Tag Archives: politics

O Novo Conflito de Gerações

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Escrito por Joseph E. Stiglitz:

“Algo interessante surgiu nos padrões de voto em ambos os lados do Atlântico: os jovens estão votando de maneira marcadamente diferente dos mais velhos. A grande divisão não se baseia tanto na renda, na educação formal ou no gênero dos eleitores. Há boas razões para esta divisão. A vida de ambos, velhos e jovens, são diferentes. Seus passados são diferentes e, por isso, são diferentes as suas perspectivas.

A Guerra Fria, por exemplo, tinha acabado antes mesmo de alguns nasceram e enquanto outros ainda eram crianças. Palavras como o socialismo não transmitem o significado que uma vez transmitiam. Se o socialismo significa a criação de uma sociedade onde as preocupações compartilhadas não recebem apenas pouca atenção – onde as pessoas se preocupam com outras pessoas e ao meio ambiente em que vivem – que assim seja. Sim, pode ter sido falho os experimentos sob essa rubrica meio século atrás; mas as experiências de hoje não têm qualquer semelhança com as do passado. Assim, o fracasso dessas experiências passadas não diz nada sobre os novos.

Os mais velhos da classe média alta americana e os europeus tiveram uma boa vida. Quando eles entraram para a força de trabalho, empregos bem remunerados estavam esperando por eles. A pergunta que fizeram foi o que eles queriam fazer, e não o tempo que precisariam viver com seus pais antes de conseguir um trabalho que lhes permitisse sair da casa de seus pais.

Essa geração tinha como certa a segurança no emprego, o casar jovem, o comprar uma casa – talvez uma casa de verão, também – e, finalmente, aposentar-se com uma razoável segurança. No geral, eles tinham a expectativa (e geralemnte conseguiam) ser melhores do que seus pais.

Enquanto a geração mais velha de hoje encontrou solavancos ao longo do caminho, na maior parte dos casos, suas expectativas foram atendidas. Eles podem ter feito mais sobre ganhos de capital em suas casas do que de trabalho. Eles quase certamente descobriram que era estranho, mas aceitaram de bom grado o presente de nossos mercados especulativos, e muitas vezes deu-se o crédito para a compra no lugar certo e no momento certo.

Hoje, a expectativa dos jovens, onde quer que estejam na distribuição de renda, é o oposto. Eles enfrentam a insegurança do emprego ao longo das suas vidas. Em média, muitos graduados universitários irão procurar por meses antes de encontrar um emprego – muitas vezes só depois de ter feito um ou dois estágios não-remunerados. E eles se consideram jovens com sorte, porque eles sabem que seus pares mais pobres, alguns dos quais também foram para as melhores escolas, não pode se dar ao luxo de passar um ou dois anos sem renda, e nem tem as conexões para conseguir um estágio em primeiro lugar.

Os jovens recém formados de hoje estão sobrecarregados com a dívida – quanto mais pobre se é, mais eles devem. Assim, eles não se perguntam o trabalho que gostariam de ter; eles simplesmente se perguntam qual o trabalho que vai permitir-lhes pagar suas dívidas da faculdade, que muitas vezes vai sobrecarregá-los por 20 anos ou mais. Da mesma forma, a compra de uma casa é um sonho distante.

Isso significa que os jovens não estão pensando muito sobre aposentadoria. Se o fizessem, eles estariam apenas horrorizados com o quanto eles deveriam estar poupando para viver uma vida decente (porque a previdência social não garante uma vida decente), dada a provável persistência das taxas de juro do fundo do poço.

Em suma, os jovens de hoje vêem o mundo através da lente da equidade intergeracional. Os filhos da classe média alta podem se dar bem no final porque eles herdarão a riqueza de seus pais. No entanto, eles geralmente não gostam deste tipo de dependência, e gostam menos ainda da alternativa de um “recomeço” em que as cartas na mesa jogam contra qualquer coisa que se aproxime o mínimo do estilo de vida básico da classe média.

