Why we should care about the leaked Sony emails

Hollywood doesn't have the high moral ground when it tells journalists to stop quoting hacked emails

This is a terrible time for Sony Pictures as their executives scramble to deal with the devastating fallout from one of the worst-ever computer hacking attacks on a large corporation. But their executives’ approach to damage control on the more embarrassing aspects of the leaks only serves to damage them more.

I give them credit for taking something of a higher road when it comes to answering for some of their email snark fest — which included stinging comments about Angelina Jolie, Kevin Hart and other stars, as well as an embarrassing back and forth between Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin about what Pascal should ask President Obama at a “stupid” Jeffrey Katzenberg-hosted event. Pascal and Rudin do a riff on about as many black-themed movies as they could come up with. (You can tell when they wrote it that they thought they were being awfully clever.)  Neither denied what they wrote and both apologized. Although Pascal’s apology on the Obama cracks was a little too existential. (The equivalent of: ‘I said it, but it’s not really me.’)

But for Hollywood to send lawyers out to hector the media for printing and describing the emails is a little too high-dudgeon-y for people trashing other people in emails for being spoiled brats, whores,  bipolar lunatics and so on.

Yes, the emails were definitely stolen — and then dispersed on the wide-open Internet.  I can’t think of any reputable news organization that has printed the truly damaging information such as the hacked Social Security numbers of Sony employees. Sony summoned legal titan David Boies to admonish reporters. (Interesting choice. Boies has a reputation for liking reporters and they like him back. Myself included.) Sony "does not consent to your possession, review, copying, dissemination, publication, uploading, downloading, or making any use of the Stolen Information," he wrote to The Times and other publications.

Duly noted. But as Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik lays out in a column, we don’t need Sony’s consent.

Nor do we need for these emails to be of as much news value as the lofty Pentagon Papers to write about them and quote from them with a clear conscience. The simple fact is, they’re fascinating.  They reveal the unvarnished, unvetted, uncensored thoughts — petty, funny, sometimes cruel, sometimes smart — of some of the people at the most powerful levels of Hollywood.  It’s extraordinary to get that look inside — especially since, as Hiltzik points out, Hollywood goes to great lengths to manage what information we usually get about movies and producers and stars (“talent”) and the entertainment industry itself.   “It’s always worthwhile to be reminded what happens behind the carefully cultivated scrim of Hollywood, or any industry, ” Hiltzik writes.

Meanwhile, as more emails come out, Sony execs should worry less about their hacked emails being quoted and more about their hacked fences being mended.

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