The Sony Pictures cyber hack puts private musings on public view

It is a rare glimpse behind the scenes of a normally closed-off world

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We’ve all been there. Who among us hasn’t written the sort of email currently humiliating Sony Pictures Entertainment via the (allegedly) North Korean hack? Who hasn’t besmirched a colleague’s reputation, dissed a rival, turned bitchy after being let down by someone you thought you could rely on. No? Not you? Must be just me.

The reason why the “Sony Hack” is the gift that keeps on giving is the flawed, honest human everyday-ness of the tone of the emails – albeit that the content is about major celebrities, apparently glamorous projects and amounts of money that are beyond most of our comprehension. It is a rare glimpse behind the scenes of a normally closed-off world.

Now, there really isn’t that much surprise that the likes of  Angelina Jolie, Leonardo DiCaprio and the (Will) Smith family have a monumental egos and are much bitched about by the studio execs that make them rich and famous. The prurient pleasure for the reader comes via those glimpses into the everyday to-ing and fro-ing; the two-faced dealings; the arrogance, petulance and one-upmanship at the heart of the exchanges.

Do I feel sorry for Amy Pascal, the SPE big cheese at the heart of the juicier emails? Of course I do, a little. No one likes their private musings made public. But, in the end, this is the privileged talking to the privileged about the even more privileged, largely about contributing to creating yet more privilege.

The reason Pascal and others can make unflattering remarks about the likes of Jolie, and even off-key comments about President Obama’s “favourite” movies – all of which feature black stars – is the same as the reason our own hacking scandal got out of hand: many involved were in such rarefied positions – both within their own organisations and society at large – that they made the mistake of assuming they were untouchable.

There is a simple message in all this: never write anything mean, embarrassing or hurtful about someone else that you could not stand by in person.

And for all those tut-tutting at Sony: people in glass houses…

Stefano Hatfield is editor in chief of