TRIBAL 'LIBEL' AMBUSH
THE NEW GUINEANS VS. THE NEW YORKER
NEW GUINEA TRIBESMEN SUE AUTHOR FOR $10M
By JEREMY OLSHAN
JUNGLE ROT: Able-bodied Isum Mandingo, with a young New Guinea kinsman, wants to sue writer Jared Diamond (above) for allegedly making up a story that he was paralyzed in a blood feud.
Last updated: 4:03 am
April 23, 2009
Posted: 3:41 am
April 23, 2009
Two New Guinea tribesmen described by The New Yorker magazine as vengeful, bloodthirsty killers are settling their score with the venerable publication the nonviolent, American way: with a lawsuit.
In an April 21, 2008, article on blood feuds by Pulitzer Prize-winning scientist Jared Diamond, tribesman Daniel Wemp recounts how he spent three years hellbent on getting revenge for his uncle Soll's death.
The feud led to six battles and the deaths of 300 pigs, the story went. Finally, a hired thug shot Isum Mandingo, the man Wemp held responsible for Soll's murder, in the back with an arrow, leaving him paralyzed and in a wheelchair, according to Diamond.
But Wemp and Mandingo now insist the magazine got it all wrong. On Monday, the two men filed notice of a $10 million defamation lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Manhattan against The New Yorker and Diamond, claiming they were falsely accused of "serious criminal activity and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, including murder."
Although the article was subjected to the magazine's famously rigorous fact-checking process, it appears The New Yorker may need to change the prescription in its monocle.
When media watchdog group stinkyjournalism.org sent a team of fact-checkers to New Guinea to check the article's veracity, they found Mandingo, who disputed reports of his paralysis by walking on his own two feet.
"No matter what The New Yorker says and what Diamond says, the fact is that he is not paralyzed and is not confined to a wheelchair," said Rhonda Shearer, the site's founder.
"It seems The New Yorker was so naive as to think that this article would not reach these supposedly primitive people in New Guinea."
There were no shouts and murders, but the story remains the talk of the tribes, she said.
Mandingo told the researchers he had no involvement in any blood feuds. In fact, he's a peace officer in his village. Neither Diamond nor the magazine reached out to him for confirmation, he said.
The entire article is "untrue," Mandingo told the group.
As for Wemp, Diamond's only quoted source in the story, he initially said "all those stories that I gave him are true stories." But Wemp later called the article a lie and contends the articles put his life in danger, Shearer said.
The New Yorker would not comment on the lawsuit, but spokeswoman Alexa Cassanos said, "we stand by our story."
Diamond, a best-selling author and UCLA professor, could not be reached for comment. The evolutionary biologist has won numerous awards for his studies as to why societies succeed or fail.