Estas desigualdades não podem ser facilmente explicadas. Não é que esses jovens não trabalham duro: estas dificuldades afetam aqueles que passaram longas horas estudando, se destacaram na escola, e fizeram tudo “certo”. O senso de injustiça social – que o jogo econômico é manipulado – reforçando como eles vêem os banqueiros que trouxeram a crise financeira, a causa do mal-estar contínuo na economia, e saíram ilesos e ainda com mega-bônus, e com ninguém sendo responsabilizado por seus erros. Fraudes maciças foram cometidas, mas de alguma forma, ninguém realmente foi responsabilizado por elas. Elites políticas prometeram que “reformas” trariam prosperidade sem precedentes. E eles fizeram, mas apenas para o top 1%. Todos os outros, incluindo os jovens, ganharam uma insegurança sem precedentes.

Essas três realidades – a injustiça social numa escala sem precedentes, inequidades em massa, e uma perda de confiança nas elites – definem o nosso momento político, e com razão.

(…)

Mais importante, o jovem não vai encontrar um caminho suave para o mercado de trabalho a menos que a economia funcione de forma muito melhor. A taxa “oficial” de desemprego nos Estados Unidos gira em torno de 4,9%, mas máscara níveis muito mais elevados de desemprego disfarçado que, pelo menos, estão mantendo os salários baixos.

Mas não seremos capaz de corrigir o problema se não o reconhecermos. Nossos jovens reconhecem. Eles percebem a ausência de justiça entre gerações, e eles têm razão de ficarem com raiva.”

Esse artigo foi originalmente postado no Project Syndicate.

Joseph E. Stiglitz, ganhador do Prêmio Nobel de Ciências Econômicas em 2001 e a medalha Clark John Bates em 1979, é professor da Universidade de Columbia.

Vai pra Baltimore!

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Vai pra Cuba! Espera aí: Vai pra Baltimore!

Vai pra Baltimore! by Pedro Abramovay

A cerca de 40 minutos de trem da capital dos EUA e um pouco mais de duas horas de Nova York, fica a cidade de Baltimore, capital do estado de Maryland.

Acabo de sair de lá depois de um dia bastante intenso visitando projetos da Fundação Open Society na cidade.

Logo de manhã ouvi o depoimento de uma moça chamada Jabria. Jabria, quando tinha 16 anos, estava discutindo com sua avó. A avó teve um ataque do coração durante a discussão. Jabria foi presa , em um estabelecimento para adultos, por homicídio. Após cerca de um ano experimentando todo tipo de violências no cárcere, Jabria poderia ter direito a liberdade condicional. O pedido foi negado pelo juiz pelo fato de Jabria ter tido mais de 30 suspensões na escola. As suspensões foram ocasionadas por Jabria chegar na escola com o uniforme sujo, pois sua avó não a deixava lavar o uniforme quando elas discutiam.

Jabria hoje lidera uma iniciativa contra a prisão de adolescentes nos Estados Unidos e sabe que histórias como essa são a regra na sua comunidade.

Depois fui a uma escola. Uma escola que, como todas as outras nos bairros pobres de Baltimore convivia com altos níveis de violência, de suspensão de alunos e, não surpreendentemente, péssimos resultados acadêmicos.

Vale dizer que, até recentemente, Baltimore distribuía seus recursos educacionais da mesma forma perversa com que esses recursos são distribuídos na maiora dos EUA. A escola recebe impostos de acordo com a arrecadação de IPTU no bairro em que ela fica. Assim, escolas de bairros ricos recebem uma enormidade de recursos públicos. Em bairros pobres, vivem na miséria. Felizmente, após uma batalha judicial, foi possível mudar isso em Baltimore.

Fiquei muito impressionado ao entrar na escola. 50 anos após os movimentos contra a segregação racial nos EUA, todos, TODOS, os alunos na escola são negros. O trabalho de jusitça restaurativa feito na escola em que eu fui era incrível. As brigas caíram, as suspensões praticamente acabaram e os níveis acadêmicos melhoraram muito. Mas isso ainda é uma gota no oceano em um bairro onde 1/3 dos alunos foram suspensos no ano passado.

