Informit article: Microserfs

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From the ancients to us: slavery, torture and digital culture

November 2012 was yet another decisive month for digital revelations. The new CIA Director David Petraeus, a self-professed ‘scholar-monk’ and Obama’s Iraq hero, was caught out in an adultery scandal with – surprise! – his ’embedded’ biographer Paula Broadwell. Alex Hern was right onto it in The New Statesman with the raunchy header ‘Two Generals, Agent Shirtless and 30,000 Pages of Sexts: The Scandal that Keeps Giving’. If the names themselves are almost Dickensian, and the seamy side of their activities thoroughly Biblical, the media conditions of the scandal are perfectly contemporary. The problem had started when Petraeus’ friend Jill Kelley complained about receiving anonymous threats in June 2011; the FBI traced these to Broadwell who, it appeared, suspected Kelley of nurturing affections for Petraeus. So far, it’s a classic three-way, between Petraeus, Broadwell and Kelley, two jealous rivals vying for the affections of their object of desire. As if by some mystic mathematical inevitability, however, it turned out that the triangle was really a square, adding General John Allen to the sexual geometry. Next thing you know, Kelley’s husband and twin sister also became implicated in the ever-widening scandal, this time for allegedly seamy business deals. Triangle, square, Pentagon, hexagon: the new angles kept on coming. Petraeus of all people should have known better. As Patrick Keefe detailed in a New Yorker article titled ‘The Surveillance State Takes Friendly Fire’ (13 November 2012), Petraeus had himself already been engaged in public musings on ‘the utter transparency of the digital world’.

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