Sunday, 24 January 2016

Łubu-dubu: "Battlefield Recovery" (Nazi War Diggers) Supporters and Leningrad Sock Puppets

Amy likes metal detectorists
After some pretty negative press, in the name of presenting a balanced view, it should be pointed out that the fictionalised deathporn reality show "Battlefield Recovery" has its supporters. Let's have a look at some of them.

The first to attract this bloggers attention was an "Amy". This seems to be musician Amy J. Clark who is also a photographer (probably from Buckinghamshire or thereabouts) who likes a bit of garish colour in her shots. Amy is not very happy about what is being said about a programme originally made as "Nazi War Diggers". She says "People who say is about grave robbing have no idea what they are talking about. Watch all 4 episodes, then decide" (actually there are six). Since the majority of the comments made by people who ARE watching the episodes do not actually concern "grave robbing" (look it up Amy), I'd suggest that it is Ms Clark who's not really on the ball about what the issues being raised are. But then, all becomes clear here:
Looking forward to tomorrow to see my mate in action. All done for honourable reasons. Stop spreading misinformation
of course, and who might that "mate" be? Let us guess. In any case, what "honourable" reasons are there and why can they not be done with no TV-for-profit cameras there?  No, there is no honour here. This is cheap thrill fictionalised commercial television. Nothing more.

Amy is "Disgusted by the amount of academics slagging off #BattlefieldRecovery", but then, is not commenting on what we see happening around us the job of academics? What is being discussed is what is put into the public domain as "acceptable". Some people are expressing the view it is unacceptable and why. There is much more tweeted by Amy (and retweeted by others) on the topic, most of it the same sort of whingeing about the presenters being criticised (which we hear from just one of them who perhaps coincidentally is also a musician) but really dodging the actual issues of what they are shown actually doing and where that falls short of even the most basic expectations of a show aiming to portray "honour and respect" for the war dead - now involving civilians. 

Neil did some "thinking"...
Amy links to a Neil Humphries, a football fan who cannot capitalise his own name and is also a "mate" of one of the diggers. He says "everything was going to museums". This has been questioned in the case of the Latvian diggings (see here and here also). Which "museum" received the artefacts allowing the identification of these bodies removed from a mass grave in Poland?  What "respect" is there when they televise the exposure of the bodies and identifiable clothing of people buried there within living memory?

Amy also links to a Samantha Sutton (not the Samantha Sutton I wrote about here earlier), Samantha thinks we should all give the metal detectorists a chance:
Can't wait to see this show - real history being brought to life in a respectful and civilised manner.
[and then having assessed a programme she's not yet seen, uses a typical Two Wrongs Argument]: 7.01  
How many Battlefields have been dug up for housing estates and industrial areas with no care for relics?
The pity is that this is indeed real history, very real to Poland, and I would not say the way this fictionalised deathporn reality show with Nazi badges has been done in anything like a respectful and civilised manner. Is this the best Britain can do? Ms Sutton, is "recovering (or not) relics" the only thing of concern when a site is developed? Or has PAS outreach (which you pay for) taught you and millions of other Brits something else? No, of course not. Total waste of money there.

Rugby coach Ben Scanlon from London reckons
8 godz.8 godzin temu
good tv. Informal but informative, just what the Dr ordered after my week. Sad I've missed the first two  [and] 8 godz.8 godzin temu too true. Need more stuff like this that marries knowledge and entertainment
You can get the first two episodes through Five Demand Mr Scanlon. If, however, you are interested in the end of the Second World War in Poland, the advance of the Red Army and the complex series of subsequent events, I think a history book or two may be more informative, if information is what you actually want. From what the "presenters" say, there is not much evidence that they put any effort into getting any "knowledge" either before the trip or during it. So they could hardly impart any could they? More on that later.

