Terror threats keep me reeling | Our Corner

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The following is written by Covington reporter Eric Mandel:

My family doesn’t do the stereotypical Chinese food dinner on Christmas. Oh no. Instead, we Jews open our gifts from Santa-day and race over for a matinee movie. It’s Mandel/Altman family tradition. Always has been.

Thus, while I appreciate President Obama’s recommendation to “go to the movies” in light of the Sony studios hack and subsequent threats against theaters potentially showing “The Interview,” I didn’t need his help with the decision. We are in.

My memory of Christmas Day movies with the family starts with the original “Dumb and Dumber” and flips through a menagerie of other cinematic adventures: “Titanic,” “As Good as it Gets,” “Gangs of New York” (we like Leo), at least one of the “Hunger Games” flicks, “Walk Hard,” “Django Unchained” and “Anchorman 2,” to name a few.

Whether my parents/sisters/cousins and I would have picked “The Interview” as our movie du jour this Dec. 25 is another question entirely. The controversial film, which is the supposed instigator of the hacks allegedly executed on behalf of the North Korean government, was probably a 50/50 bet, based on our previous viewing history. Even if the movie hadn’t been cancelled around the country, I’d still probably be leaning toward “Birdman” — I love me some good Michael Keaton.

No matter the ultimately decided upon movie, it’s disappointing to see American cinemas hijacked. I’ve long worried that terrorists would wise up to our culture’s biggest fear of attack – our leisure time: sporting events, public parks, bars, malls, theaters, etc.

James Holmes’ massacre in Aurora, Colo. during “The Dark Night Rises” certainly put society on notice, but the general response amounted to the shooting be being harbored by a crazy person who did a crazy thing. People can move on from that. It’s harder to imagine constant terror at the theaters, which would certainly lead to metal detector and body scanners before anyone could enter “Frozen 2” or “Fast and the Furious 14.” Frankly, even the notion that an usher might confiscate my pocketed Fun Size Snickers could have me calling for a lifetime theater ban.

Which is why it is even more disturbing that the movie theater chains and Sony backed down to these threats.

I think most people recognize the slippery slope of conceding to terrorist demands. And, although I’ve never been much of a fighter, I’m not one who believes in rolling over to intimidation. Bullies shouldn’t win — and they rarely ever do in the movies.

The FBI reportedly investigated the threat from the group, which calls itself “Guardians of the Peace,” and found no credible intelligence of threat to movie theaters. I’d bet these cyber hackers couldn’t believe the browbeating tactic actually worked.

With that said, I understand the concerns. The cyber oppressors proved their seriousness with the debilitating hack and ominous threat to the public’s well-being. The group made references to the 9/11 attacks and warned neighbors of theaters showing the film “you’d better leave.” I can sympathize with the ensuing “it’s just not worth it” fear of the average moviegoer. It reminds me of the Ebola panic that’s also penetrated the country — the realization that, sure, there’s almost a 0 percent chance that someone coming from East Africa could spread Ebola, but… I’d just a soon not test my luck. Maybe that person should just be quarantined for everyone’s sake.

In some regards, maybe it’s worth quarantining a slapstick, likely offensive buddy comedy. Especially when it can be run a month from now with likely twice the fanfare (people yearn for what they can’t have).

But, just because it is an understandable fear, does not make it worthwhile or truly justifiable.

So, as I write this column prior to our early deadline, I pledge to be at a movie, doing my part for the economy as a Jewish American on Christmas Day. I’ll probably buy popcorn and maybe splurge on a soda. And I won’t fear, because the good guys should get a happy ending in real life, too.

• Dec. 26

They weren’t showing Birdman, so I went to “Top 5” and the other half of the family went to the last Hobbit movie.