A while ago, Chaim Even-Zohar brought up a topic that has been bothering me for some time. In response to some incorrect information printed in the Financial Times, he wrote (subscription only):
What really gets me is not that the FT publishes such blatantly false information but that the industry is sitting quietly. Where are our spokesman?
But of course, it’s not just the FT. I regularly see articles that suggest that the cartel is still around, that Sierra Leone is still at war, and that everyone who works in a diamond mine is a child laborer. And no one from the industry responds. In some, very egregious cases, I have even reached out to the reporters involved, but it’s probably not appropriate for me to be doing so.
This doesn’t just happen on fringe sites, but I’ve seen this written in respected publications like The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and The Atlantic. And while I have no problem with criticism of the Kimberley Process, some of the people who take shots at it seem to have no idea how it works. (See this post in the The New Republic.)
Shouldn’t the industry be trying to set the record straight here? Apparently, improving the trade’s image was one of the mandates of the International Diamond Board. But that has been stalled, and there is no out there correcting these things.
Now, part of me feels a little uneasy suggesting this because, as we all know, the industry still has issues and challenges. The problems with Zimbabwe may be with us for a long time. So we don’t need a slick spin-master suggesting that everything is fine when it isn’t. If we just view these issues as public relations questions, instead of real ones to be addressed, we’ll have just made things worse for ourselves (not to mention failed morally).
But the industry does need someone to point out that the business has improved considerably over the years, that diamonds are no longer horded in stockpiles to keep the prices up (as much as some still wish that were so), and that every stone—in fact, an overwhelming majority of them—isn’t connected to violence. These are important messages, but a lot of people—even some intelligent people—don’t know them.
Now, during the time of the Blood Diamond movie, the industry put up a site called Diamond Facts. It’s still around, but it was a little too rah-rah for my taste, and I felt it didn’t speak directly to consumer concerns about blood diamonds and the cartel. But at least it was something.
In the political world, the operating rule is that, if an attack isn’t answered, it’s believed. And right now there are a lot of people who believe these things. And they aren’t just reporters.