The Roughing of a Diamond

By Emmanuel Narokobi

It was in the PNG papers last week, the story from the New Yorker of the purportedly huge fabrications made by that Pulitzer Prize-winning geography scholar, Jared Diamond.

The facts from are as follows:

  • Daniel Wemp and Henep Isum file a summons and sue for 10 million dollars in the Supreme Court of the State of New York–charge famed UCLA scientist and best-selling author Jared Diamond and Advance Publications (aka The New Yorker magazine and Times-Picayune newspaper) with defamation, April 20, 2009.
  • REVEALED: The New Yorker removed Diamond’s article from the open Internet last year after demand by Daniel Wemp’s lawyers (Lexis Nexis, EBSCO, Gale Group databases also complied with the take-down. Only abstracts remain).
  • The New Yorker fact checkers never contacted any of the indigenous Papua New Guinea people named in Jared Diamond’s article as unrepentant killers, rapists and thieves, before publication.
  • Henep Isum is not paralyzed in a wheelchair with a spinal injury, as Diamond claimed. He and Daniel Wemp, Diamond’s World Wildlife Fund driver in 2001-2002, and the only source for The New Yorker’s revenge story in Papua New Guinea, as well as dozens of tribal members and police officials, deny Diamond’s entire tale about the bloody Ombal and Handa war, calling it “untrue.”
  • Expert linguistic analysis and The New Yorker’s own admissions indicate the quotations attributed to Daniel Wemp, as spoken in 2001-2002, are fabrications.

Now I’m not going to give my analysis of all of this because I am absolutely unqualified to do so. But I am amazed at the speed at which the story was checked ‘with a fine tooth comb’. You can read the very detailed debunking of Jared Diamonds paper here by I like also that if you go to the end of that page, they give you a detailed explanation on the research methods employed for their forthcoming 40,000-word report (Real Tribes / Fake History: Errors, Failures of Method and the Consequences for Indigenous People in Papua New Guinea) that will be released in the coming weeks. But then again, I guess that’s what Anthropologists live for.

So what then is the lesson here for anthropologists?

I’d probably say that its important facts on our, already over analyzed country,  are  not misrepresented so that these facts are not relied upon in future to perpetuate misconceptions of PNG culture and society.

Me thinks poor Diamond perhaps underestimated Daniel Wemp and Henep Isum, thinking that for some reason they would never come across his paper in The New Yorker. Sorry Diamond, you forget that the world is a smaller place today and Papua New Guinean’s today live in the real world and not in books and stories.

Update 2/5/09

You might also be interested in reading the letter to The New Yorker by Mako John Kuwimb, a lecturer in law and a PhD candidate at Australia’s James Cook University, who is one of the people responsible for the lawsuit against The New Yorker. See it  here