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David Hines [userpic]

Jared Diamond is in big trouble

April 22nd, 2009 (06:50 pm)

Everybody knows who Jared Diamond is. He made his name with THE THIRD CHIMPANZEE, wrote GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL, and another book about why societies collapse -- stuff like that. Very respected, very popular, very successful.

Apparently, a hell of a bullshitter, as well. In a NEW YORKER article, Diamond wrote about the desire to seek vengeance, and illustrated his discussion with an account of a Hatfields-and-McCoys thing in Papua New Guinea. The tribes in question were the Handa and the Ombals, and Diamond spun a real cycle-of-violence tale: a pig wrecks one guy's garden; as the pig belonged to a guy of another tribe, the offended party killed a member of said tribe; and then the nephew of the murdered man set about a three-year campaign of war and attempted assassination to get his revenge, which he achieved when his troops manage to paralyze an important guy in the other tribe. Real blood-n-guts stuff. The kicker is that the nephew, a nice guy in all other respects, cheerfully relishes the suffering and paralysis of the guy he selected to pay for his uncle's death.

And none of it is true. The nephew was never a fighter, he wasn't even related to the uncle, no pig ever went into a garden, and when stinkyjournalism.org sent a guy over to Papua New Guinea to check things out, he saw the guy who'd supposedly been paralyzed walking down the road toting a bag of dirt.

The subjects of the article have now sued. Diamond would have gotten away with this, but he made the mistake of using real people's names. He got away with it for a while, because the NEW YORKER is not a big seller in PNG, but once they found out -- man.

Academic/journalistic fraud is weird stuff. The biggest example I know of is a guy named S. Walter Poulshock, who performed the rather remarkable feat of *making up his entire dissertation.* He referred to imaginary primary source documents, letters that didn't exist, that sort of thing. Best part: when it came out, he was about to be granted tenure at Rutgers.


Posted by: mendori (mendori)
Posted at: April 22nd, 2009 11:25 pm (UTC)

Seriously... sometimes I think these guys put more work into these things than REAL RESEARCH TAKES.

Posted by: madripoor_rose (madripoor_rose)
Posted at: April 22nd, 2009 11:50 pm (UTC)

Stupid, stupid, stupid. As if there haven't been enough scandals about this kind of thing.

Posted by: Mara (marag)
Posted at: April 23rd, 2009 12:15 am (UTC)

::headdesk:: Dude. The problem, I think, is these guys (and gals) get so big that they assume that anything they say is gospel. Also, I think there's a tendency to figure that they know they're right and if they don't have the actual evidence, they'll just come up with something that explains what they know to be true.

Posted by: amonitrate (amonitrate)
Posted at: April 23rd, 2009 12:25 am (UTC)

dude, if you go to the trouble of making up your entire dissertation, you deserve some kind of award. For fiction, probably.

Posted by: kdorian (kdorian)
Posted at: April 23rd, 2009 12:42 am (UTC)

For having great, big, solid brass ones?

Posted by: amonitrate (amonitrate)
Posted at: April 23rd, 2009 12:45 am (UTC)

all the work that would go into faking sources? I mean. Seriously. It would be easier just to go to the library and pick a bunch of stuff and use those for citations.

Posted by: kdorian (kdorian)
Posted at: April 23rd, 2009 02:31 am (UTC)

OK, so it's topped with a dunce cap...

Posted by: mendori (mendori)
Posted at: April 23rd, 2009 01:17 am (UTC)

The award should just be a pair of brass small bore cannon shot. Seriously. Thats a HUGE amount of work. On the other hand, just how over worked were his committee and advisers that no one caught that?

Posted by: kdorian (kdorian)
Posted at: April 23rd, 2009 02:36 am (UTC)

Everyone was busy, just on the wrong things.

Posted by: Maire (mkcs)
Posted at: April 23rd, 2009 02:03 am (UTC)

My impression of 'Guns, Germs and Steel' wasn't that he was overwhelmingly reliable anyway.

Posted by: 3fgburner (3fgburner)
Posted at: April 23rd, 2009 02:11 am (UTC)

Hm, that sucks. I don't, however, think I'm gonna shred my autographed copy of GG&S quite yet.

Posted by: sevenall (sevenall)
Posted at: April 23rd, 2009 05:17 am (UTC)

That's disappointing to hear.

Posted by: Drooling Fan Girl (droolfangrrl)
Posted at: April 23rd, 2009 06:10 am (UTC)

Awww man. Sounds like he got too fond of hearing himself talk.

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