Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Maintaining the Myth in Ipswich

I suppose if you are a metal detectorist it might be a bit worrying having that Barford chap address some heritage professionals in Ipswich. I mean he's not likely to stand up there in front of everyone in torn jeans ranting and frothing at the mouth making himself look a right fool, is he? He's probably going to get a haircut, polish his shoes and actually prepare a fairly reasonable set of arguments and then there will be some rational discussion of what he has to say. How to deal with it? Ignore it? Or come up with a cunning plan? How to use this to keep the myth (see post above) going?

Take a look at the UCS Heritage blog. It is quite revealing and shows precisely what is going on in the little fantasy world of the beep-beep boys. David Gill put up two posts about the upcoming seminar. There is one here (my abstract - ), and another one here (April 2nd, a plug, indicating the intention to initiate some 'constructive dialogue'). Now take a look at the comments.  The first attracted as many as ten comments, the second one.

I think it is expected that the reader will believe that the first ten have been contributed to the UCS Heritage blog by archaeologists. Let's just put their names up George Somerfiled (sic), "Clare", "Adam C", Clive Falstaff, "Pat", and, "Digger". The two that give proper names (one misspelt?) do not seem to exist in British archaeology, the others use pseudonyms. But let us look at this rash of comments in context. The blog has been going for several months, and only a few posts have attracted (single) comments from members of the same milieu. What is notable is that all of the latter belong to identifiable, and real, people (here, here, here, and a spam one here). So the crop of comments by 'archaeologists' attached to these two posts is exceptional on those two counts alone.

But then look at the content. How many archaeologists are there (apart from "Digger") that get through higher education still unable to differentiate the words 'its" and "it is"? How many finish university thinking (like "Adam C") that 'misogyny' means "sceptical" and is spelt "mysogony"? Either standards are falling, or these people are not who they claim to be. The range of terms used in their 'critique' of Paul Barford, while obviously they've made an effort to disguise that, is remarkably similar to the terms used to describe myself and Nigel Swift on metal detecting forums. I suggest that a textual analysis of these comments indicates that this is the origin of all of them. Wordpress identity "Pat" is a commentator on the Heritage Action Wordpress blog, 'Clare' has recently made a comment on the same blog, trying to use a (common enough) Latin phrase that she apparently does not know the meaning of. I have a pretty good idea who "Digger" is by several characteristic phrases used. I think most, if not all, of the above-"named" commentators are metal detectorists, pretending to be archaeologists.

Note they keep harping on about this blog. They (Somerfiled, "Clare", "Adam C") do not like its "tone", they do not think it fosters dialogue with metal detectorists and collectors (see the post below). Now is that really the main concern of a group of (real) archaeologists coming to a talk on the sustainable management of the archaeological heritage? I suggest not.

Those who said they would be coming (I assume, bearing in mind what else they said, I was supposed to regard that as a threat) did not turn up [So that's Somerfiled, "Clare", "Adam C"].  "Digger" who said he was there despite the distance of his home from Ipswich must have fallen asleep (or is lying) because his perception of the flow of discussion differs markedly from that of those who actually were present (including myself) - it does, though, reflect what the tekkies would have liked to have happened.

In the same vein, "Clare" wrote before the event that she is "hoping (sic) to see how well he stands up to academic scrutiny when challenged by those who are better informed and without personal agendas". "Adam C" goes further: "I for one, along with a few of my colleagues are looking forward to this event immensely as he really is sticking his head and weak arguments well above the parapet in his vanity glory hunt of a ‘presentation’..". Hardly 'vanity' if I was about to be thrashed!

As it happens I myself was pleasantly surprised that what I was saying about the numbers of unreported finds involved was not actually directly challenged. Metal detectorists challenge what I and Nigel Swifft say, it seems the archaeologists who actually came (some of whom have indeed that actual hands-on experience with these people) were perfectly happy to accept them. Discussion instead vacillated mainly between 'what can we do?' and 'what would you see as a solution?' (I told them, and the interloping tekkies sat there tight-lipped).  Adam C and his "colleagues obviously could not make it to put their point forward.

Then of course we had the other myth. It goes like this: all 'good' archaeologists sympathise with metal detecting, and support the PAS, and therefore those archaeologists who do not cannot be real archaeologists (or are out-of-touch 'dinosaurs'). The glib simplicity of such a black-and-white scheme fits the tekkie world-view. So it is that they try to convince themselves and the world that this Paul Barford... well, he's not a "real" archaeologist. So "Adam C" divulges what he calls "facts" about me. He seems to want people to think he knows a lot about me when it seems he knows nothing about me (because his "facts" do not correspond to any reality except what is in his own imagination). "Pat" reckons "the last I heard was that he does taxi driving around Warsaw and a bit of translation work", which I guess means that "Pat" (whoever that is) has not actually heard anything much about me either (the last time I acted as a taxi driver was, I think, when I drove my mother-in-law to the church for a family wedding last summer, but translations, yes, I do translations). "Pat" thinks I should "clarify the matter during his talk" confusing a seminar on heritage management strategies with "This is your life". Ridiculous. Clive Falstaff cannot tell the difference between a lecture and a seminar.

"Digger" pretends he was there and suggests I was "called to account on various matters and had facts presented to him that went against his perception" which "[took] the edge off his fervent position". Hmmm. Surely the confrontation of ideas, different viewpoints and facts is what seminars are all about. I am not sure which "facts" he is referring to, maybe he will enlighten his readers somewhere. But once again "Digger" seems more concerned about the 'tone" of my personal blog, rather than any conceptual changes involved.

The single comment to the other post was submitted by somebody calling themself (suggestively and provocatively) "Roger" who went on about... the tone of my blog ("his aggressive attacking tone towards a lawful legitimate hobby"). Lawful it may be, I would question the legitimacy of much of it, and the tone of my blog will continue to reflect that personal feeling. But for "excessively rude and insulting behaviour" I invite Roger to look at the metal detecting forums and blogs for far more egregious examples.

Really this is all rather pathetic. It seems while the archaeologists who came were quite willing to listen and engage in civilised discussion, whether or not they agree with some, any or all of what I had to say, metal detectorists have a totally different approach to the whole process. They do not want any proper discussion of the issues (probably fearing what it will reveal about the effects of their hobby on the archaeological resource), they want to avoid it themselves, and they would have preferred it if I had not turned up to face critical voices, and would prefer as few archaeologists to bother to turn up to take part in the discussion. Well, their partners the PAS boycotted the meeting, much to their shame (and, if they take that attitude, no great loss to the rest of us I'll wager).

TAKE A GOOD LOOK at this behaviour, for these are precisely the sort of people the PAS wants to grab more and more millions of public quid to make into the "partners" of the British Museum, archaeological heritage professionals and to whom they want us all to entrust the exploitation of the archaeological record. Take a good look and decide what you think about that as a "policy".  

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