Depois da escola fui a uma igreja, ver o trabalho social que eles faziam. Uma senhora, especialista em segurança alimentar, me explicou que um dos maiores problemas da cidade, que contabiliza 25% dos seus habitantes abaixo da linha de pobreza, eram os food deserts (algo como desertos de comida). Áreas da cidade na qual os moradores não tem acesso a comida. Não há um supermercado ou uma loja que venda comida em um raio de mais de 8 kilómetros. O sistema de transporte público é precário. Assim, as pessoas têm que andar grandes distância ter acesso a comida. Muitas vezes elas não fazem isso. E acabam comprando Doritos e balas na loja da esquina para alimentar suas famílias, gastando muito mais do que gastariam se comprassem alimentação decente. Ou, simplesmente, passam fome.

Vale lembrar que essa é uma cidade na qualo comparecimento eleitoral chega a 17% da população com idade de votar. O voto, como em todos os EUA, é facultativo.

A taxa de homicídios em Baltimore é altíssima (55 por 100.000 habitantes), equivalente à taxa de cidades da baixada fluminense. Mais que o dobro da taxa do Rio de Janeiro.

Em abril, a polícia matou um rapaz, negro, chamado Freddie Gray. Jovens negros incendiaram a cidade em protesto.

Esse panorama é fundamental para que possamos entender que o capitalismo norte-americano não pode ser visto como um modelo a ser replicado. Baltimore não é um caso isolado nos EUA, não é um acidente. Baltimore é produto de uma sociedade desigual, racista, violenta, injusta e pouco democrática.

Atualmente, sempre que alguém faz um comentário em defesa de mais justiça social, rapidamente ouve-se a resposta: Vai pra Cuba! Não considero Cuba um modelo a ser seguido pelo Brasil. Mas um dia em Baltimore reforçou a ideia de que o modelo de sociedade baseado em um Estado que pune adolescentes, que fortalece o capital privado na decisão de como alocar recursos públicos, que ignora as desigualdades raciais, que acha que o voto facultativo salva a política, esse modelo de sociedade defendido por tanta gente raivosa na internet e inspirados nos EUA. Esse modelo não nos leva ao mundo mágico da Disneyworld. Esse modelo nos leva a Baltimore.

E não vou responder aos ‪#‎vaipraCuba‬! que eu ouço com um ‪#‎vaipraBaltimore‬. A Baltimore que eu conheci hoje não desejo para ninguém.

Talvez seja difícil saber o que queremos para o Brasil. Mas certamente começar o debate sabendo que não queremos ser nem Cuba nem Baltimore já seria um bom começo.
Pedro Abramovay, é Diretor da Open Society Foundations para a América Latina e escreve para o Quebrando o Tabu quinzenalmente.

The Fifth Estate, the Movie

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“It may be decades before we understand the full impact of WikiLeaks and how it’s revolutionized the spread of information. So this film won’t claim any long view authority on its subject, or attempt any final judgment. We want to explore the complexities and challenges of transparency in the information age and, we hope, enliven and enrich the conversations WikiLeaks has already provoked.” by Bill Condon the director of The Fifth Estate.

Julien Assange & Daniel Domscheit-Berg

Julien Assange & Daniel Domscheit-Berg

It was not approved by Julian Assange but it is worth watching. Why? It does not matter if Assange is paranoid or not, if he is manipulative or not, if he is weird or not, etc. What matters is the fact that he and his collaborators, including the author of the book in which the movie was inspired,  Daniel Domscheit-Berg, changed the history of how information is released, making possible to expose tons of war crimes and government’s corruption. What matters is to expose how much we are manipulated with stupid stories just to distract us. What matters is to see that Democrats don’t differ much from Republicans. This is all that matters. Access to the truth that we have the right to. Access to know that real criminals are free while Assange cannot leave the Equator Embassy in London, Chelsea Manning (former Bradley Manning) was tortured by the US Government and will be in jail for 35 years, Edward Snowden is in Russia and we have no idea if he is safe or not, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras are living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and don’t feel safe to come home. This is what matters.

Note: Assange’s son and mother have moved and changed their names. They are not safe.

