Sunday, 5 July 2015

The Nature of Antiquities Dealer Lobbying

Peter Tompa is paid by an association of dealers to "lobby" in favour of the no-questions-asked trade in ancient coins. As part of that effort, he runs the "Cultural Property Observer" blog in which he takes potshots at various things. Feeling required to explain away on behalf of his paymasters a recent Guardian article by Rachel Shabi which Professor David Gill has called "a carefully researched piece on Syrian antiquities are that are being offered for sale in London" ('Looting in Syria - and for sale in the UK', The Guardian Saturday 4 July 2015, 32-33), Mr Tompa is faced with a quandary. Actually discussing the issues raised in the text  ("too many words"?) seems beyond him. Instead, he first attempts to dismiss it. The Guardian is characterised as a "lefty rag" as if that was enough to discredit the author's work. Apparently realising that this came over as uber-pathetic, he tries another tactic when he writes (July 5, 2015 at 9:10 AM) :
At least one member of the archaeological blogosphere appears to agree about this article
The man is obviously counting on readers not noticing the sleight-of-hand he employs here. I sent a comment to the blog straightening out the misrepresentation:
Ms Yates, an American, states specifically that she disagrees with the wording of the online HEADLINE. Instead of dissing the article on superficial grounds, why do you not actually address the specific points made by the main protagonist, the specialist Mark Al-Taweel who actually examined this material "arrived recently" by the dealers' own admissions?
Well, of course Mr Tompa could not answer the last question, because he can hardly admit in public that the reason is that his task and aim never was to address issues but to deflect attention from them by his sniping. Rachel Shabi and the specialists she quotes make a number of good points in a major opinion-forming British newspaper about the need to do something about this problem. All Mr Tompa can do is attempt to discredit them all by a 'Call to Authority' in typical collector-style and misquoting Dr Yates, suggesting to his slackjaw readers that she thinks the article is as worthless as Tompa and helpmate Howland would have us believe. Nevertheless Dr Yates' issue is with the newspaper's subeditor who wrote the online headline. When it was published in the newspaper (on paper) that headline was differently-worded ('Looting in Syria - and for sale in the UK').

Mr Tompa sent me the following reply, which I think deserves to be public record as providing the background to his public blogging
Mr. Barford- As I previously indicated, based on the continuing tenor of your comments about me on your blog, you are banned from posting on my blog with a limited exception to allow you to respond to a post that raises questions about your own blogging. This post does not mention you or your blogging so this exception does not apply. In any event, I placed a link to Ms. Yates' comment so the reader can judge for themselves what she meant. Of course, she is free to comment as well. Peter Tompa
DR Yates will, I suspect not stoop to reading Mr Tompa's scandalising anti-intellectual coiney web-rag of a blog, or take time from her research and writing to get involved in any of the sort of lowbrow "discussions" of the ACCG/metaldetectorist ilk. The lobbyists are in the business of producing propaganda, the academics of Glasgow are involved in investigating (and finding a solution to the problems posed by) looters, smugglers, dealers and collectors. Propaganda is irrelevant to them. By this mode of discussion the artefact trade has alienated itself from where the discussion is.

Mr Tompa indicates that he is well aware that what he wrote does NOT represent what Dr Yates means and that this is blatant manipulation of the facts (but "I placed a link...") . He also indicates he's not going to accept substantive comments which challenge what he wrote unless they are from Dr Yates herself.

As far as "the continuing tenor of [my] comments about [Peter Tompa]" on my blog, I would first of all like to point out that my remarks - unlike those of the side he represents and some of the contents of his own blog - are not in general addressed to the person, but what he does and what he argues.

Certainly, there is nothing in the above exchange which would alter my perceptions of Mr Tompa's activities. He seems to regard it as part and parcel of his lobbying effort to be a malicious influencer of the public debate, to deflect it from the substantive issues at question about the antiquities trade. He could go about presenting cultural property issues in his blog in a different manner, but instead he merely concentrates on trying to discredit the arguments and concerns of preservationists by depicting them all as "archaeologists" (they are not) and then attacking that scapegoat 'Other' wholesale, alleging close associations with various Fox-News-cardboard-cutout black character leaders of foreign nations, or engaged in corrupt backroom conspiracies against collectors. As we see in this case, he is not above deliberate misrepresentation of the opinion of others, and refuses to admit the sleight of hand when it is pointed out. Peter Tompa is is well paid for his lobbying, the IAPN alone have reportedly recently spent $173,000 of their members' money on his services on their behalf, and it seems unlikely that his disruption of the debate as part of this effort will stop soon.  He is apparently on to a nice little earner - as long as he can keep the substantive comments away.

In his efforts to maintain his little pot-boiler, Mr Tompa twists into a caricature of himself, I cannot find it in myself to treat with any respect somebody who knowingly prostitutes his intellect and tongue in such a way to in effect become a paid clown dancing to the tune of the dugup dealers. The tactics he employs (the 'arguments' he offers) in favour of the status quo are an unfunny joke. That is my opinion, and it is the opinion this blog will continue to reflect while Mr Tompa continues to play his cards in the way he does.

In my opinion, insincere lobbyists, manipulative sock puppets and disruptive trolls, all working for the maintenance of a status quo on artefact hunting and collecting and the no-questions-asked commerce in dugup artefacts are a menace to open society, a threat to the public debate on heritage which should underlie a democratic process and public debate about determining what needs to be done about this problem. They exist to block the progress of this debate, and while discussion is constantly misinformed and stalled by their activities and the inaction of heritage professionals the world's archaeological heritage is being indiscriminately raked over and disrupted to fill the pockets of a selfish few, day after day, week after week, year after year.

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