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Free Willy, for real: SeaWorld has got to go

No spokesperson for SeaWorld, the venerable American chain of oceanariums and marine mammal parks that owns almost half of the world’s captive orcas, or killer whales, ever appears on camera in Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s devastating documentary “Blackfish.” SeaWorld is quite right to view “Blackfish” as an existential threat, since the film attacks not just the parks’ wholesome public image but also the basic morality of their business model. In a time-honored but dubious maneuver, SeaWorld declined to cooperate with Cowperthwaite (who spoke to Salon's Daniel D'Addario this week) in any way during the making of the film but then launched a vigorous P.R. counteroffensive before the movie had even reached theaters. Most of the disputed issues in the film are relatively minor, and on the semiotic level, the meaning of all this is clear: This is what big companies do when they have something to hide and a lot to lose.

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