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Miral

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Miral Movie

Review by Grady Harp:

“”It is refreshing to visit the Israeli/Palestinian conflict form a vantage too seldom shared in cinema. Director Julian Schnabel once again proves that he understands human responses in the face of political conflict. Rula Jebreal has adapted her own novel which in turn is a biography of her involvement in the history of the Palestinian conflict. It is a touching recounting of the events that took place form 1947 to the present and it leaves the window open for much conversation.

The film opens with a party held by Bertha Spafford (Vanessa Redgrave) in 1947 when she asks her guest to forget the conflict outside for a celebration of Christmas: the party is attended by both her Jewish and Arabic friends, the centerpiece being the Christmas tree brought yearly by the Husseini family and then replanted to restore the earth. Hind Husseini (Hiam Abbass) is there and meets Eddie (Willem Dafoe), an American friend of Bertha. A year latter in 1948 there is an Arab-Israeli War, the Deir Yassin Massacre, and the establishment of the state of Israel. The wealthy Hind Husseini encounters 55 starving children, victims of the war, and take s them home to establish what will become the Dar Al-Tifel Institute, a school for Arab orphans that within months grew to a population of 2000. The film then jumps forward and we meet Nadia (Yasmine Al Massri), an abused alcoholic who is imprisoned and there meets devout Muslim Jamal (Alexander Siddig) who later becomes her husband: Nadia, unable to change her life, drowns herself when their child is only 7 years old. It is now 1978 and Jamal brings his daughter Miral (Yolanda El Karam) to the keeping of Hind, reassuring her that he will see her on weekends. Time passes to 1988 and the older Miral (Freida Pinto) is victim to the intifada (uprising), is sent to a refugee camp where she falls in love with the PLO leader Hani (Omar Metwally) and commits to the Palestinian movement to secure a land of peace called Palestine that will be free of the Israeli governance and jurisdiction. Hind encourages Miral to follow her heart and convictions: it is the development of change represented by Hind, Nadia, and Miral that personalizes this compelling epic. Though the conflict between Palestine and Israel continues to this day, this film allows us to appreciate the Palestinian response to the loss of their land and home by a international ruling to create the state of Israel.

Cinematographer Eric Gautier mixes the hot sun washed Palestine footage of the real intifada and the result is mesmerizing. The real star of this film is Hiam Abbass who as the gradually aging Hind Husseini brings the story to life. The large cast is excellent with special kudos to Alexander Siddig, Omar Metwally, and Freida Pinto: the presence of Vanessa Redgrave and Willem Dafoe add credibility tot he proceedings but their roles are minimal. Julian Schnabel is to be congratulated for bringing to light the ‘other side’ of the Arab/Israeli conflict. He gives us excellent food for thought.””

#ActForManning Free Bradley Manning Chicago July 27 2013

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#ActForMannig #FreeBradley #BradleyManning #StopWarOnWhistleblowers #EdwardSnowden #SaveBrad

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#‎Wikileaks‬ ‪#‎FreeBrad‬ ‪#‎Manning‬ ‪#‎DefendBrad‬ ‪#‎PardonBrad‬‪#‎FreeBradleyManning‬ ‪#‎BradleyManning‬ ‪#‎DropTheCharge‬‪#‎Iraq‬ ‪#‎Afghanistan‬ ‪#‎Gitmo‬ ‪#‎Bush‬ ‪#‎Obama‬

The Boston bomb suspect’s Rolling Stone cover: Aren’t we forgetting people used to be innocent until proven guilty?

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Rolling Stone Non-Sense Cover

By Sophie McAdam.

“”The Rolling Stone story breaks not only “traditions of journalism”, but several media laws and ethical boundaries that are crucial in a fair, free, democratic society.  Cast your mind back, if you can, to that sunny and carefree pre-911 world, where intelligent people didn’t have panic attacks over dark-skinned men on buses carrying electronic cigarettes.  Back then, the Rolling Stone article would have caused outrage for a very different reason- it assumes the guilt of a man who is still awaiting trial.

Damn right we should be angry. And very concerned. We should be looking very closely at the emotive and dehumanizing “monster” label Rolling Stone have pinned to the alleged terrorist and we should be asking: What happens when the trial begins? How can we expect the jurors not to be influenced by mainstream media’s premature guilty verdict? And what if- just what if- Dzhokhar and his brother are innocent?

