Monday 26 May 2014

UK Metal Detecting Mr Broom Has Left in a Huff (UPDATE and Taken Other People's Words With Him)

Steve Broom has decided that when it comes to discussing responsible metal detecting, 'Enough is enough...'. He bemoans the fact that "no matter what we do as detectorists, there are those who [...] flatly refuse to admit that anything that we do is beneficial". What an utterly strange thing to say. Artefact hunting is what people do for personal entertainment and profit. It damages the archaeological record, however it is done. Artefact hunting is on the whole not beneficial. Nobody ever said it was, not in Iraq, India, Egypt, northwestern Africa, China or Suffolk. In Britain it exists through an aberrant legal system, nineteenth century in origin, and all attempts to deal with it (through the PAS and TA) are a next-best to a total revamp of the law. Meanwhile, while the law remains unchanged, one can only hope for strict adherence to it and its implications and appeal to the better nature of artefact hunters and collectors to try and have some respect for the needs of others when dealing with a finite and fragile resource.

Mr Broom seems to think it is enough to declare oneself a "responsible" remover of archaeological material to deserve a massive clap on the back and everybody's "support" and maybe applause. He also seems to think however that because some artefact hunters and collectors have a better nature than others, it means that there should for some (unexplained) reason be massive compromises made to their needs, even if those making them see them as detrimental to the preservation of the very resource in question.

I really do not see how he can justify this and call it a "responsible attitude". It's like rhinos in the wild. They are a finite resource too. Once hunters have killed them all there will not be any more for our children and our children's children. So there are two groups, those who see the benefits to themselves of killing as many rhinos as they can get their hands on, and those who want to see the resource preserved as long as possible in as natural conditions as possible.  It seems obvious to anyone with a mental age of over nine that if those groups came together and reached some sort of compromise, then the most beneficial for the rhino would be compromises on the side of the kill-them-all-now hunters.  Compromising the position of the we-must-save-what-we-can-now side will only lead to more rapid deterioration of the situation than the other option.

I really do not see why, when long-term conservation issues are at stake, the let's-dig-it-all-up-now-because-I-wants-it side (metal detectorists) think their "rights" should override those who are trying to preserve the threatened resource through pointing out there is ample room for a much more reflexive use of that resource in future. Mr Broom insists that he's not interested in any "improvements" to the way the hobby is done, that are "offered on their [the preservationists'] terms". So he's just announced he's closing his blog, and "just get on with my metal detecting... the way that I like it!"

For this, he and others are blaming myself and Nigel Swift of Heritage Action, because we engaged with his ideas, had other ideas and said where and why we were in disagreement. Before this is taken with more than a pinch of salt, perhaps it is worth recalling the history of all this. Nigel and I have been looking closely at metal detecting for - coming up to - a decade and a half. We've observed it through the prism of what metal detectorists themselves say on their forums and websites as well as the honbby literature (books and magazines). in the course of that, we've had ample time to work out what is and is not true of the milieu, who they are, what they represent, what many of the are doing, and what they all say they are doing.

Back in November 2010, as part of the discussion, Nigel Swift wrote (I think with some minimal input from me) a Code of Ethics for Metal Detecting (note the difference in name from the existing documents) and wrote about the justifications for some of it here : 'Ethical Metal Detecting Association launched!', 13/11/2010 (and here is my mirror text of the announcement - note the discussion of sock puppetry there too). The actual text of the Code is here (The Ethical Metal Detecting Association Pledges).  The idea was to get some metal detectorists who would subscribe to the ideals set out there, to show that there really aree some ethical metal detectorists around.

What happened? Did the PAS take it up and promote discussion of the ten points among its partners as a tool in its outreach encouraging best practice? Did it hell. They totally ignored it. Was there lively discussion on the forums full of 'responsible detectorists"? Nope. There was total silence. Which, actually was precisely what its author knew jolly well would be the reaction.  That total silence though was worth thousands of words to show just what a meaningless farce this "responsible detecting" mantra. From time to time Nigel and I would drop a hint mentioning the document, no reaction at all from anywhere. Take a look at it now, is it really so awful?

Then along came Steve Broom. Wanting to cast himself as Responsible Detectorist Extraordinaire. He'd got his own little group of super-responsible detectorist followers, the Southern Detecting Group. They were mentioned by Heritage Action, in connection with a artefact hunting rally for kids at Laverstoke, Hamps which precipitated some nasty exchanges with the people who organized it (one of whom Martin Gilchrist claims to be an archaeologist).  Some of those aggressive comments and accusations were for some reason aimed at me (PACHI Monday, 21 October 2013, 'Focus on UK Metal Detecting: A case of Mistaken Identity') but apart from that unpleasantness, we learn:
The Southern Detectorist Group, (SDG) is a small friendly bunch of like-minded Detectorist[s] that are passionate about showing how metal detecting can be carried out responsibly whilst contributing to the recovery and preservation of the Nation[']s heritage. As such[,] the group prides itself on doing things “a little differently”  
They had a website (now mysteriously disappeared) which did not enlighten much about their 'standards', but somebody calling himself "SDG Member" (Steve Broom??? - note the phrase "get recognition for what we do actually contribute") announced (PACHI Tuesday, 5 November 2013), 'The Southern Detectorist Group Decide to Check Out Ethical Detecting'. He castigates Heritage Action for "tarring all detectorists with the same brush" (yawn, how many times have we heard that?) and urged them to  "instead start talking to the more responsible detectorists to see how we can improve things together". At which point, Heritage action pointed to the Ethical Metal Detecting Association Pledges and said, in effect, you call yourselves "more responsible than the average, can you do that?" Mr Broom asserted he could. Then he backtracked when he found his members would not agree to it all.Then after some discussion on HA's blog, Mr Broom started his own and announced he was going to discuss there his own vision of responsible detecting - but then started criticising HA's concepts without really, one suspects, understanding where they were coming from.  

