Here’s One Way to Turn the Cyberattack on Sony Back on North Korea


Drop ‘The Interview’ on Pyongyang

Sony might fear retribution if it did this, but an alternative would be for the U.S. government to buy the movie rights from Sony and release it into the public domain. 

U.S. officials are saying they think North Korea is responsible for the hacking of Sony Pictures, and perhaps also the threats that led the studio to cancel release of “The Interview.” Outsiders aren’t so sure, but the U.S. presumably has evidence others don’t. If the Obama Administration believes the evidence, the question is what it will do about it.

“Chinese netizens love to mock Kim, and North Koreans like to watch movies smuggled across the border from China. Perhaps the CIA could dub the movie into Korean to make sure it gets to its target audience.”

Park Sang Hak, a North Korean defector now living in the South, has an idea. Mr. Park, whom we profiled last year, puts information about the outside world along with movies and television programs on USB drives, which he floats into the North on balloons. The Kim Jong Un regime has labeled him “enemy zero” and sent an assassin to kill him with a poison-tipped pen. For real.

Mr. Park wants to include “The Interview” on future balloon launches. But there is another way to make sure that the movie gets the giant audience that Kim fears, even in North Korea: Make it free. Read the rest of this entry »

[BOOKS] Hotel Florida: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War


Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn, c. 1940 (Ernest Hemingway Collection / John F. Kennedy Library)

Whores de Combat: In search of adventure and engagement

Hotel Florida: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War, by Amanda Vaill, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 464 pp.


For The American ScholarCharles Trueheart writes: For its young cohort of reporters and photographers, and citizens of conscience, the Spanish Civil War was the place to be. It was not just the big war of the moment, although it was bloody enough, tearing Spain apart for three years (and for succeeding generations) and killing nearly 400,000 people. The conflict also bore the weight of a burgeoning global struggle, keenly watched and abetted by Hitler and Stalin, and was widely understood to be the harbinger of an inevitable world war.

“Hemingway had a clever phrase for the women who hung around the hotel, which may just as well have described the accredited reporters and photojournalists, day-trippers and do-gooders…whores de combat.”

Enter the cast of Hotel Florida, Amanda Vaill’s energetic group biography of six characters who found themselves—or rushed to place themselves—in the heat of this great battle to defend a shakily democratic, fractiously Republican Spain against the Nationalist rebellion of General Francisco Franco.

“…It captures the intellectual promiscuity of war reporting, and perhaps of journalism in general.”

In July 1936, when Franco led the army uprising, Robert Capa and Gerda Taro were young photographers in Paris, Jewish émigrés from Hungary and Germany, respectively, with newly assumed trade names. When they heard the news from Spain, Vaill writes, they felt “the adrenaline rush of a scoop in the making” and decided to leave for Spain immediately. “Here was a chance to document the struggle between fascism and socialism that was already consuming their homelands and might soon spread to all of Europe. It would all be a most extraordinary adventure, and it would make them famous. Together. They could hardly wait.”

[You can order the book “Hotel Florida: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War” from Amazon]

Far away in Key West, Ernest Hemingway was in the doldrums. He was struggling over a collection of stories that would turn out to be To Have and Have Not and then be forgotten. He was worried that his success had turned him into a sellout. His rivalry with John Dos Passos was on his nerves. His marriage to Pauline Pfeiffer was on the skids. Spain was an escape to opportunity: “If he went to Spain with an assignment to report on the war, he’d get the makings of any number of novels.” Read the rest of this entry »

Comrade Picasso: The man and the political myth

Picasso's 'Guernica' on view at the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid. Photo: Getty

‘Guernica’ on view at the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid. Photo: Getty

Pablo Picasso has long been hailed as an ardent member of the left and an advocate for peace. New research into his relationship to the Franco regime suggests the need for revision, and an examination of our motives.

JONATHAN VERNON writes: One would expect a game of word association on a busy street to match many a ‘Picasso’ with ‘Guernica’. Commissioned for the Spanish Republican Pavilion at the 1937 Paris World’s Fair, Guernica took as its subject the aerial bombardment of the eponymous Basque town. Heinkel bombers flying for General Franco had razed it to the ground across three days earlier that year. The visual language Picasso wrought from that event gave form to human suffering with unparalleled potency. Read the rest of this entry »