02/27/2014 10:15 am ET Updated Apr 29, 2014

Watch: An Antidote to Big Brother's Chill

Previously published on

In this Web-only essay, I recommend a book out this week by award-winning investigative journalist Julia Angwin. Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance explores how we have become a society in which unbridled technology enables our government and corporations to constantly and indiscriminately collect data on us with no concern for privacy.

I note the striking similarities between 21st century America and the dystopian societies invented more than a half-century ago by George Orwell in 1984 and Aldous Huxley in Brave New World. Perhaps that's why sales of 1984 went through the roof after Edward Snowden dropped his trove of classified documents last summer.

Like Orwell's telescreens -- through which Big Brother broadcasts propaganda and spies on citizens -- our lives are dominated by cellphones, tablets and laptops that are our real-life two-way mirrors. And although Huxley's Brave New World contained some far-fetched ideas and scenarios, I conclude that "all those people genetically designed to be regimented into total social conformity and subservient to the groupthink of the one percent... could easily have walked right out Huxley and straight into Roger Ailes' Fox News playbook or Rush Limbaugh's studio."

Dragnet Nation, he says, is the "antidote to Big Brother's chill."

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