Friday, 20 February 2015

The "Cultural Property Observer" Blog, IAPN and PNG Lobbying: Some Issues

The background to this text is given in the post above.

The International Association of Professional Numismatists (IAPN) asked me disingenuously what the problems I see with MPeter Tompa's "Cultural Property Observer' blog. They seem not to perceive anything at all wrong with what their lobbyist is writing there. Here's what I shared with them. I also sent the same text to the Professional Numismatic Guild (PNG). Let us see what they say:

Some recent posts which discredit your case
the repatriation of  undocumented objects that have been out of the country for years back to the exact same murderous regime” the disposition of illicitly exported artefacts is not for coin collectors to decide, it is codified in the international conventions. The Wall Street Journal clarifies that objects seized are being stored until they can be returned to a Syria that is safer. As for the suggestion in the comment your representative approved about artefacts held by the terrorist organization ISIL (Islamic state): “Is it not a better option to welcome those artifacts onto the market where they will be preserved and cosseted in private collections and possibly museums?” is simply irresponsible and inappropriate.

your representative leads a discussion on “how European and north African archaeology should be reorganized” without knowing the first thing about how it currently is organized. The comments section is worthy of note, rapidly develops into an embarrassing series of personal attacks (Knell is a collector, Howland a metal detectorist) under Tompa’s

Mr Tompa has not understood what the AIA has declared, misrepresents it and then attacks them on the basis of his own fallacy.
attack on just about everybody around. The vitriolic comments section shifts from an (unwarranted) discussion of Egypt but rapidly deteriorates into another series of personal attacks involving a coin dealer and a metal detectorist.

Is this really time to help legitimize the Egyptian Military Dictatorship…”? The US has already recognized the present government. The comments are a reflection of the typical xenophobic and neo-colonialist attitudes disseminated through this blog by the IAPN representative - note: “to trash their antiquities through their own ineptitude… had this mask been in a private collection, I suggest, this damage would never have happened .. “.

the lawyer proposes an illegal act. Allows a totally uncalled-for and wholly unrelated personal attack in the comments.     Export licenses are a tool for international co-operation and fair play, not a “cudgel against collectors or dealers”. The attack on Glasgow University cultural property specialist Dr Yates is uncalled-for: “does the archaeological lobby respect a UNESCO State Party's views on "export certificates" at all times or only where it's convenient to do so?” Unlike the disdainful attitudes displayed by the IAPN’s ‘professional representative’, Dr Yates does not “disrespect” any state party’s views.     an earlier attack on Dr Yates (see the comments the moderator allowed too). Here Tompa misrepresents what Yates said and then uses his own fallacy to attack her and accuse her of hypocrisy! This is one of a number of attacks on members of the Glasgow “Trafficking Culture” project set up with EU funds to define policies and suggest legislative changes on the antiquities trade. The attempts of the IAPN’s representative to antagonize them by attacking individual members of staff is not likely to benefit your industry. (see here too:     unworthy allegations. The comment is misleading and hardly reflects well on the IAPN

Metal detectorists, coin dealers and a children’s author discuss a kid’s book. Mr Howland asks whether he can “claim for backdated nighthawking excursions” – illegal artefact hunting. Note the reference to “Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Turkey. The stuff still gets found but is not reported, but smuggled out of country” and into some coin dealer’s’ trays. It is smuggled because there is a market for illicit artefacts and coins abroad. Mr Tompa seems never really to have understood how the UK Portable Antiquities Scheme operates and what it actually does and what it does not do, often appearing to substitute fantasy and hearsay for hard researched fact.   This was shown to be false concoction of non-news on two accounts. Although the story is without foundation, there is no retraction. Amal Clooney is too widely a respected human rights lawyer for your representative to use to score cheap points on your behalf. (He got the story from his blog’s resident metal detectorist

the archaeological snobosphere is going full out criticizing everything about the find”. The reasons why there was wide condemnation among heritage professionals in the UK of what happened at Lenborough with the involvement of the PAS (see above) has nothing to do with ‘snobbishness’ but hinges on an organizational and methodological issue. Cheap points again caused by not presenting the root cause of the dispute. The comments further diverge from the topic. A Metal detectorist, a coin dealer and a collector soon get off the point, onto “communism” – totally irrelevant here discussing the Lenborough hoard.

An attack on Professor David Gill (Professor of Archaeological Heritage and Director of the Heritage Futures Research Unit at University Campus Suffolk). Comment: “I'm starting to wonder whether Gill is fit for purpose”. Once again, total ignorance of what the criticised comments are about and the legal basis for our challenging them. As I said, Mr Tompa seems unaware of the precise nature of the PAS . Cheap points based on incomplete presentation of the discussion. Uncalled-for ad hominem comments, this sort of thing is a running thread throughout the IAPN representative’s blog.

