By Carolyn Bossmann
Debates about freedom of speech have exploded in the wake of the Sony Pictures hack and the attack of the Charlie Hebdo offices. Independent movie theaters turned into unlikely heroes, and a hashtag united people on a global scale. With sales of the Charlie Hebdo magazine going through the roof and “The Interview” breaking the record for online movie sales, the effectiveness of these attacks is brought into question.
It seems attacks on free speech bring in more publicity for the targeted organizations than if nothing had happened at all.
After the Sony Pictures hack, more people were interested in seeing the movie than before, when it was just another Seth Rogen-James Franco collaboration.
Also, there was a kind of shock value behind a film starring comedians Rogen and Franco, known for their slapstick antics and frequent marijuana use, making such a huge political statement.
However, the release of “The Interview” introduced a new way of premiering movies and broke through the caution tape studios had placed over online release sales. Officially, “The Interview” has made over $40 million in online sales and has been downloaded more than 4.3 million times, according to BuzzFeed News.
The newest edition of Charlie Hebdo sold out in a mere couple of hours on the first day of its release and was raised from its usual 60,000 printed copies to a whopping 5 million, according to The Guardian. Customers in Paris stood in line for a copy before the sun had even risen, and by noon, most stores were completely sold out.
There’s an obvious side effect of attacks on free speech.
They often bring much more publicity than anyone could imagine. While yes, “The Interview” would have made more money in theaters, the viewer count is actually higher than those who had probably planned to see it in theaters.
Meanwhile, the printer for Charlie Hebdo had to continually push the amount it was printing, as so many people were already looking to buy a copy to support the magazine, according to The Guardian.
It’s something that does not really make sense. The attackers meant to extinguish words and ideas they deemed offensive, but they made their case worse.
The published edition of Charlie Hebdo after the attack depicted yet another cartoon of the prophet Muhammad, which was what some would say got the offices attacked in the first place. “The Interview” was seen across the globe, and on the Chinese Internet movie database, Douban, more than 10,000 people rated the movie with an average rating of 8 out of 10 stars, according to Sinosphere, a New York Times blog.
I’m not about to start suggesting ways for people to display their dissatisfaction with something, but I have to say these ways are not helping their cause.
In both cases, terrorist action just connected more people and reintroduced the public’s strong affinity for free speech.
In the end, what people will remember most is the edition of Charlie Hebdo that depicted Muhammad on the cover that read in French, “I am Charlie. All is forgiven,” and that “The Interview” was not worth the international hacking battles it started.
They will not remember Kim Jong-Un was worried people would realize he wasn’t a god. They will not remember any of the names of the people who attempted – and failed – to defeat the idea of freedom of speech through attacking Charlie Hebdo.