Fierce advocate. Media critic Rhonda Roland Shearer (above) charges that Jared Diamond’s article included errors about Daniel Wemp (left).
CREDITS: RONALD R. SPADAFORA; (INSET) STINKYJOURNALISM.ORG/DANIEL WEMP
May 15, 2009:
Vol. 324. no. 5929, pp. 872 – 874
Science and the Media: ‘Vengeance’ Bites Back At Jared Diamond
by Michael Balter
Two tribesmen from Papua New Guinea are suing the prominent biologist over a popular magazine article about the human thirst for retribution.
In April 2008, well-known biologist and author Jared Diamond penned a dramatic story in The New Yorker magazine, a violent tale of revenge and warfare in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Titled “Vengeance is Ours” and published under the banner “Annals of Anthropology,” the 8000-word article tells the story of a clan war organized by a young Papua New Guinean named Daniel Wemp to avenge the death of Wemp’s uncle, Soll. In Diamond’s telling, the war started in the 1990s over a pig digging up someone’s garden, went on for 3 years, and resulted in the deaths of 29 people. In the end, Diamond wrote, Wemp won: His primary target, a man Diamond referred to as “Isum,” had his spine cut by an arrow and was confined to a wheelchair. Diamond juxtaposed Wemp’s story with that of his own father-in-law, a Holocaust survivor who never exacted retribution for the loss of his family, to draw an overall lesson about the human need for vengeance.