well to the foreign market.
Islamist terrorists are widely unpopular domestically, a sentiment that probably prevails in a profitable segment of those foreign markets as well, but of course they’re terrorists and might prove more expensively dangerous to offend than whatever’s left of the Neo-Nazis or the Koch Brothers-ish corporations or Christians or Republicans or even Christian Republicans. From the still-in-hiding Salman Rushdie to that besieged Danish magazine that published the Mohammad cartoons to the murdered Theo Van Gogh, criticizing the Islamists has never proved a profitable enterprise. The same ribald fellows who did “Team America: World Police” also do the foul-mouthed and dirty-minded and frequently brilliant “South Park” cartoon, but when they dared to depict Mohammad in solidarity the Comedy Central network did not air the offend segment. The same network’s Stephen Colbert recently received the effusive thanks of the Democratic party for his long service to its cause, which they will cite as proof of how very daring they are, but they are by no means alone in Hollywood in their preference for a safer sort of daring.
Kim Jong Un has apparently noticed this tendency, if that reports that it’s actually a big publicity push for some otherwise unsaleable Seth Rogen flick can be discounted, and now he can enjoy the same immunity from Hollywood villainy as his friends in Iran and Cuba. The studio has already suffered from a cyber-attack that has revealed e-mails and other internal documents confirming that everyone in Hollywood is as self-absorbed and shallow as you’d always thought, and apparently believes that the North Koreans can make good on its more deadly threats. A few theaters decided to show “Team America: World Police” as a protest against the Sony Corporation’s capitulation to the terrorist threat, but the studio decided to pull even that worthier production from the theaters as well. Any other tinpot dictators of third world basket-cases seeking some say in which pictures get green-lighted can expect the same response, and it will likely have an inhibiting effect on the American cinema. At this rate, the next James Bond will have the intrepid secret agent saving the high school dance that one of those creepy Christian Republicans was trying to shut down.

— Bud Norman