Friday 24 January 2014

Focus on Irresponsible UK Metal Detecting: Stop tarring us...

Metal detectorist Steve Broom sent a comment here (under this post) which is one of the many emerging from the collecting milieu which criticises the manner in which I express myself on this blog about collecting. Mercifully this one at least avoided the worn cliché "tarring us all with the same brush"(and empty-headed phrases like "throwing the toys out of the pram [angry smiley] [frown smiley]" much beloved of the milieu). My first reaction was to ignore it. This is my blog and my words and I feel no need to explain myself time and time again to artefact collectors and dealers; in any case, they never listen. So I really do not know why I am answering this, but here - for what it is worth - is this today's answer explaining yet again why I am doing what I am doing and in the way I do it. This follows on from Mr Broom's comment here

Some of us, Mr Broom, who were first in on this more than three decades ago politely and with deference "tried to enter into sensible dialogue" with metal detectorists, in many cases only to be met with massive indifference, ignorance, evasion, bad manners, aggression and personal attacks. Mr Thugwit is not a figment of my imagination, he is an observation. It is what I and others have encountered in the detecting community, and he has been firmly embedded there since the 1970s when the hobby began.He cannot be ignored, however much you'd like to.

There are ten thousand (at least) tekkies in Great Britain. So what that one or two say they are the good guys and even try to be? That you, Mr Broom, personally are an exception rather proves the rule rather than the opposite. Thugwittism and all that follows on from that has been going on now several decades with sixteen million pounds of public money pumped into trying to change things, with poor results. The 'Grey detecting' I describe extensively on this blog is clearly the norm. 'Best practice' (true best practice) is the exception.

Why do I say that? From many years close observation. When I started this, you had to go along to detecting clubs to see what they did, and so I did in the late 1970s back home in England. Now we have the internet and people discuss online in real time what they do, think and want, and (unless they are blocked by tekkie gatekeepers) anyone can see what metal detectorists are up to. Now, if everything was hunky-dory, that would not be a problem, we could all see what splendid chaps you all are. But that's not how it goes is it? Most metal detecting forums block access from outside. This is for good reason, because when you do gain access you see that all is not well and fine in tekkieland. Thugwittism prevails.*

For example, what does it mean when you look  at a metal detecting forum where somebody has posted something like (to take one random recent example) getting farmers to "refresh" a field by ploughing deeper into the underlying undisturbed stratigraphy so THEY can grab more goodies for their collection? It's yet another signal that PAS outreach has failed.

Mr Broom, what is MORE significant is the reaction of the mass of members of the forum with several thousand members to such a post. The post is answered, yes, everybody adding their comments and applauding this great idea, but not a single person criticises that approach. PAS outreach is seen to have scored a second fail.

Then what happens? When somebody starts a discussion on a blog like mine (yes, that is what this is) , suddenly the original post disappears from the tekkie forum - we see detectorists in denial. PAS is shown yet again to have scored a fail.  Does anyone on that forum even protest that the thread was taken down because they wanted to discuss how the outsiders criticising this type of behaviour are right? [By the by, will they even behave like civilized people and mention the outsider's name instead of thuggishly referring to them by insulting labels?]

This is not a one-off event, this sort of thing is repeated week after week. Isn't it? What are we good guys going to do? Keep quiet about it, or speak out against it? To show the world what is happening? Why would a good guy want it hidden or not discussed in terms of the strongest disapproval?

Did you, Mr Broom, criticise MegaB on the forum or off it for his or her deep-plough-trashing idea? Why not? Have you, Mr Broom, ever responded to something said on his nasty abusive blog by John Howland? There's another one propagating a very narrow and negative picture of the hobby; where are the good guys of detecting then? Keeping quiet is where they are. Letting him get on with it is where they are. But both you and Mr Howland are "ambassadors of the hobby" one shouts his mouth off and gets noticed, the other hides away and complains sullenly that outsiders are writing things critical of the hobby. You will not, Mr Broom, answer Mr Howland and his ilk, but you'll happily come over here and try to tell me off for writing what I see and think. The only difference between me and Mr Howland, surely, is that I do not own a metal detector.

