Tuesday 22 October 2013

Metal Detectors: Corporate Ethics in Garland, Texas

On reading more of the anti-archaeological bile of one of the people used for marketing Garrett's metal detectors, I wondered what the company itself thought of this. So I wrote and asked them:
Sent: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 10:59 AM
Subject: Garrett's position on Responsible Relic Hunting

Dear Garrett's Metal Detectors,
I read with great interest (on his blog, "http:// stoutstandards.wordpress.com/malamute-saloon/" dated October 12,  2013) that your metal detectors, at your firms's request, are endorsed by UK metal detectorist John Howland.

Since you use his name and reputation to promote your products, does that  mean that Garrett metal detectors endorse the combative  anti-archaeological views promoted by that individual through his blog  and the methods (ad hominem attacks, falsehoods presented as fact and other such low-down tactics) employed by this writer to attempt to attract attention to his anti-preservation campaign?

I note that your site has much on the technical aspects of the use of your machines for "relic hunting", but could find nothing there about the best practice (or legal), issues - still less ethics of using these machines on historic sites for the discovery of collectable archaeological artefacts. Your advertising material promotes one side of treasure-hunting but fails to bring the other - responsible use - to the forefront.

Does Garrett support initiatives aiming to increase responsible collaboration with heritage professionals such as state archaeological services and museums, or do you - like John Howland - oppose them?

Thank you for your attention
Paul Barford
[I thought it only fair to let them know I blog about these things, to give them an opportunity to look at what concerns and bothers me before replying]. The reply came on Monday evening. It took their people a bit of time to think it up. It begins rather curtly, and contains two short paragraphs of fairly bland corporate bla-bla, intended to let me know what some of the firm's director's own 'Golden rules' are. It finishes "We are certainly not opposed to archaeological groups and their important work. Please feel free to contact me directly with any other questions" and is signed by the Marketing Communications Manager of Garrett Metal Detectors, John Howland's good pal, Steve Moore

Unfortunately either Mr Moore did not understand the question and what sort of answer I was anticipating or there is a deliberate sleight of hand in the reply. One of us is talking about "responsible use of metal detectors", the other about "responsible recovery of artefacts". There is a huge difference (see Mr Stout's comments on screwdrivers).   In addition, my computer tells  me "No results found for "Mr. Garrett's Golden Rules"..", so Mr Moore had not answered the point I made about these principles not been actively promoted through the company's marketing material. Seeking permission and staying off protected areas is of course merely doing what the law says. I asked him about best practice and the ethics of using these machines on historic sites for the discovery of collectable archaeological artefacts. There was silence about that, except the notion of "leave sites better than you found them". But once an artefact hunter has hoiked any number of objects out of a "site", filling in the holes and not dropping any fag ends is hardly going to repair that damage is it? Either Mr Moore has not understood what was being asked, or is deliberatly dodging answering.

Mr Moore referred to co-operation with "archaeological groups" but I am unclear whether by this he is in fact referring to the  "heritage professionals such as state archaeological services and museums" about which I wrote, or whether he has more in mind something like the Federation of Metal Detectorists and Archaeological Clubs. He did remind me that on the website there's a bit about how folk from Garrett went out metal detecting a battlefield at the invitation of Texas Parks and Wildlife:
2009: Garrett launches a new Countermine/ERW division and introduces the RECON-PRO AML (All Metal Locator) 1000.Charles Garrett and a team of Garrett detectorists work with Texas Parks and Wildlife to recover and preserve artifacts from the San Jacinto battlegrounds where Texas independence was won. 
More detail here. This is not exactly what I was asking about. It is also exactly the sort of collaborative project with detectorists providing technical help to an archaeological survey team that Mr Howland writes so disparagingly of on his blog. The reader will note that the Marketing Director completely dodged the question of their use of Mr Howland and his reputation to market their products.

So, since he invited me to "feel free to contact me directly with any other questions" I did, though not with other questions, I reiterated my original ones. In support of the main point I made - which he seems not to have noticed, I gave him a few relatively randomly chosen anti-archaeological and anti-partnership quotes from a certain blog and asked:
Does this kind of talk on a publicly accessible blog advertising Garrett products and published by individuals clearly identified as associates of your company reflect the image your company wishes to project? I would hope not.
Well, we will see. Watch this space.

Vignette: today many businesses place great value on being seen to promote an ethical stance to the exploitation of the world's finite resources. Are metal detector manufacturers among them?

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