THE BLOG
02/08/2012 05:51 pm ET Updated Apr 09, 2012

Who Writes Fox News Headlines?

Fox News Latino ran a story on 31 January headlined "Uncontacted Peruvian Tribe Attacks Eco Tourists," in response to the release of photos of a group of indigenous people, known as the Mashco-Piro, in the Manu region in Peru's Amazon.

Er ... no. That story has been "liked" by more than 140 people, but the headline and the claim in the first sentence that the Mashco-Piro "suddenly emerged from hiding and began attacking tourists with bows and arrows" is total nonsense.

What actually happened is a Mashco-Piro man shot Nicolas Flores, a Matsigenka man who lived in Manu and had been trying to contact the Mashco-Piro for more than 25 years. Flores' death is a tragedy and the reasons for it remain unclear, but he was no "eco-tourist."

Neither is Jesus Keme, a ranger at the Manu national park, who was wounded last October by a Mashco-Piro arrow with the tip removed. It is believed this was intended as a warning to keep out of their territory than an attempt to kill him.

So have the Mashco-Piro ever fired arrows at eco-tourists? Glenn Shepard, an ethnobotanist and medical anthropologist who has worked in Manu for many years, can only remember one definite incident, back in 1996, when a boat of tourists approached the Mashco-Piro on a riverbank. According to Shepard, this was a different Mashco-Piro group from the one in Manu and had arrived there recently from the River Las Piedras region.

"They responded with a warning shot, not aimed at the boat itself," he says. "It was not intended to kill."

Any other "attacks"? Last year Peru's Environment Ministry (MINAM) released footage of a group of Mashco-Piro on a river bank which, according to the National Geographic, MINAM said was taken by travelers. The footage ends with one Mashco-Piro man appearing to threaten to shoot, but no arrow was actually fired.

These kinds of exchanges are extremely rare and most likely a response to outsiders encroaching on the Mashco-Piro's land. Indeed, it is significant that the 1996 incident happened just after Mobil arrived on the River Las Piedras and began exploring for oil.

"(The Mashco-Piro) apparently migrated from the Piedras towards Manu to avoid Mobil's seismic crews and helicopters," Shepard writes in an article in Anthropology News published on 26 January.

How ironic that is. In the late 19th century the ancestors of today's Mashco-Piro were massacred and driven out of their homes and into nomadism by rubber tappers looking to supply the European and American bicycle and automobile industries with rubber for their tires.

"Once again, our cars evicted the Mashco-Piro from their territory," Shepard writes.

No chance of Fox mentioning that, I suppose.