“An epic nightmare.” “[A]n Earth-shattering change.” “[T]his terrible, awful experience that would stretch on forever and ever.” So Sony employees—speaking almost exclusively on the condition of anonymity, save for CEO Michael Lynton—describe the hack heard ’round the world one year later, in an illuminating and thorough report from Slate’s Amanda Hess.
The North Korean-directed data breach, presumed to be retaliation for the negative depiction of leader Kim Jong-un in “The Interview,” starring James Franco and Seth Rogen, was, as our own Anne Thompson wrote at the time, “the most significant entertainment story” of 2014. And the revelations continue to be parceled out: before it debuted at AFI Fest, critics worried that “Concussion” had been softened by the studio to placate the NFL (it wasn’t), and now Hess’ piece paints a picture of corporate chaos that hit Sony’s rank-and-file hardest.
Though Pascal—already fragile after years of overspending and letting go of key executive talent—became the face of the disaster, in part because of her indecorous emails, Hess’ reporting suggests that those most damaged by the theft of private information and the meltdown of Sony’s systems were unheralded HR reps, production assistants, accountants, and other Sony stalwarts, revealing deep rifts between “creative” talent and everyday “bean-counters,” high-level executives and middle management.
Indeed, as Anne Thompson pointed out last fall, the “Hack Attack” did not doom Sony to dysfunction so much as reveal it, day by day, on every front page and gossip column in the land. The failure of communication suggested by Hess’ story predated the breach, and reached all the way to the highest echelons of Sony Japan and Sony America. As Hess writes, “the Sony hack was less of a geopolitical thriller and more of a workplace drama that ran too long,” and the drama had been set in motion long before the hackers’ famed video of pink skeletons and gravestones marked “Sony” appeared on anybody’s screen.