Beware the Great Leader

By Keysha Hogan

Just so we are clear, it has taken a Seth Rogen and James Franco buddy comedy to deal the first major blow in the devastating and epic 21st century cyber wars.

Reader, we’re in the initial days of 2015 and we are living in the days of corporate-personhood. Companies, like people, can hold religious beliefs, political leanings and now they are experiencing the bitter taste of unbridled fear. This is not that cushy white-collar fear that expects the government to bail them out. They are feeling the debilitating fears of a regular person.

The beginning stages of the breach at Sony did not include the normal raiding of the coffers. There were no news reports about the discretionary accounts of Hollywood executives drained empty. The hackers of North Korea knew that financial losses could be recouped, but to enforce their will upon those with wealth and status they had to key in on a deeper target.

The hackers knew that Sony Studios did not care if the North Korean regime was upset about the film. Instead they unleashed a barrage of emails that revealed a catty, backstabbing, racist environment that had no choice but to implode under the pressure. And with that implosion the entire Sony empire felt the very human feelings of public shame and embarrassment mixed with panic and cowardice.

When faced with such raw feelings Sony ran to its friends for help and understanding. Instead the company was greeted by creative-types who showed little sympathy after reading private emails labeling them talentless and greedy. Rather than embark on an apology tour for roughly six years of email insults, Sony decided to turn to its fellow studio heads. But this time, the neighboring power players from fancy zip codes quietly went back to the cool kids’ table and allowed Sony to be bullied into submission.

And although it’s easy to slam Sony for surrendering, we must realize this was a hostile nation waging an attack on a corporate-person (while that corporate-person’s Japanese parent company has looked on in relative silence). It’s no wonder Sony continues to bow to the harassment and threats.

It is in this very public defeat that Sony will continue to show the world a very human face, while becoming a more hardened and vengeful company behind closed doors. Sony, and other companies, soon will realize that voluntarily canceling a film’s release doesn’t fall under the terrorism clause of its insurance agreements. First it’s tens of millions of dollars lost, then other global players get involved and it’s possible that billions could be lost each year due to good-old fashion intimidation.

And in this revelation, companies will go on the offensive building higher cyber-security walls and forming their own hacker militias that will cry out “Never Again!” in darkened rooms lit by wall-to-wall screens. The siege on Sony will become a parable of Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Wall Street. This case will be dissected in the halls of the most prestigious MBA schools until the end of time.

Sony and the rest of the business world already are looking forward to the next attack. There surely is another one coming and the collective redemption will rest with the next corporate-person willing to risk a life’s work to make a stand.

In this age, there will be those who choose to self-censor instead of angering the extreme elements of this world. They will hope for a great leader to bestow favor and save them from fear and embarrassment. But these corporate-persons will have to learn, just as we have, that most days you must fight back and save yourself.