But here's a really good example of metal detecting misinformation straight from the St Petersburg School. One "Harry Smith-Taylor" (note the construction of that fictional name) who likes "history, writing, smiling", says he's from London, is obviously a sock-puppet. The account was opened a short while ago with the obviously intentionally provocative attention-seeking comment:

then this is followed by typical tekkie chip-on-the-shoulder gems such as this comment made after the show aired:
9 godz.9 godzin temu
really informative, and great to see real people not pompous academics doing something they love
Like digging up dead babies you mean? In their nappies? Dead babies buried there in living memory. I would say anyone who "loves" that needs to go and see a specialist. Then a personal attack on archaeologist Meghan Dennis:
8 godz.8 godzin temu
Am amazed is associated with ... Really want to be linked to somebody so critical of people trying to improve world?
Improving the world? How come? How has the world been improved by four foreign artefact hunters coming to my country and pretending to dig up these bodies under the gaze of gawping British tv viewers to fondle the relics found with them? This sock puppet then mostly retweets stuff from digger's mate Amy who clearly does not understand any of the issues involved here. Here is Smith-Taylor commenting on another thread:
11 godz.11 godzin temu
little warped logic there. Room for all; there's a lot of history to dig up
But of course the issue is how to "dig up history" and how to portray an exhumation and forensic archaeology in the media. Then there's this one here:
9 godz.9 godzin temu
gets support. So glad that the silent majority are finding their voice!
The fact that they all quote each other looks more like an organized campaign than anything else. Note that this one was copied to Ofcom.

It looks like somebody in "Edutainment-for-Profit World", worried that academics, heritage professionals and others actually have views on what that "edu-" prefix should mean, is whipping up support for what we see as more profitable second-rate, cut-corner dumbdown. Here is a new account, looking like it's from the same stable:
  14 godz.14 godzin temu
Just setting up my Twitter.
and: 10 godz.10 godzin temu
Learnt so much about end of WW2 from . Thank you
But there is more. There's another sock-puppet. This one is a real cracker and illustrates very well UK artefact hunters' attitudes. This one calls himself or herself "Howard Carter" (no points for originality there). Mr Carter [@HowardCarterGo] claims to be an "investigative journalist" and to also be from London. He started his spoofing earlier:
Looking forward to reaction - overblown fuss by elitist academics? Err and the Pub Landlord...?
He's much more chip-on-shoulder forthcoming:
Are soldiers left behind on a WW2 battlefield just academic specimens? No. Good on for getting some home
Are they just playthings for metal detectorists on film then? But episode three showed something else. In any case, it should be noted that we have not yet seen the identification of a single lost individual and the repatriation of his remains to his family, we see a selection of nameless bones being handed over by the metal detectorists to be buried in nameless mass graves on the edge of a foreign cemetery. In fact, is that not where the civilians they dug up in episode three were lying already?

Here's Mr Carter spewing out a Two Wrongs one mirroring a comment by none other than Estuary English on a detecting forum near you:
Did 'archaeologists' get this het up when they smashed the lower legs of the 'Richard III' skeleton with a digger?
(by the way, both metal detectorists seem not really to have understood the Richard III exhumation and the difference between that and "Nazi War Diggers", but that is their problem). Here is more typical provocative anti-archaeological PAS-partner-talk:
Think 'archaeologists' have lost their moral bearings. Not for an academic paper but these guys are doing a good thing
'Archaeologist' snobs miss the point - give the fallen a proper grave. That's the truly ethical position 16.01
Troubling gap between academic snobbery of archaeo-Twitter cabal and ordinary decent values displayed on TV tonight.
Archeo-cabal's shrill attack shows 'archaeologists' have lost their moral bearings. Out of touch.
How are Twitter 'archaeologists' making WW2 EF accessible to wider audience? Yr comfort zone is judgement from keyboard

12 godz.12 godzin temu
Is the archaeological militant tendency out again tonight for more orchestrated snobbery and rage?

The basic line seems to be: 'How dare ordinary people get involved in history!' Academics versus accessibility on
No, the basic line is how, in the times when there has been an enormous amount of public outreach is it even remotely possible that a responsible production company and "responsible artefact hunters" could imagine in their wildest dreams that any of this makes an acceptable presentation of the exhumation of war dead and investigation of a massacre in the second decade of the twenty-first century? What on earth were they thinking? This buffoon understands nothing
10 godz.10 godzin temu
helps uncover a poss war crime in Poland... How outrageous they didn't think to invite a British archaeologist along!
and what makes this individual think that the proper people to invite along are three puerile British metal detectorists and a cocky US dealer in Nazi war relics, untrained in any kind of forensic archaeology and lacking even basic osteological knowledge or the historical context? I repeat, what were they thinking?

[Not that it really matters who the culprit is, but I would draw attention to "Howard Carter's" spelling and vocabulary. What other British detectorists do we know who use such a range of concepts in their writings, for example in other sock-puppet guises?]

