Salman Rushdie, Neil Gaiman, and several other noted authors and poets who are members of the PEN American Center have signed an open letter to Sony, urging the studio to distribute The Interview and offering to host a public screening in order “to fight for creative freedom wherever it is threatened.”
“The attack on Sony Pictures is an assault on the wider creative community; one that must be met with unity and resolve,” the group wrote. “PEN would be very pleased to arrange to screen The Interview publicly in New York or Washington, D.C. with appropriate security precautions. This is a genuine offer and one that we hope you will take seriously…”
The PEN group’s offer is just the latest to help get The Interview in front of an audience after Sony bowed to pressure and withdrew the film due to threats from hackers who are believed to be sympathetic to North Korea. In the comedy, Seth Rogen and James Franco play TV journalists who are recruited to assassinate the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. Sony has now said that The Interview will eventually be distributed, but in the meantime, author George R.R. Martin, a congressman, and several national movie theaters have offered to screen the film.
“That the intervention of a foreign government that makes a mockery of intellectual freedom should determine what the American public can see and what American artists can produce is shocking; it puts us all under the sway of armed fundamentalism and intolerance,” continued the PEN letter, which was also co-signed by Tony Kushner, Stephen Sondheim, and 43 others. “If our own government guarantees freedom of speech but other governments can undermine that freedom on our own shores, our Constitution is in jeopardy: the civil liberties of Americans are guaranteed only so long as no one else objects to them…
“If the decision to pull The Interview from all platforms stands, it will represent a lasting blow for free expression, emboldening would-be censors the world over. Impoverishing creative freedom, that outcome would send a message to writers, artists, publishers, and studios that controversial topics are to be avoided—that our right to free speech at home depends on the whims of violent extremists abroad.”
PEN American Center is an organization dedicated to “[making] it possible for everyone to access the views, ideas, and literature of others.” In the 1980s, the group loudly defended Rushdie and The Satanic Verses, the novel that inflamed the Muslim world and resulted in the author going into hiding after Islamic clerics ordered a fatwa, a death sentence, against him.