Thursday, 22 November 2012

Focus on UK Metal Detecting. Quote: "Throw the Shyster to the Dogs"

Thuggish behaviour is rife in the world of "metal detecting", threats, abuse and general disruption is all they have time and time again showed themselves capable of.*  The sad tale now has a modern installment ('Heritage Action threatened on two continents') which reveals all too well what the attitude of entitlement rife in this milieu leads to. From it, I learn that a UK metal detectorist is apparently on record as saying about me:  
Throw the shyster to the dogs, in the same way he’d throw our hobby, if he could, in the trash can. You’ve got him by the balls, don’t let him off the hook!”
The first point I would make is that the Texan who claims to have me in such an anatomically uncomfortable, yet indecent, grasp bases that claim on possession ofpersonal data STOLEN from a non-public British source to which it has been pointed out he has no right. His explanation that it is OK for him to have my stolen data because "he did not personally steal it and other people have some too"  is not one I think most decent folk would sympathise with applied to a stolen bike or computer or anything else.

Secondly, before he sets the dogs on anyone, perhaps it would be best to get the facts right. Is it actually true that anyone here would "throw our hobby in the trash can (sic)"? I challenge the person who wrote that to scrutinise my many words on artefact hunting and collecting (not only on this blog) and select the quotes from my own words which demonstrate that to be the case [Go on, do it]. There are 3700 posts published here, where is the information that indicates that the writer of those words would either metaphorically or literally "throw our hobby in the rubbish bin" as asserted?

As Nigel Swift points out that the whole problem is that:  
both Paul and I and our families have been threatened several times by metal detectorists who object to our view that metal detecting shouldn’t be banned but should be conducted in a far less damaging fashion.
That in a nutshell is the full extent of the problem. I articulate the view that artefact collecting (NOT just artefact hunting - so-called "metal detecting") should be carried out in a far less damaging fashion than it is at the moment. It is abundantly clear to me, and concerns me very much, that the way things are happening at the moment is immensely damaging to both the archaeological record and archaeology. I present my reasons for thinking so here and elsewhere. What the reader does with that information is up to them.  

Now, to my mind, if I am right, the trully responsible artefact hunters and collectors would want to do something about that. On the other hand, those who consider it is not true should, in my opinion, set out in an argued, structured and articulate manner why what concerns me is not true. I'd be happy to hear that my concerns are unfounded. Simple denial or ignoring the publicly-aired issues is however no argument. So far, in over a decade, I have not seen anything that even begins to approach a proper presentation of where the picture both I and Nigel Swift present is wrong.

What is significant is what we get instead from this whole milieu. We get the name-calling, serial harassment, the threats - all aimed at a personal level towards somebody saying a few things which cannot yet be refuted about the artefact-collecting status quo. Presumably this is done to scare them off, attempt to shut them up. Just like the majority of British archaeologists, 'fraid of the aggro, will shy away from even mentioning "metal detecting" on a forum (the CBA's Britarch being a prime case) or discussing the issues it raises in any detail. As Nigel Swift says, this "says all that needs to be said about Britain’s current disfunctional stewardship of its portable antiquities".

Should we be afraid to express an opinion? We have reflected deeply on these issues in a systematic way for many years (I started in the late 1970s), very actively for more than a decade. We have our views on what we see and have seen. I believe that we present what in any other circumstances would be perceieved as more or less sensible arguments. In almost every instance we are discussing real cases,   linking to source material where the context of the information given can be examined by the reader (unless the metal detectorists react by deleting the thread when they see it discussed - nota bene). Why then should anyone in such a position have any worries about presenting them?   Why should somebody having views differing from what most other commentators are saying (or avoiding discussing) be shouted down by thuggish behaviour and threats, from both artefact hunters and nota bene their "partnering" archaeologist friends? What is it that those engaging in such activity think they are protecting from scrutiny? More importantly, and fuundamentally, to what end?

Detectorists still think that it is "(the minority of) nighthawks" that get their hobby a bad name. I say that it is already a different group - perhaps a minority, but a noticeable and noisy one - which is actually currently getting artefact hunting a far worse name in a very public manner. 

*I once again, after six months of PAS ignoring the first time I asked this, challenge the PAS to make their archived Forum again visible (with all the posts Dan Pett hid - yes including "Belzoni's" fake homoerotic one with the stolen photos) as proof positive of the veracity of that statement. If it is done honestly, Nigel Swift and I have nothing to hide - but British metal detecting and the Portable Antiquities Scheme certainly have. Prove me wrong, Roger. 

Vignette:  Texan anti-debate dog.

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