 * * *
This flourishing of supporters for both metal detectorists and the Nazi-relic dealer as well as the production company puts me in mind of one of my favourite classic old Polish comedies (and not mine alone). This is Stanisław Bareja's bizarre Miś (the Bear) made in 1980, completely demolishing the absurdities of many aspects of Polish life in the Communist period. I hold this film is in effect untranslatable and I am not even going to try with this scene. Those who know what it's about will see the point I am making. The rest can take something else from the fact that they do not understand it all that well. I would equate it with the problems that are associated with inserting four naive buffoons into a complex international situation which they do not understand and are making comments on it which can only emerge as burlesque. Then we get these empty-headed apologists.... Łubu-dubu.

Miś: "Jarząbek" - posted on You Tube by Riposta TV

I think if the PAS were doing its job half as well as it should, it should be they, not outside archaeologists and others, who as a fundamental part of their outreach take up the task of using social media to reach the public which are reading these comments by these agitators. The fact that such comments are being made (on a programme that would not have been made with the involvement of metal detectorists if their outreach had been at all effective) is a measure of PAS failure. How long will they continue to ignore their failure, before they start doing what they've already taken millions of pounds to do over coming up to two decades. Where is the PAS presence on social media?

UPDATE 26th January
Amy has decided that not everybody is worthy of reading her words of wisdom, so she's blocked me from her Twitter account.... . I guess I'll never know what I'll be missing in the line of garish photography and body piercings.


Unknown said...

Hi Paul

Many thanks for quoting my tweets. I can assure you that I was initially concerned about the show following your comments, and those from other sources, but decided to form my own opinion by viewing the show. When I watched it, I could not see what the issues were that you and other archaeologists had with it. The production, as I saw it, recovered relics, gave the ones the museum wanted to the Latvian War Museum, and handed the remains of fallen soldiers to the correct authorities.

I would value your opinion on how this show was different to the one I’ve linked below, (run by, and clearly stated as being an archaeological dig), as it seems to show all the same things that you and others have complained about, but I do not know if you, or other archaeologists, complained about this show as you have Battlefield Recovery?

11.13 For about 45 seconds. Handling live ammo.

12.24 Removing a relic without showing context.

25.01 Prying a relic up without loosening it first.

30.38 Handling a relic rifle. How do they know there isn't a live cartridge in the chamber? Is that a qualified EOD person? What qualifications has he got to enable him to handle it safely?

35.00 Handling live ammo that has been ‘adapted’ by the soldiers who intended to use it. This would make it unsafe to handle wouldn’t it? Where is the EOD operative?

47.20 Human remains on some kind of metal plate, no gloves, and all the bones piled up. They carry this towards bones spread out on a plastic sheet. How is this different to what Battlefield Recovery showed? If this doesn’t show disrespect, then why is it disrespectful in Battlefield Recovery?

53.36 A WW1 relic being screwed into the ground. Is this what all archaeologists do? This item is obviously rusty and fragile, so why treat a relic in this manner?

1:00:00 Using a digger with no Hi-Viz jackets or hard hats. Yet these are archaeologists are they not? Were complaints lodged regarding this?

1:22:54 A high explosive artillery shell. Where is the EOD guy? Who took it out of the ground, (as it has obviously been dug up)? A very dangerous thing to do, so I understand, removing an artillery shell from its resting place.

1:24:03 That is a live grenade he has in his hand. I am reliably informed that is an M15 Kugel grenade, of German manufacture. Keep an eye out as it is only 2 seconds of clip. Michael Ball, noted as a ‘Military Historian’. Is he EOD qualified? If not, why is he being allowed to pull at the fuse from this 100-year-old explosive device?

1:34:56 Two live stick grenades lying on a table with the general public all gathered round. Is this safe?

Lastly, at the end of the show, the relics are said to have been passed 'on to museums around the world'. Which museums? Where's the proof?

Your opinion on how the above differs from Battlefield Recovery would be most welcome, as I am at a loss at to why the above show differs.

Paul Barford said...

You wrote:
How many Battlefields have been dug up for housing estates and industrial areas with no care for relics?" but seem to miss that this is precisely the context of the filmed rescue excavations you criticize.

To be honest I am surprised that you see no difference between what you see here and the four louts running around with their metal detectors. Take the way the human remains are exposed and documented for a start.

The phrasing “Can't wait to see this show” ( does not really suggest that you FIRST watched the show to make up your own mind, does it?