Habeus Corpus is the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. Before 9/11, we took this simple concept for granted. It’s what made western societies so great, with liberty and justice for all. It’s a vital part of a civilized society- and wait a minute, isn’t that why those terrorist boogeymen are so envious of us in the first place? It’s an ancient human right dating back to a time where we were still burning witches, with its first recorded usage in Britain as far back as 1305 (later enshrined as a legal civil liberty in 1679). But in the UK this long -standing law- taken for granted for centuries – was nullified in the blink of an eye by Tony Blair’s 2005 Prevention of Terrorism Act. The situation in the US is no different: having adopted the British system, US law had prohibited the restriction of Habeus Corpus up until 2001, but 911 gave the government a convenient excuse to start chipping away at this most basic of liberties.

The media, of course, are complicit. “Terrorists are everywhere!” scream news bulletins and newspapers. On buses and the subway, on planes and trains, under your bed and inside your closet! You’re either with us or against us, folks- and don’t you dare complain, it’s unpatriotic. Go shopping,  go back to sleep, just shut up.

Mainstream media has consistently reflected the state’s official bullshit story that you can’t possibly have freedom and security. But it’s ok, because if you allow the state to “protect” you – through the collection of your emails and telephone calls, increased airport security, more CCTV cameras recording your every move and terrifying SWAT teams terrorizing innocent families, you will be safer from the ever-present threat of these evil men who “hate our freedoms”.  A good trade-off, right?

Wrong. We are now living in a time where we have neither freedom nor security. In 2011, Habeus Corpus was killed once and for all by an NDAA amendment authorizing the U.S. military to arrest and indefinitely imprison (without charge or trial) any civilian, including its own citizens, anywhere in the world, simply for suspicion of any (intentionally vague) “belligerent acts” against the U.S government. Activist and veteran journalist Chris Hedges, along with Noam Chomsky and others, has tried to overturn this chilling piece of legislation, but the group lost their appeal this month. This alone should terrify every single one of us.

Hedges called it a “black day for liberty” and indeed it is. But not only for journalists and activists who dare to criticize the government, but also those (inevitable) cases where innocent people are accused of terrorism. Could Tsarnaev be one of them? It’s not my intention to speculate, because it is the justice system, and only the justice system, which has the job of deciding one way or another. What the Rolling Stone cover really exposes is the death of real journalism, which should be about truth, not conjecture; reporting hard facts, not fear-mongering.

Was it ethical, for example, that images of the Tsarnaev brothers be released immediately after the bombings? Don’t forget that at that point, the FBI purported to be as much in the dark as the rest of us. “We don’t know who caused this tragedy” was quickly replaced by “we got them, and here’s what they look like!” without so much as a “how?” from so – called journalists. What concrete evidence – I mean something more than the fact the brothers wore rucksacks and looked slightly foreign – did police have against them before quickly distributing CCTV images to the baying press?

The publication of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s Amazon wishlist just hours after the event was another oddity: this was before the PRISM scandal broke, and I for one was baffled. How does the state have immediate access to this guy’s Amazon account? Is the publication of his literary preferences really in the public interest? Why are newsreaders telling us in sad and serious tomes that the elder Tsarnaev brother had ordered a book on the Chechnyan struggle, as though this somehow wraps up the case against him? My bookshelves reflect my own interest in history and politics, and I even have a couple of books about Al-Qaeda, so bite me. If curiosity equals crime then we’ve slipped further into dystopia than I realized.

Apparenly Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had written “Fuck America” on the inside of his stowaway boat as he lay bleeding from a gunshot wound surrounded by armed feds, along with comments bemoaning the death of fellow muslims at the hands of the US. But even if this doesn’t sound a least slightly doubtful, can being faithful to Islam and feeling resentful of American foreign policy really be taken as proof of terrorism?  Most educated non-muslims now agree that the US – led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were illegal, unethical and frankly barbaric. Critical thinkers should be wary: without a doubt, there are far more questions than answers in the Boston case.

