Law and Order Tackles Conflict Diamonds Issue

Just when many predicted that war coverage would drown out all the noise on conflict diamonds, the issue has popped up on another network program. This time it’s a drama, NBC’s Law and Order.

The episode, which aired Oct. 24, dealt with a diamond dealer murdered by a Sierra Leone soldier for transporting “blood” stones. Perhaps the most damaging part of the program occurred at the end of the show, when Dianne Wiest’s character, after hearing about the link between diamonds and war in Sierra Leone, took off her earrings and commented, “I don’t know if my mother had any idea how many lives were lost digging these up from the Earth.”

The program’s villain was its alternate-universe version of De Beers—”Girard,” which was described as “a cartel … in settlement talks with the Justice Department.” The pseudo-De Beers was portrayed as not only dealing in conflict diamonds in violation of international law—something that the real De Beers denies—but also as the catalyst to the show’s complex murder mystery. At one point in the show, the head of Girard was on trial for ordering the murder.

At another point, a diamond dealer testified in court that diamonds weren’t really rare, but their prices were strong because Girard hoarded them. The lead character, played by Sam Waterston, noted that, if the news about conflict diamonds got out, diamonds could go the way of fur.

The show seemed to be based on last year’s 60 Minutes exposé on diamonds, with one character reciting almost verbatim dealer William Goldberg’s complaints about how De Beers makes him “beg” for allocations.

Although the program was preceded by a disclaimer that said it was fictional but based on real events, some worried that it could increase negative opinions about diamonds.