I see you are using Two Wrongs arguments throughout. Does that make what the Clearstory team did any the better?

But Mrs Sutton, do you see archaeologists BLOCKING discussion? Why not take your comments to an archaeology forum (BAJR Fed or Britaerch would be good ones) and see if the thread is LOCKED – like they have been all along on the metal detectorists’ forums the moment the words "best practice" were mentioned. Is that not the issue here?

When I watched it, I could not see what the issues were that you and other archaeologists had with it” It is rather odd then, isn’t it, that you managed to see so many in another film.

12.24 and 25.01 I do not see your point.

Likewise 30.38 and 35.00. Material is being demonstrated in a cleaned state which suggests they are not freshly-dug from the ground.

47.20 I do not see your point.

53.36 “This item is obviously rusty and fragile” I’ve got several of these in the back hedge of my garden in England. And they are screwed into the ground. No I do not see this one as “obviously fragile” – this is clay and that object is sound metal under the rust.

"1:00:00 Using a digger with no Hi-Viz jackets or hard hats". Absolutely wrong.

The spoil heaps are a mess and far too near the edge of the trenches. If this were my site, the machines would have moved them back.

1:22:54 I do not see your point, we do not see who removed it and how. Behind the spoilheaps, it may have been brought in from the surrounding fields by an agricultural worker

1:24:03 it is not a M15 Kugel grenade, and I do not see him “pulling at a fuse” but cleaning mud from it.

1:34:56 Stielhandgranate why are they “live”?

"I am at a loss at to why the above show differs" yes, you probably are.

Unknown said...

Many thanks for your reply Paul. I am a little disappointed that you chose to reply in such mocking tones. I was, and will continue to be, civil with you, perhaps you could do the same? I am merely trying to determine why you believe the actions shown on Battlefield Recovery differ from the show I linked for you. Answering questions with 'I do not see your point' is not an answer. You and other people have complained about actions that can be seen in both shows, including the handling of ordnance. This is not a case of 'two wrongs', but a case of 'why is their wrong not as wrong as that shown on Battlefield Recovery'?

As for the forums you mention, I am not a member of any of them, nor are they relevant to the questions I posed above. You have written many pages of comment on Battlefield Recovery and it is your opinion I am interested in, not other people.

Also please note that it is not 'odd' that I 'see so many in another film'. I watched the show I linked above out of my interest in the world wars, and for no other reason. I merely noticed that the team of archaeologists in the show conducted the dig and handling of ordnance and human remains in a very similar way to Battlefield Recovery. I saw nothing wrong in the film, just as I saw nothing wrong in Battlefield Recovery, I saw the same.

I also do not understand why you have replied 'absolutely wrong' to the point about hi-viz jackets and hard hats. The people digging are within reach of the digger's arm, and are not wearing either, which is clearly shown in the show. This isn't a case of being right or wrong, but a case of accepting what your eyes see.

As for your reply regarding the artillery shell, I come back to my earlier point. Why is this different to Battlefield Recovery? Unless you were at the archaeological dig at the WW1 trenches, you, (and also me), have no idea how the shell got there. What we can tell is that it is surrounded by a presenter and film crew, with no explosives/ordnance expert present. I am intrigued as to why you believe this footage is acceptable because of things you are assuming happened, yet you don't do the same for another.

Lastly, please can you clarify the formal qualifications you have in the identification of grenades and artillery shells, and the determination of whether they are live or not. The object the gentleman is handling and picking mud off of certainly looks like a grenade, and those are definitely stick grenades on the table. As to whether they are live or not, wouldn't it be best to always assume they are live unless an expert has deemed them to be safe? If you have such a qualification I will obviously respect your view.

Paul Barford said...

"I am merely trying to determine why you believe the actions shown on Battlefield Recovery differ from the show I linked for you."

As the title of the post(s) to which you refer (should) make clear, in this blog (my blog) I am discussing as a case study a specific example of the use of amateur metal detectorists by a British TV company. This is not a military history blog and the making of films about either World War is not the topic here. If you really want to discuss it, I suggest you take your comments to a blog which deals with that specific topic. Or if you want to slag off archaeologists, an archaeology forum.

I suggest you give some thought to what a "Two Wrongs" argument is. Also what something being referred to as "absolutely wrong" means. That one group of guys does something wrong does not give a second group of "responsible" people an excuse for making the same error.

