Obligatory Naomi Campbell/Blood Diamond Post

Some thoughts on British supermodel Naomi Campbell’s recent testimony about the night Charles Taylor gave her “blood diamonds” (which she described as “small dirty looking stones”):

– We keep hearing how “important” Campbell’s testimony is for convicting Taylor. But there certainly seems like a publicity element here. After hearing for so many years that there was an absolute link between former Liberian president Charles Taylor and the Sierra Leone diamond trade, I really hope that the prosecutors at the Special Court for Sierra Leone have more concrete evidence of a link than the testimony of one supermodel, especially an erratic one who has offered differing accounts. (Not to mention, the Campbell “gift” didn’t come to light until after Taylor’s trial began.)

–  Some have scoffed at Campbell’s assertion that she had never heard of “blood diamonds” when Taylor (allegedly) gave her a diamond in 1997. But this is almost certainly true. Global Witness’ first report on Angolan “conflict diamonds” wasn’t released until 1998, and Partnership Africa Canada’s report on diamonds and Sierra Leone wasn’t published until 2000. 

– This is hardly a novel or profound observation, but, my God, celebrities really drive news coverage, even on serious topics like this one. There were far more articles in the American press about “blood diamonds” after DiCaprio’s movie came out (in 2006) then when the Sierra Leone war was at its height (in 1999-2000.)  

And again, simply because there’s a supermodel involved, there has been a fresh rash of publicity about the diamond industry’s least favorite subject  – particularly in the British  media.  “Congratulations, murdered and mutilated Sierra Leoneans!” wrote one local columnist. “You finally have a celebrity angle, meaning your obscure little story has been given its brief moment in the limelight.” 

The columnist continues:

Naomi attempted a winningly self-deprecating smile and told the court: “I’d actually never heard of Liberia at that time.”

“Many people hadn’t,” purred Taylor’s defence lawyer, “until you turned up today”;.”

If, like the British press, you can’t get enough of this story, the Atlantic has a decent primer on this “issue”. And a New York Times blog has video of her testimony. 

JCK News Director