Monday 10 November 2008

"Detectorist" damage control

It is notable that the article on this blog on the illegal metal detecting at illegal metal detecting in Suffolk (Icklingham) has been receiving a lot of 'hits' especially from across the Atlantic. In that post, I give a link to a thread on a metal detecting forum as the source of the information I report. When I visited this forum this morning, it seems that the whole thread had been removed. Not just the post to which I referred, but all the other posts (some two dozen posts) connected with the discussion of this incident. Readers of this blog will not be able to follow my link to see the flow of the discussion on this topic. Now what was it that the forum moderators wish to hide from outsiders by this?

The whole presentation of UK "metal detecting" by the pro-collecting lobby relies on a pars pro toto approach. There are a number of people in the milieu of exemplary standards who are highlighted by both the hobby and the PAS. It is they to whom journalists writing a story are directed, it is they that are depicted as 'calling the shots'. This public face is not at all an accurate representation of the hobbyists as a whole. As in the collecting and trade in portable antiquities in general, the hidden hobby should be taken into account to get the full picture.

The standard approach of the hobbyist is to assure the world that "nighthawks are not real metal detectorists" ("do not confuse us with them, we detest these thieves with metal detectors as much as you do"). Thus the thread deleted from the "metal detecting" forum contained the standard "oh how could they, those naughty boys" and "these boys are a minority that gets our hobby a bad name" stuff. That is what UK "detectorists" are expected to say; its the official line. Not all contributors to that thread however towed the official line, they said things that some "detectorists" would rather not have said out aloud. Outsiders could see and draw their own conclusions. Those conclusions may not reflect the picture "detectorists" want to propagate of their hobby. So the thread was deleted.

What is interesting is the reaction of those who wish the outside world to have a rosy-spectacled perception of "metal detecting" and the PAS. As is usual in the entire pro-collecting lobby, instead of arguing the case and showing that those not towing the party line (challenging the mantras) were wrong, they simply censored the awkward words. The persons in their midst speaking out of turn were silenced by deletion of their statements containing uncomfortable facts. This is, to my eyes, a tacit admission that the awkward words were too close to the truth. A truth that not only the speaker believes. The metal detecting community is not only closing its eyes and ears to criticism of the clear abuses which come from outside, but also reacts quickly to silence any hint of criticism from within. To manipulate the picture that its own members are projecting about the hobby.

The US dealers' lobby have the nerve to call the critics of the portable antiquities market "totalitarian". Let them look also to the activities of their fellow collectors.

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