My Take
PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 November, 2012, 2:20am

A case study in weathering scandal


Alex Lo is a senior writer at the South China Morning Post. He writes editorials and the daily “My Take” column on page 2. He also edits the weekly science and technology page in Sunday Morning Post.

If you had two minutes to pitch turning a hit television show into a movie to a Hollywood honcho, what would you sell? Here is my bid: Desperate Housewives do the CIA. Oh, Oh wait! How about doing both the Pentagon and the CIA?

I am sure if I'd pitched it before l'affaire of ex-CIA director David Petraeus, I would have landed on my behind in less time than I could say the title. But reality has a way of trumping even the tawdriest imagination. The sorry saga of Petraeus who has resigned over it - and the top US commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen - is the best sex scandal at least since the lawyer of former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn said it was impossible for his client or anyone else to distinguish a proper lady from a paid escort at a party when they were all naked.

The South China Morning Post had to run a two-column graphic to explain all the ins and outs, starting with Petraeus' hanky-panky with his official biographer, Paula Broadwell, who sent allegedly threatening messages to Jill Kelley, a long-time family friend of the Petraeuses. Kelley, it transpired, was in turn exchanging naughty e-mails with Allen. And when she filed a complaint about Broadwell's alleged threats to the FBI, an agent took up the case, took off his shirt and sent half-naked photos of himself to her.

So here, I can make this Hollywood blockbuster even stronger now: Desperate Housewives do the CIA, FBI and Pentagon. How's that? Seriously, these men are setting a gold standard of sex scandals that puts our local colourless officials to shame. Some mainland officials, though, might rival the Americans when the state-controlled media become freer.

Truth be told, I am actually sad to see Petraeus go. He was a brilliant general. The sex affair broke about the same time as the 18th national congress. And that just gives me an idea for a Harvard Business School case study: How some of the world's most hated and feared institutions survive and prosper. Think about the Chinese Communist Party after Tiananmen; the re-engineering of the US military engulfed in the chaos following the Iraq invasion; and the tobacco industry, my favourite sin stocks.

Now, out of a job, maybe Petraeus will have time for an interview.


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