Tim Haines has crawled out of his bunker and responded to the call for fair discussion on the Yahoo AncientArtifacts list which he moderates (I use the term loosely). He writes:
I agree that it is not right to attack Paul Barford where he cannot defend himself, although I would point out that view points opposing his own are not permitted on his blogs. Could we bring this discussion to a close please. [...]I am not sure what is meant by "although I would point out that [viewpoints] opposing his own are not permitted on his blogs". The lack of comments from the Portable Antiquities Scheme and metal detectorists in the comments to my blog posts is certainly not due to me excluding them. I think it rather more that they feel that to comment would be taken as an acknowledgement that there are issues to be discussed, while they would prefer to leave these topics alone or only superficially "dealt with". Thus they themselves feel they have no answer to what is said here. Neither do they answer points raised here anywhere else, which suggests that they feel that no answer might suggest to outside viewer that the question is a worthless one. I leave it up to the reader to decide whether or not they agree with me that this is far from being the case.
In fact, I am always only too happy to discuss those "viewpoints opposing my own". I'd say that to a great degree it is precisely their expression which is the leading topic of this blog, is that not so?
The truth is that collectors find it comfortable to portray themselves as the victim, excluded, despised, misunderstood by people they label as "elitists" (or "radicals/purists" or whatever) from which they create an Other in order to create a group identity for themselves.
The tactic of dismissing opposing arguments as 'biased' or 'propaganda' on no evidence apart from them being uncomfortable views is a common one, not just among collectors of course. In the debate on no-questions-asked collecting, however, we often see it stretched by collectors to the limits of credibility.
So, in answer to Mr Haines, discussion of viewpoints opposing my own on the erosion of the archaeological record through exploitation by artefact hunters, no-questions-asked collecting and the trade in illicit artefacts and the ways in which we deal with is not only "permitted", but welcome on this blog. I really do not think anyone who is in the slightest bit familiar with what I have been writing on the internet for at least the last decade - and on paper somewhat longer - on the issues can (fairly) accuse me of running away from facing those opposing viewpoints. It is rather the other side who time and time again is guilty of JUST that (like the above-mentioned moderator of the AncientArtifacts discussion list who stopped me from doing just that by excluding me from his list for discussing these issues) .
Let it also be recalled that when Tim Haines himself accused me of thieving on his AncientArtefacts list after he had excluded me from being able to answer (Cf his comments above), I invited him over here to explain the basis for that accusation. In other words to express a viewpoint most certainly "opposing my own" He declined, (though somebody else appeared over here offering to explain what Haines had said or meant to say, whether or not Haines had sent him I cannot say). Haines' non-appearance was as cowardly as Dave Welsh's.
The debate on looting, the illicit trade and the ethics of collecting will not simply go away if collectors ignore the questions raised, if anything the more they delay addressing these points, the more painful it is going to be when the inevitable crunch comes.
Vignette: Responsible collectors or a den of pirates? Register with the Yahoo AncientArtifacts forum and take a look for yourselves.