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that anything and everything you do, say and think can and will be used against you, with the mainstream media acting as government’s chief executioner. Trial by media seems to have replaced the courts, leaving heroes of our time like Manning, Assange and Snowden languishing in military prisons, embassies and airports respectively. On the other hand, it hardly matters whether the press perverts the cause of justice or not, when it’s likely you’ll be shipped to Guantanamo or swiftly murdered by the feds before you ever have your day in court.

Habeus corpus wasn’t the only thing to have died after 911. Along with it went common sense, good judgement, logical thinking, and empathy for our fellow human beings. We are paranoid, full of hate and fear of “the other”, and we have traded all our liberties for a security which was not, and can never be, delivered. Day after day, we mindlessly eat what the media feed us,  a spaghetti dish of lies and half-truths served with a cup of hysteria to keep us from thinking critically.

I don’t know about anyone else, but the US and British governments – along with their yapping poodles in the media – terrify me far more than Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s YouTube account.  All of us who care about freedom and justice have an obligation and a duty to call for the press to keep quiet until a jury- one not tainted by screeching, delirious media speculation – has decided whether there is enough real evidence to convict Tsarnaev in a court of law.””

Written by Sophie McAdam at True Activist blog.

Netflix: The Big Brother and the Entertainment Manipulation

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by Kate Epstein

The Snowden leaks and ensuing debates about our government, big data, and privacy have led to more Orwell allusions than I’ve heard in all of my (admittedly post-1984) life. It’s hard not to compare the constant surveillance of twenty-first-century America to the ubiquitous presence of Big Brother in the prescient 1949 novel. And that’s not to mention the doublethink involved in our never-ending war with an ever-shifting enemy to keep the homeland safe (war is peace), our ballooning prison population, up 790% since 1980 (freedom is slavery), and the current administration’s brutal crackdown on truth-tellers and public education (ignorance is strength).

But big data has another side, better predicted by Aldous Huxley’s very different 1932 dystopia Brave New World. In that version of the future, consumer desire, and not thought-policing, keeps the citizens of the World State in line in a year defined not by A.D. but by A.F., or “After Ford.” Sex-hormone chewing gum, the ecstasy-inducing drug soma (“one cubic centimeter cures ten gloomy sentiments,”) and recreational sex are all encouraged, as is attending the popular “feelies,” which combine sight, smell, and touch to create the ultimate entertainment experience.

In many ways we are living out some bizarre combination of 1984’s total surveillance and perception management and Brave New World’s post-Fordist corporatocracy, in which our actions are monitored and our perceptions managed just as much to shape our desires and then fulfill them as to root out dissidents and quash dissent. It is, after all, corporations like Booz Allen that conduct most of the government surveillance in our brave, deregulated, new world. Although one function of all that data is “security,” which is a lucrative enough industry on its own, an even more profitable function is the better understanding of consumer decision-making that can be assembled from the over 2.8 zettabytes of data that exists in the world.

Like the characters in Huxley’s dystopia (most of whom believed they lived in a utopia), we exist in an entertainment-saturated society. Much of that entertainment is delivered to us through one company: Netflix, which caters to approximately 30 million viewers and is more watched than cable television. I thought of feelies, and of Huxley’s broader vision, when I heard about Netflix’s new strategy for creating original content, employed for the first time with “House of Cards” this past February—one that involves using billions of data points to better understand what its viewers want to see.

Netflix, much like the NSA, knows a lot about us. Think about what your viewing patterns (what you watch, when you watch it, how often you pause it, etc.) expose about you. It was concern over privacy in video renting that brought about the 1988 Video Privacy Protection Act, after Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork’s video rental records were published a newspaper. Congress was outraged that such personal information could be made public (consider it the “meta data” of the time), but the bill hasn’t been updated since, despite certain developments, including the invention of the Internet.

Consider just how much Netflix must know about you given that, according to GigaOm, it also collects geo-location data, device information, metadata from third-parties such as Nielson, and social media data from Facebook and Twitter, in addition to the more obvious “data events”: over 30 million plays per day, 4 million ratings, 3 million searches, and all pauses, fast-forwards, rewinds, and replays. (Nielson is the original market research company, founded in 1923 by Arthur Nielson who coined the term “market share.” It tracks global information on what consumers watch and buy for advertisers and corporate clients including Coca-Cola, Nestle, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Walmart, CBS, NBC, News Corp., and Disney.)