This is why I think the small percentage of do-gooders do not affect the overall picture. You and your ten, fifteen mates may not be doing (the same kind of) damage as the 9985 other ones, but it is THEIR effect on the archaeological record which is my concern. And they are doing it under the umbrella of the wishy washy uncritical propaganda pap pushed out by the PAS and detecting's own propaganda machine (the charity rallies, the ring-finding services, picking up litter and all that guff). ALL of this is intended to push the issue of the erosion caused by the hobby into the shadows. And it is that issue I want to see discussed, sweeping aside the dross arguments. And they are all dross. 

If I paint a "a negative picture of detectorists" it is because pretty much everything I see and have experienced at the hands of not one or two but dozens, hundreds of them, over several decades of close observation and attempts to discuss the issues, inclines me to see them as a group as precisely the way I depict them. You are new to the debate. I have not always talked about collectors in this manner, on five moderated British forums 2000-2007 (one of them a detecting one, UKDN) I was very polite, ready to listen with a mind open to any good arguments the artefact hunting community and their supporters could offer. That was an utter waste of time. The experience only served to change my mind about the point of trying such an approach. The thugwits emerged and fixed that. How any attempt to engage in civilised discussion (on what we are told is a "common interest") on neutral ground was met by the detecting community can be seen in the archives of - for example Britarch. Look for posts by Clive Hallam, Gary Brun, Steve Burch, "Deepseeker" and "Edward Thompson" for example. The response of the detecting community to any attempt to frankly, openly and civilly discuss the issues was met with a deliberate attempt to create such a fuss and bad feeling around the subject that it would discourage further discussion. Which it did. These people did more to permanently damage the initial good will of the archaeologists on the britarch list than anyone else could have done. Note again, not a single "responsible" voice was raised from within the detecting community that this type of public behaviour was damaging the hobby. That's how I spent the first two thirds of the last decade. I do not propose wasting any more of my time on what I perceive as a futile pursuit of dialogue, I leave that up to others. Most of them seem to have been giving up recently, too. Wonder why? Perhaps they too as they get more involved, are coming to the same conclusions as I did. As far as I am concerned, I gave tekkies a chance and I'm not wading into the same muddy water twice. Which is when I started this blog.

The PAS is now frittering away millions on "partnering" the detecting community as a whole, and daily puts out ever-so-positive propaganda on behalf of those "partners". The public has a wonderful glowing image of the hobby and how "helpful" it is - painted by the experts, archaeologists. Tekkies do not have to lift a finger to earn it, and the bulk of them generally do not. I think that is wrong.

This blog puts forward the other half of the story, the one the sixteen million pound public Scheme is deliberately not telling the public who pay for it and whose heritage it is. The public is entitled to more detail than they are getting from Bloomsbury.

Now, if you do not like that, then please do not read this blog. Those who believe I am not representing here realities within the collecting world (for of course THIS BLOG IS NOT JUST ABOUT METAL DETECTING) can stop reading too. Nobody is forcing them. Or they can try and show that I am wrong. For example documenting that twenty minutes after Baz Thugwit wrote what he wrote on a forum, fifteen responsible members jumped on him and explained him the error of his ways. Show us that this is how it really is, please.

Until we actually get concrete demonstrations that the rosy picture painted by the propagandists in any way reflects reality, I will continue to say what I think and provide cases which show those who care to read this that there are grounds for believing that in no way does the reality look like the picture being painted. The language I use to try and get that point over is my choice. Maybe you'll try and understand why, after so long of seeing next-to-zero change, and the archaeological damage goes on and on with us powerless to prevent it, and nobody very much bothered about it, and indeed almost everyone either complacent about it ofr passively refusing to get involved, I get so angry about the situation.

In any case, I get really annoyed by artefact hunters, like you Mr Broom, who say that what is written here can be dismissed without a second thought as "deceit". I cite my sources, and they can all be checked out until the tekkies hide them that is. Ask who there is being the more honest. 

*And yes, tekkies think up all manner of excuses why forums are member-access only, but this is merely another expression of the hypocrisy - as is shown the moment they find out that an outsider is discussing what is said on a forum, it becomes clear what the main motive for restricting access really is.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you for the explanation Paul. Being relatively new to detecting (and your blog) I certainly have not been party to all that has gone on for the last 30 years.

All I can say is that if things need to change, then you have to start somewhere and I will keep trying to do my bit (as you do) to show that metal detecting can be carried out responsibly.

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