The issue was NOT “religious beliefs”, but the way historical (textual) evidence is misread  to support a particular interpretation. The matter was fully set out in the post Tompa is discussing, he twists its meaning to discredit the Egyptian government, but in the process discredits the organization he uses such tactics to support. The permit was re-instated a few days later. Mr Tompa does not retract his statements.    could not possibly be discussed by Mr Tompa and his coterie of experts without quoting “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer” – put into the mouth of Dr Neil Brodie of Glasgow’s Trafficking Culture project (!). The Nazi jibe has absolutely NO relationship to the legal changes discussed and the reasons behind them. Instead of cogent arguments being brought to play, your lobbyist goes for the cheap points and knee-jerk, with the nasty results we all see.    funnily enough, the claim which Tompa says is “debunked” was being quoted in the Wall Street Journal this week. Note the comment in which there is an ad hominem attack on a whole range of people, approved by your lobbyist: “the David Gill, Paul Barford, 'Spotty' Knell, and 'Dim' Swift Alliance is surely now on its uppers, bereft of any credibility whatsoever, thanks to the 'lily gilding' of the archaeological pranksters Gill, Barford et al, ad nauseum. […] Now we need to look at Gill's past reports and interpretations...or is it a case of once an BS-er, always a BS-er? I think we must be told”. Needless to say, Professor Gill has never made any pronunciation on the relative size of ISIL funding or “cold storage” antiquities in post-2003 Iraq. This sort of thing gives a very bad impression of the organization which commissions such ‘lobbying’ on behalf of itself and the interests of its members. Tompa’s suggestion that the looters’ holes at Apamea are “foxholes” is simply ridiculous and shows ignorance of aerial photo interpretation (a skill many field archaeologists have, lacking in coin-collecting school it seems). No retraction by Tompa, despite the fallacy being demonstrated elsewhere.

incredibly they are actually debating in the archaeological blogosphere whether execution is an appropriate sanction for disturbing archaeological context for personal gain”, no “they” are not. Mr Tompa has again totally and deliberately misrepresented what archaeologists think in order to score cheap points on behalf of no-questions-asked coin dealing. The comments about the Pinder-Wilson case do NOT represent what actually happened, and should not have been allowed without checking the facts. A disgrace.

Metal Detectorist and Commentator John Howland has posted this deconstruction of the anti-collector rants of archaeo-blogger Paul Barford on the Stout Standards blog.  It's spot on” – and has nothing whatsoever to do with the IAPN. If you follow the link back to what Howland wrote (“Stupcommiebast’ springs to mind”) and Tompa endorses, you’ll find no link to my text allegedly containing these “ad homimem attacks” to which Tompa refers in order to justify his unprofessional conduct. The text is here: and you will note that what it does is refer to another text on another blog where the term is coined.  Quite unexcusable deliberate twisting of the facts by Mr Howland and Mr Tompa, but another cheap ad hominem point for IAPN.
Attack on Dr Tsirogiannis of the Glasgow Trafficking Culture project: “CPO believes such behavior should not be celebrated but condemned”. The activity condemned is identifying illicit artefacts on the London market – is the IAPN for or against stopping the sale of illicit antiquities? Metal detectorist Howland in a moderated comment guesses where the information comes from and makes an unfounded allegation:  There must surely be an investigation into Tsirogiannis' dealings with the Greek Police. Society needs to know whether money is changing hands in this unorthodox relationship and the source of that money”. Tompa in the comment below repeats this false allegation. Those of us who know Tsirogiannis and the material he is using (and it would seem that Tompa falls into neither category) can see they are both completely mistaken. This is so wrong.    close and […] demonstrable links between the archaeological lobby and military dictatorships such as that in Egypt, Sectarian Governments like that in today's Iraq, or terrorist regimes like that of Assad's Syria or earlier, Saddam's Iraq….”. Here’s the rub. Any dealer who is legally exporting antiquities with permits is engaged in exactly the same co-operation with the authorities and elites of those countries. Any who deals in illicitly exported cultural property from the same countries is dealing with the criminal underclass from those countries. Take your pick. Do collectors refuse to buy coins from these countries? Perhaps Mr Tompa should be discussing the ethics of the industry he represents rather than a discipline of which he constantly demonstrates he has very little knowledge but a great deal of very personal hatred towards.

I think we could go on much further, but it seems to me that if you have reached this stage and still consider that this is precisely what the IAPN want to reflect the public face of their lobbying, I am wasting my time. This sort of thing is repeated throughout most of this blog, right back to 2008 (when I believe Tompa was already associated with the IAPN ‘lobbying’ effort). 

I am surprised that coin collectors and coin dealers coming across such a constant flow of this sort of thing from a lobbyist you are paying for have not taken up with you the damaging impression it creates of the attitudes within professional numismatics. I think the only conclusion we may draw is that this sort of thing really does reflect the attitudes of both professional numismatists ad collectors of ancient coins (and any others too I guess). Shame on you if you do not do anything about this disgraceful display, shame on the lot of you.

Paul Barford
(Warsaw, 18th Feb 2015)
Many coins come onto the market as a result of metal detecting. Many metal detectorists are avid collectors of dug-up coins. It is worthy of note that the specific metal detectorists with whom Mr Tompa has allied himself and thus drawn into the IAPN (and PNG) lobbying effort do not represent a particularly laudable position - Tompa actually links at the bottom of his page ("Blogs I read") to just one metal detecting website and it is Dick's Stout's blog (Stout Standards). Mr Howland's views, apart from as a frequent commentator on Peter Tompa's blog (and it is strongly suspected as a pseudonymous sock-puppet in a number of other places) can be found in his "Malamute Saloon" wordpress blog. The Auschwitz joke is a particularly egregious example of his general approach.

Tompagate 2

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