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The Jared Diamond case

Posted by Christopher Shea  April 29, 2009 08:17 AM

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As you may have read, Jared Diamond, the best-selling author of "Guns, Germs, and Steel," has been sued for libel over a piece he wrote for the New Yorker.

At Savage Minds, the anthropologist Alex Golub (aka "Rex") observes: "Most news coverage will focus on the more spectacular aspects of the case: Diamond publishes a piece in the New Yorker depicting a tribal fight in Papua New Guinea, Shearer produces documentation that his accounts are untrue, and the Papua New Guineans involve sue Diamond for US $10 million."

But Golub finds at least as disturbing as the charges in the lawsuit -- unproven, of course -- what he sees as a flouting of anthropological ethics: "Calling someone a murderer in a venue like the New Yorker is a serious claim indeed. Add to this the fact that Diamond used Wemp's real name in the story, and that Wemp had no idea that his stories would ever be published, and you have serious ethical problems. There was, in other words, no informed consent and no attempt to provide anonymity for informants."

Diamond has yet to comment on the case, as far as I've seen. Savage Minds also includes a link to the curiously named Stinkyjournalism.org, which has been stoking the fires in l'affaire Diamond. Stinkyjournalism.org was founded by Rhonda Roland Shearer, Steven Jay Gould's widow.

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