Wednesday, 4 November 2015

UK Metal Detectorist's Credo

Bill Sykes (Wikipedia)
"The hobby of metal detecting is complex" says Dean Crawford. I do not really think this is any more true than of any other collecting activity, postage stamps, beer mats, netsuke, Cary Grant memorabilia, birds' eggs. He goes on:
Like archaeology itself, there is much opinion and criticism directed at the methods and people involved
Method? What "method" is there in artefact hunting? Certainly, in a hobby with over ten thousand members, there will be people whose activities and opinions expressed bring the whole hobby into disrepute - but what is an important factor in tat is the way other members of the same group react to that behaviour, whether they oppose it or acquiesce to it. In UK metal detecting circles there is little beyond token declarative denial of bad practice, but very rarely any active criticism of the cases that frequently come to light from within the hobby. This too is an aspect of 'responsible' artefact hunting. Mr Crawford goes on to say:
[There is] always a little horror story to tell, or be heard, but there are so much [sic] more positive things to be enjoyed and to learn from
But then, the problem is that when one does nothing else than emphasise those "positive points" (what others see as spin), then the wider picture is missed. If it is done deliberately, censoring out the difficult issues, then it is nothing else than deception (British Museum, are you listening?). The fluffy bunny picture of metal detecting which all of its supporters (without exception) propagate deliberately ignores the fact that it presents only one portion of the wider picture. The heritage belongs to everybody, so let us be honest with everybody, and let both sides of the story be told. What is wrong with that? Again, it is worth drawing attention to the fact that these 'horror stories' only become prominent when picked up by outsiders, almost never as a result of prior condemnation from within the hobby (see above). The main reaction one can expect from the whole community is when a subject is being discussed outside the milieu, the forum or discussion list thread is "disappeared" in a childish attempt to pretend it never happened. Once again, deception and not responsible action is the tekkie modus operandi.

As for "learning", it is clear that many metal detectorists ("challenged by formal education" in the words of David Lammy) cannot cope with some basic concepts, such as uttering a grammatical sentence in their own language, let alone anything more complex. Anyone who doubts that need spend only half n hour looking at the tenor of discussion on any metal detecting forum near you.  Dean Crawford assures us:
I do not wish to control others, as I do not wish others to control me. But yet some of the fallacious views surrounding my pastime attempts to do just that, so I know how it would feel, should I be naïve enough to try this in other people's circles. 
Leaving aside the issue of what actually constitutes a "fallacious view surrounding artefact hunting", artefact hunting and collecting take place in the UK with social (and British Museum) approval. Laws are made - or should be made - to reflect what a given society considers right and proper. It is the laws which control an activity, not what you dear reader or I might think about it. But is there anything wrong with wishing to see the law changed in line with changed public perceptions? Is there anything wrong with trying to inform public opinion, so people can make up their own mind whether a minority group filling their pockets from a precious finite and fragile resource which belongs to all with minimal accountability is what they approve of, or what they disapprove of? I say no. That is what democracy is about. Mr Crawford disagrees, he sees it (as do many collectors) as an interference in their "freedoms" to do what they want how they want and hang the rest of society. This is not an issue of control, it is one of consent.

But what is a matter of 'control' is the way in which this group, metal detectorists, uses intimidation as a weapon to control and avoid pubic discussion. (as we see in the comments under Mr Crawfords' post where it could not be clearer why Mr Hooker is publishing my personal data: "If he has any sense at all (which I doubt) he'll turn his attention to other things"). The constant message is 'criticise metal detecting and expect all manner of unpleasantness aimed directly at you personally'. (That is despite the purely declarative assurances like the ones with which Mr Crawford - who we remember has been for years in conflict with the PAS - ends his text.)  The public display of aggression in this manner by artefact collectors is intended to put people off - and generally it does. British archaeology involves an increasing number of problems for those trying to do it properly, and that results in many archaeologists tending to avoid contacting the issues involved in artefact collecting and trade because they see no need to seek further problems for them and their families. Until now there has been the PAS to do the dirty work of outreach to these troublemaking people, "it is their problem". But now the PAS is entering meltdown and increasingly unable to cope with anything beyond keeping its own head above water for as long as possible, archaeologists are going to have to face these policy issues. With it they will have to face the increasingly virulent oikish behaviour of these collectors hell-bent on disrupting the discussion by all means, including personal attack, and even threat.  Whether archaeologists decide to continue to give in to this coercion remains to be seen. 

In presenting his self-justification, Mr Crawford then detectorist plays the 'special knowledge' card, the 'anybody who does not agree with me is just ignorant' gambit: 
I would never attempt to interfere in other peoples lives, with hard opinions concerning their affairs — opinions that could never be formed accurately from outside. One needs to be inside the theatre to view the performance, to fully understand the story — the whole experience, before passing comment or criticism. To do so from afar would simply highlight one's ignorance. To make a career out of it would make you a idiot. But we accept that the world is a big place and this does happen!
There is what we call transparency and accountability. UK artefact hunters are filling their pockets with what belongs to us all, yet Mr Crawford claims that we "cannot see" what they are doing (and sees this as a natural situation - how it should be). He claims some things are hidden from those on the outside. I say this is not at all how it should be. Since they are taking what belongs to all, let the artefact hunters, collectors and dealers be open, frank and wholly honest about what they are doing. Let them not hide away items and information which this metal detectorist apparently considers to be his (collector's) "right" to keep from others (outsiders). In other words to keep everyone in ignorance of what they are up to. I see no objective reason at all why we should not all be totally free to form an opinion of what people like Mr Crawford are up to. Especially the ones that proudly refuse to report responsibly what they pocket from the historical record to the PAS (by exercising a freedom to choose himself whether to or where "record them, wherever I feel the information will do its [sic] best for all of us") and boast about how they maintain public ignorance of what really goes on in the world of artefact collecting.


James said...

You really do talk a lot of crap. I know plenty of well meaning, well educated, responsible detectorists. Does it even enter your head that these people exist?

Paul Barford said...

I expect there are some ISIL militants who are animal lovers. The question is does that fact excuse all that ISIL does to people? Te problem with current UK policies is not the educated ones, but the vast number who have shown themselves incapable of any form of education. a policy based on "outreach" is doomed to FAIL. Likewise the actual evidence of the extent of that "responsibility" (when the subject of the cycle of posts I am discussing admits he does not as a rule report his finds to the PAS) is what is in question here. I say all the evidence points to that being a facade behind which a whole load of selfish irresponsibility lurks. That is not "crap" it is something that can be demonstrated. What is "crap" is a policy in England and Wales which fails to take that into account. It is the underlying message of this blog that a lot of "crap" is spread about uncritically by the jobsworth and self-interested supporters of current policies.

Paul Barford said...

"James", where are those "well-meaning, well-educated, responsible metal detectorists" now when their fellow detectorists threaten that a commentator is going to "get a knock on the door" and he's spreading around photos of conservationists to metal detector "retailers who want them"?

Are they "responsibly hiding"? "Responsibly being ambassadors for the hobby" by keeping quiet instead of speaking out against the thuggishness of the stalkers in the hobby (or if you like on the margins of the hobby)? Are they taking responsibility for the public image of their hobby? Nope.

Where ARE they James?
Show me them, standing up for civilised behaviour.

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.