1:24:03 it is not a "M15 Kugel grenade". As for formal qualifications apart from being a keen observer of the central European market of dug up relics, we might ask you what are yours? Or your informant?

What we see being done by the four people employed by Clearstory raises questions. You are an apologist merely attempting to deflect attention from those questions by trying to change the subject.


You say that the "handling of ordnance and human remains" in the film to which you linked was done "in a very similar way to Battlefield Recovery". I've watched it and what I see is that there is no basis for you saying that at all. I suggest you re-read what the specific criticisms of Nazi War Diggers/Battlefield Recovery have actually been. Not that it matters, what we are discussing is what three metal detectorists and a Nazi relic dealer were filmed doing in Latvia and Poland. I do not see what is so difficult for you to understand.

But I suspect that "understanding" is not actually your aim here.

Do you, or someone you know, go "metal detecting" or collect ground-dug militaria?

Paul Barford said...

Whether or not Samantha Sutton "respects my view" is the least of my concerns. I am not writing here for anyone who thinks artefact hunting is cool, I am writing about them.

Readers can read what I say about the series, about the permits, about the targeting of a known grave in an existing cemetery, about the employment of four complete amateurs, ill equipped, to make a dumbdown-TV "reality show" involving digging up random human remains and playing with guns and while the videos are still available, make up their own minds. They can see that the artefact hunting lobby choose either silence, or personal attacks (Kris' Rodgers baseless accusations about me "selling information") and sock puppets and others employing Two Wrongs arguments - but none of them engage with any of the critical comments made.

This shows the limitations of expecting a milieu like this (a) to understand what the issues are with the way "metal detecting is carried out and (b) be willing to face the issues square on and do something about it.

Ceterum censeo, Carthaginem esse delendam

Unknown said...

Many thanks for your reply. I have obviously annoyed you in some way as you still seem to persist in avoiding the perfectly reasonable questions I have posed regarding the difference between the show I linked and Battlefield recovery, preferring instead to mock and belittle the questions without actually answering them. I was hoping to have an open, honest and frank discussion on the difference between the two shows, with a respected archaeologist and well educated man. However, you seem to persist in lowering yourself to mocking my questions and accusing me of using a 'two wrongs' argument. I just wanted a discussion as to the differences between the two shows so I could understand your position fully. I did not want, nor did I deserve, a general attack on me.

I do not accept that I am avoiding the questions, merely asking for clarity on why the questions have been asked, when the show I linked clearly shows all the things you have raised issues with. I just wanted to know why this show was different. That is all.

I respect your right to an opinion. What I have come to not respect is your general attitude and personal attacks on someone who merely asked reasonable questions.

As for formal qualifications, I, like you, am a keen amateur, building up a knowledge through research and observation in an area in which I have an interest. However, I know my limitations and, unlike you, cannot determine whether or not an item of ordnance is live just from a picture. Or do you not consider that a woman can be interested in, or have knowledge of, this kind of thing?

I only see further friction between us over this matter, which is a shame given I had hoped for a sensible discussion on the subject. I have great respect for you and archaeologists like you. but I think it wise we cease this conversation before it degrades any further.

I wish you all the luck and good fortune in your future endeavors. I do hope you can help to mitigate the destruction of Carthage.

Paul Barford said...

According to Ms Sutton, I "persist in avoiding the perfectly reasonable questions I have posed regarding the difference between the show I linked and Battlefield recovery". On the contrary I pointed out quite a few and observe the use of a Two Wrongs argument intended to justify what we see happening in the Channel Five film. To this we now see added disingenuous "I just wanted..." comments.

On the subject of live/not live, I'll repeat what I said earlier. Ms Sutton assumes that ordnance removed from the ground and shown lying where people are around it "must be live" I think that is a different thing from criticising metal detectorists that are filmed removing items from the ground themselves (and here in Poland we have at least one metal detectorist death a year from them doing precisely that) and what is more filmed setting off a charge on a shovel

"I did not want, nor did I deserve, a general attack on me"
There is no "attack" here - simply disagreeing and indicating that the disputant has missed the point of what I was saying is not an "attack". Ms Sutton is trying to change the subject again.

However should Ms Sutton be really interested in the subject if she contacts me through the blog next time she is in Warsaw, I may be able to show her some forest battlefields outside the city and (if she comes at the right time, one of the venues where 'black diggers' sell their finds and maybe a First World War site under excavation). But she must leave her metal detector at home.

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