Friday 15 May 2009

The Search for "Undisclosed Agents of Influence for some Nationalistic, Repatriation Seeking Foreign Governments"

As my readers will know, "Looting Matters" is a blog of Dr David Gill, of the Department of Classics, Ancient History and Egyptology at Swansea University, Wales. They will also know that David has for a number of years been interested in (and published on) issues connected with the exploitation of archaeological sites, especially of the Classical world, as a source of collectables for the antiquities market. The “Looting Matters” blog (one of several he contributes to) reflects this. It is one of the more respected sources of balanced opinion and information on this issue and well worth reading (read it please, Looting DOES matter).

Recently Dr Gill announced that "Looting Matters" will be releasing a weekly story via PR Newswire. The first post was on “Why does the Return of the Euphronios Krater to its Original Home Awaken Debate?" This leads to a succinct piece on the "Looting matters" blog summarizing the issue of The Stewardship of Classical Antiquities in a post-Euphronios World. This looks like a useful feature and will probably bring many more interested members of the public into contact with David’s thoughts on the looting issue. More power to him.

Despite the fact that David is one of the more polite and discrete participants in the “debate on looting”, he has often been the butt of the attacks of the shameless advocates of the no-questions-asked antiquities market (but mainly as far as I know from the United States of America). It would seem that making the debate more widely known among the public is not to the liking of this crowd. Just one and a half hours after he made the announcement – Gill received what looks like a demand from Washington lawyer (Bailey & Ehrenberg) to reveal the source of his funds. Peter Tompa ("Cultural Property Observer") sent a comment to the story on "Looting Matters" [My emphasis]:

As I'm sure you know, PR Newswire is not a free service. To give your effort credibility I would urge you to provide your readers with some information in this regard. Otherwise, we might just suspect that you are merely acting as an undisclosed agent of influence for some nationalistic, repatriation seeking foreign government, like that of Greece.

On his own blog Tompa goes on about this, he claims “I don't begrudge Gill publicizing his views on unprovenanced artifacts and repatriation to source countries”, (really? I think he does) and candidly admits: "The ACCG has also used PR Newswire in the past, but only on an occasional basis due to cost concerns". He then surmises: "Presumably, Gill is paying these or similar rates weekly unless he is eligible for some particular discount". This then leads conspiracy-theory fan Tompa to the suspicion that the costs are being met for him as "as an undisclosed agent of influence for some nationalistic, repatriation seeking foreign government".

Frankly what David Gill writes or does not write on his own blog is his own personal business, as is how much it costs him in time, energy or money. It certainly is not the business of Mr Tompa or the readers of his blog.

This is not the first time Tompa has done this. A few months ago he was pestering Dr Gill for information about what finances he had been getting from a foreign government. Now that is simply bad manners.

To return to the original matter, in his blog Tompa goes further.

He says In any event, by placing stories on PR Newswire, Gill ultimately simply underscores the fact that his work (like that of fellow SAFE associated bloggers Elkins and Barford) has precious little to do with dispassionate academic research and, instead, has everything to do with advocacy for an "archaeology over all perspective." However impressive Gill's credentials, readers of "PR Newsire" (sic) should judge that work accordingly.

Hmm. The Washington lawyer I suspect actually knows little of Dr David Gill's work at the university of Swansea, its academic merits are for his university and peers to judge. I think also we may place the Tompa's suggestion that David Gill is a "secret agent of influence working for some foreign government" among his other conspiracy theories along with who Secretary of State Burns shook hands with and the Black Helicopters over Foggy Bottom. As for me (since Tompa brings me into it), my blog has no pretence whatsoever to in itself be "dispassionate academic research". It expresses my personal opinions based on what I have found out over the years about artefact hunting and collecting (whether that classes as academic research is up to the reviewers of my forthcoming book to discern) and discusses matters about which I am anything BUT "dispassionate", especially when it comes to the deceits of the collectors and dealers. While I have indeed worked in the past for foreign governments and UNESCO, I am not as far as I know currently an agent for any regime. Though it is possible of course that unbeknownst to me, in accord with conspiracy staple, "they" have implanted a chip in my brain which makes me do things and say things which I do not know about... After all US coin dealer and forgery watchdog Alan van Arsdale claims to have one (here too).

By the way, there are nine "SAFE associated bloggers", it is odd that Mr Tompa keeps harping on about the same three.


Marcus Preen said...

What has Mr Tompa got against people indulging in a spot of advocacy?

What is his profession that has caused him to view advocacy in such a negative light?

And why the concern over finance?Does he fear that paid advocacy is somehow less honest and trustworthy than unpaid advocacy?

Paul Barford said...

What has he got against archaeological resource protection advocacy?

I think in this case the problem is that the ACCG can see that we are right and they are wrong, and they'd prefer people not to know for as long as possible.

Furthermore they have no real arguments with which to counter ours which is why they indulge in all the personal stuff (attacking archaeologists, name calling and conspiracy theories). Just like the "detectorists" over in the UK. Simple as that, Marcus.

Chuck Jones said...

I'm a member of SAFE and a blogger, so make it ten and counting.

Paul Barford said...

Well, I am not sure what the "legal" definition of "SAFE associated" is. Maybe we should ask him. I suppose the question is Chuck, whether you use the "c"[oin] word in your blogging. If you are not a C-word blogger you might be SAFE, and not criticised by any Cultural Property Observer.

Antiochian said...

Based on my occasional encounters with the US legal system, I would say that no lawyer has the right to make such demands unless there is a lawsuit in train and thus this would be a request for discovery. Unless they are prepared to cite a case and request a judge for a subpoena for the info they can be told to "go whistle".. but in fact it is very much better to not respond at all.. file for future reference though.. it may come back to bite them..

Paul Barford said...

Of course he has no "right" to do anything of the kind, neither legal nor moral. I think Dr Gill is right to ignore Tompa's jibes, but that is no reason why the latter should be allowed to get off scot-free with his utter crassness and spite directed towards anyone who does not collect coins or agree with the way his mates do.

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