This information has long dictated what content Netflix decides to license and recommend to different viewers, but “House of Cards” was the first time any company had ever used such data in the creative production process for a T.V. show. It started when Netflix noticed that there was significant overlap between the circles of viewers who watched movies starring Kevin Spacey and movies directed by David Fincher from beginning to end, and viewers who loved the original 1990 BBC miniseries “House of Cards.” Subscribers were shown one of ten different trailers for the series based on their consumer profiles. The producers also knew, from studying viewers’ watching patterns, that releasing all thirteen episodes at once would promote and reward the binge-like behavior demonstrated by their target audience. The new strategy paid off, with ten percent of Netflix subscribers watching the series within two weeks of its debut, and 80% of viewers rating it “good” or “exceptional.”

On the heels of its “House of Cards” success, Netflix premiered a new series, “Orange is the New Black,” on Thursday, July 11. Described as a “hilarious, heartbreaking, and critically acclaimed series based on the true story of Piper, an upper-class New Yorker who finds herself sentenced to fifteen months in a women’s correctional facility for a crime she committed long ago,” the show has indeed already garnered critical acclaim. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that it achieves a “new definition of television excellence.”

Just as retail companies like Target can know when a teenager is pregnant before her own parents through the mining of extensive data sets, entertainment producers across industries are becoming savvier about the potential of big data to transform the creative process, and to meet consumer demand in unprecedented ways. The idea of computer algorithms displaying what we would normally think of as uniquely human creativity is relatively new, but it’s rapidly spreading. Algorithms that sift through and crunch the exponentially-growing pool of data can now grade essays, compose music that imitates Bach so well many can’t tell the difference, and write news articles on events no journalist attended. (See “Can Creativity Be Automated?”)

“We know what people watch on Netflix and we’re able with a high degree of confidence to understand how big a likely audience is for a given show based on people’s viewing habits,” Netflix communications director Jonathan Friedland told Wired in 2012. “We want to continue to have something for everybody. But as time goes on, we get better at selecting what that something for everybody is that gets high engagement.”

Maybe it’s a stretch to compare this new entertainment environment to the feelies and obstacle golf of Brave New World, but it’s hard not to be a little skeptical of an industry so in tune with consumer preferences that it can use an algorithm to create The Ultimate Television Program. Despite the reality that we face crises of drastic proportion—environmentally, economically, socially, and politically—we are overwhelmingly marketed a very different reality. In over 3,000 advertisements a day, we are presented with a world in which the consumer is sovereign, freedom of choice reigns, and painless, constant pleasure is possible. Art and entertainment that fail to constantly please, however socially valuable it might be, represents a smaller and smaller proportion of what most Americans consume.

As technology advances, corporations are developing both more precise ways to monitor our behavior and smarter algorithms to crunch that data. Last year, Verizon applied for a patent for a type of monitoring technology that uses infrared cameras and microphones to track and collect consumer behavior—such as eating, exercising, reading, and sleeping—in the vicinity of a TV or mobile device. Embedded in cable boxes in living rooms across America, this Orwellian tool would presumably help companies get to know us just a little bit better. Marketing firms use eye tracking to measure how elements of advertisements are perceived, retained and recalled, and corporations use facial recognition on billboards’ hidden cameras to detect age and gender brackets to display targeted ads. Surely these developments raise many of the same privacy concerns as the U.S. intelligence community’s blanket spying programs. When did we agree to give all this personal data away for free? And do we even know it’s happening?

As founder and CEO of Netflix Reed Hastings told Businessweek, “We’re able to do more and more calculations and big-data statistics so that what we do is represent Netflix more and more as a place where you come for relaxation, escape.” Sounds almost as good as a hangover-free soma holiday.

Kate Epstein is a lawyer and activist who manages the blog The Lone Pamphleteer. She can be reached at katepstein@gmail.com.