Some years ago I reviewed the chapter on Australia in his highly acclaimed book ‘Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive’. I found it full of factual errors that played to popular myth while denigrating Australian primary industries.
Today I received a copy of his article ‘Annals of Anthropology: Vengeance is Ours’ published by The New Yorker in April 2008, which Professor Diamond claims tells the true story of Daniel Wemp and the battles he led in the New Guinea Highlands. Along with this article I also received research by Rhonda Roland Shearer exposing it as a hoax.
Rather than the true story of clan warfare that resulted in the death of 30 men and the theft of over 300 pigs, the story may well represent nothing more than the contrived ramblings of an aging Professor inspired by a yarn from a man who fancied himself as a hero once responsible for the marshalling of hundreds of warriors and the provision of some sex on the side.
Fact checking, not by the publisher, but by Ms Shearer has shown that Mr Wemp exists but never led any battles, rather he has been gainfully employed as a driver for the environmental NGO WWF. Another key character in Professor Diamond’s story, Henep Isum Mandingo is not a veteran of battles now confined to a wheel chair as claimed by Professor Diamond, but rather an able-bodied man who once worked as the Court Peace Officer in his village.
So upset are Mr Wemp and Mr Mandingo with the Professor’s false claims, that they are suing Jared Diamond and Advance Publications (The New Yorker magazine) for US$10 million. The papers were filed in the Supreme Court of The State of New York on Monday.
I wish them luck.
Notes and Links
For more details see:
Jared Diamond’s Factual Collapse, 2009, by Rhonda Roland Shearer, director of Art Science Research Laboratory, www.asrlab.org , a not-for-profit, co-founded by Stephen Jay Gould. http://www.stinkyjournalism.org/latest-journalism-news-updates-149.php
The photograph, via Ms Shearer, shows Henep Isum, far right, who the Professor claims has spinal paralased and is restricted to a wheelchair.
Australia’s Environment Undergoing Renewal, Not Collapse
ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT, VOLUME 16 No. 3&4 2005
More Tall Tales from Jared Diamond
According to Wikipedia:
Jared Mason Diamond (born 10 September 1937) is an American evolutionary biologist, physiologist, biogeographer, lecturer, and nonfiction author. Diamond works as a professor of geography and physiology at UCLA. He is best known for the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Guns, Germs, and Steel (1998), which also won the Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science, as well as for Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005). He received the National Medal of Science in 1999.
Diamond’s books rely on fields as diverse as molecular biology, linguistics, physiology, and archeology, as well as knowledge about typewriter design and feudal Japan. Because of his broad expertise and the large number of articles credited to him, Mark Ridley has suggested jokingly that Jared Diamond is not a single person, but instead “is really a committee.”