Saturday, 18 September 2010

Tabloids: Subverting the Democratic Process the Greek Way

Dr Zoe Kosmidou is counsellor for Cultural Affairs of the Embassy of Greece in Washington, D.C., the author of 'The Power of Visual Logos: Greek Women Artists', organizer of a number of recent cultural initiatives, and also engaged in a dastardly conspiracy with the "Elders of Archaeon" (aka the Archaeological Institute of America) to subvert the democratic process. At least according to conspiracy theorist Peter Tompa. His reasoning is that he was "forwarded" an incriminating email in which he learns that Ms Kosmidou horrifically had actually "urged U.S. Archaeologists to join the AIA in supporting the proposed MOU with Greece". The very idea! That obviously goes far beyond what a counsellor for cultural affairs of any country should be doing. I mean you'd certainly not catch the US counsellor for Cultural Affairs of any US embassy anywhere in the world asking for such support for the initiatives concerning the US cultural heritage, would you? After all that is not what they are there for, is it?

Tompa sees proof of his allegations in the dynamics of the appearance of public submissions on the proposed measures on the website:
"As of Thursday, there were some 290 comments on the website about the Greek MOU. Perhaps 40 or so were from archaeologists who supported it. The rest were largely from coin collectors concerned about the impact of any MOU [ concerning the import of coins illegally exported from Greece] on their ability to continue to collect, study, and preserve ancient Greek coins. The day after Kosmidou's email, that number had jumped to some 440 comments. Many of the new comments seem to have been posted by U.S. archaeologists who excavate in Greece".
This is referring to the state of the website on the 17th September. For more on this pattern, see my own post here (as well as the two posts below it). According to Tompa:
"Some might find this troubling. Leaving aside the issue of whether a foreign power ginning up grassroots support for its position is meddling in our administrative processes for securing public comments, there also is the real issue of possible intimidation. It's no secret that U.S. archaeologists depend on the Greek government to issue excavation permits for their work. It's also true that the Greek government can easily monitor the website to determine who has written to support the MOU and who has not done so".
Well, if Tompa thinks the Greek government will go to such nonsensical extremes, why does he not add the corollory: It's also true that the Greek government can easily monitor the website to determine who has written to refuse to support the MOU, submitting in writing their belief that ancient artefacts should not all be subject to Greece's antiquity legislation, and add them to a watch list of people to be strip searched for small smuggled antiquities such as coins next time they leave the territory of the Hellenic republic. Why does Tompa not caution non-compliant collectors in the same way as he does non-compliant archaeologists?

Now it should not need me to point out what a load of utter nonsense this all is. If you read those new comments supporting Greece's request and which also mention that the author has excavated in Greece, it becomes clear that the majority did so as students. Tompa should know that excavation permits are issued to institutions and the directors of the excavation, not every single participant individually.

Tompa belongs among those sad individuals that believe that most archaeologists in their heart of hearts support no-questions-asked collecting of archaeological artefacts and only
out of career interests ("fear" of refusal of excavation permits , peer pressure etc etc) "pretend" not to. They cannot seem to grasp that most archaeologists see the no-questions-asked trade in antiquities as a damaging phenomenon because they believe it actually is. Even the UK's generally collector-friendly PAS would support that statement I am sure (let Tompa or the ACCG ask them).

Tompa concludes that because of this "leaked" email:
Greek cultural officials should be questioned closely about their lobbying efforts before CPAC takes up consideration of any MOU.
I suggest the CPAC also looks closely at the coin dealers' lobbying efforts before looking through those extremely repetitive first two hundred public submissions.

A pattern seems to be developing, Tompa comes up with some new "evidence" of a conspiracy and this is immediately publicised by ACCG henchmen on the forums in a more provocatively phrased form for the knee-jerk brigade to react. In this case too thus Dave Welsh within hours had posts on at least two collectors forums (here on Unidroit-L and now on Tim Haines' Yahoo AncientArtifacts collectors' forum, no doubt it will also be appearing on closed access numismatic sites such as Moneta-L too) under the topic name: Greece Manipulates Comments Process and the commentary:
Listreaders who don't like such meddling in what is intended to be an opportunity for concerned US citizens (and individuals in other nations who may be impacted by US cultural policy) to present their concerns....
in other words attempting to inspire the flagging simple minded kneejerk reaction collectors who have not already done so send some messages repeating the five mantras the dealers have told them to repeat...

Question: What "concerns" might ethical collectors have that the US is proposing to curb the imports of ancient items that have been illegally exported from Greece and restrict them to items that have been legally exported?

I would be very interested to see this allegedly scandalous email of
Zoe Kosmidou; if any archaeologist reading this who received a copy would like to forward it to me, I'd be grateful.

Vignette: Parthenon, symbol for some of Greek democracy, Zoe Kosmidou is also active in the movement attempting to get the Parthenon marbles returned, though whether ACCG's Peter Tompa would see this as in some way anti-democratic or part of some subversive conspiracy we do not learn.

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