Penguin: The Real Lesson of the Petraeus Scandal

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The Real Lesson of the Petraeus Scandal

We delude ourselves about the way we use technology.


Slate, Monday, Nov. 19, 2012


Were any of our email accounts subject to scrutiny by the FBI, we might not be revealed as cheating cads, but most of us would, in ways large and small, be exposed as frequent and shameless purveyors of idle gossip, unnecessary fibs, outrageous flattery, pathetic excuses, and bandwidth-hogging cat videos. It’s all there in the emails and text messages that map the quotidian details of our lives. If, as Marshall McLuhan taught us, technologies are “extensions of man,” then the Petraeus story serves as a useful reminder of how our technologies (incredible as they are) nevertheless can encourage the extension of man’s less noble traits. History might end up judging Petraeus a meritocratic and military success but a moral manqué. As for the rest of us, let him without a sinful email sent (or drafts) folder cast the first stone.

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