I’m Bill Moyers, and this week I read Julia Angwin’s new book “Dragnet Nation: A Quest For Privacy, Security and Freedom In a World of Relentless Surveillance.” I heartily recommend it to you. And, when you finish reading it, there are a couple of classics that will resonate in the aftermath. Yes, I’m talking about George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” I know, I know. Comparisons can be exaggerated, analogies can be false and writers don’t always imply what readers infer.
Nonetheless, attention should be paid to the fact that when Edward Snowden dumped the government’s huge vault of secret spying onto the floor of our collective consciousness, Amazon.com reported that sales of Orwell’s “1984” shot through the ceiling – at one point, a 9000 percent increase. Writing for CNN.com, the critic Lewis Beale reminded us of the ubiquitous presence in Orwell’s totalitarian state of telescreens – those big screen TVs on which the government projected propaganda and censored entertainment. But as people watched what Big Brother wanted them to see, Big Brother was watching them – through that same screen.
Today, big screen TVs grace our living-room walls, but these have become our two-way mirrors. Here’s how we learn Orwellian newspeak like “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength” and spelling and thinking they are oh so old-fashioned if you can merely type OMG, YOLO and ROFLMAO. As for the prophecies of Aldous Huxley, well, a lot of things go on in his “Brave New World” that are weird and far-fetched, but so help me, all those people genetically designed to be regimented into total social conformity and subservient to the groupthink of the one percent, they could easily have walked right out Huxley and straight into Roger Ailes’ Fox News playbook or Rush Limbaugh’s studio. But I digress, just to point out that the state is not alone in stalking our imagination and preying on our privacy. Try this antidote to Big Brother’s big chill: “Dragnet Nation” by Julia Angwin.