So basically, HA had already defined what they understand, as a result of hard thinking about the topic before Mr Broom ever laid hands on a metal detector (2009 he says), to be ethical metal detecting. Mr Broom apparently expected to come along and make them change their definition. When Nigel (and I) continue to justify why that definition was reached and why HA and myself still stand by it, Mr Broom, after a few weeks of blogging, decides to waltz off in a huff, declaring "enough's enough".

Not only that, last night (26/7th May 2014) he petulantly deleted his "I Go Detecting" blog, a blog which several of us, myself, Nigel Swift and "Sock Puppet Steve the Pretend Archaeologist" included, had spent some time and not a little effort to try and discuss in a civil and reasoned manner what he was writing about "responsible detecting" not only for him personally, but (because its a blog) the other readers of this resource, wanting to use it now and in the future to help make up their own minds about what responsible detecting is, and learn other people's reactions to what was written there. Now they cannot do that. We are back to square one.

Here are the four-year-old Ethical Metal Detecting Association Pledges which were so unacceptable to Mr Broom. Sadly, part of the more recent public discussion of these principles is now missing.But then, that's nothing new. Metal detectorists and their British (or US) supporters simply are not going to discuss anything like the ethics of artefact hunting, in any form.


Anonymous said...

Always nice to see the ten Ethical Metal Detecting pledges Paul. They're like solid rocks of good behaviour in a slippery ocean of pretend heroism and bad practice.

No detectorist and no PAS employee could show they AREN'T good behaviour and none have tried, hence the silence. Mr Broom accepted 9 of them but baulked at the tenth, saying it was not practical to take the finds home without showing the owner. "Not practical" note. He never said it was "right".

Well of course it's practical to do it right, as a dead dog in a cellar would readily observe. What happened I think is that his colleagues in the Southern Detectorists Group wouldn't wear it. I feel sorry for him. I warned him that as a reformer he would have a big problem with backwoodsmen - i.e. most detectorists, but neither he nor I anticipated his own group would block him.

Maybe he should start a club of one, and do it right? Now wouldn't that be interesting? (Although, as I have told him, there ARE others doing it right so he wouldn't be alone).

Paul Barford said...

Well, he certainly seemed a club of one to me, could spell and articulate himself unlike the morons that seem to make up the vast bulk of the hobbyists. His blog was a welcome respite from the general tone of all the other collecting blogs. He seemed like a normal guy.

I really cannot see why he had to trash a blog setting out his ideas. Weird lot tekkies.

Anonymous said...

(I seem to have got my double negatives in a twist there but hopefully the intended meaning is clear, do unto your landowner what you'd hope a loft clearer would do unto your granny).

Anonymous said...

"He seemed like a normal guy....." but a prisoner of oiks. Hasn't that been the problem for all reforming detectorists over many years? We've seen it repeatedly. Every attempt at progress has been stamped on.

I'm tempted to start a Detecting Association for Normal People, to get them away from the idiots once and for all.

P2Pinvested said...

Steve was a good bloke and its a shame he has closed his blog it provided a good platform for fair and balanced discussion without comment deletetion and all that backhand technique that we have all been guilty of from time to time.

But if you cant handle the heat, its time to step out of the kitchen.

Unknown said...

Hi Paul...

Thanks for the obituary...

I have always advocated that the issues raised on your blog and some others are of great use to the detecting community and there is much for us all to learn which is why I will continue to read your postings.

After yet another round of discussion over the stipulation to "show the farmer what you find at the end of the dig" and the complete dismissal of any other suggested way that this could be done responsibly it is clear that there never will be any movement towards finding common ground on the subjects that will work at a practical level and it is clear that it is your way, or no way in relation to certain subjects. This realisation led me to conclude that any information that I post up on my blog would only be used for paraphrasing to suit another agenda rather than as a discussion point to seek out and promote any improvement that is beneficial and workable for all parties. As a result of this, I decided to remove my blog for the specific purpose of not allowing it to become a source of information that could be picked over like some sort of dead carcass. If there is really any of the information that you so badly need from have my email address, please contact me direct and I will send the information across to you.

I see that you have started to spin the situation for your own needs (as expected). However, I will continue to promote responsible detecting through the relationships that I have with other detectorists, landowners and heritage professionals that I maintain contact with. I will obviously publish the details of any exciting projects that we undertake in due course so that you will no doubt pick up on them.



Paul Barford said...

"and it is clear that it is your way, or no way in relation to certain subjects. "

As I stressed, what was proposed in 2010 was precisely that, a definition of what Heritage Action sees as ethical in detecting, and with which I agree.

As I also stressed, it was and remains the ONLY such proposition I am aware of in the British literature, and it was arrived at by close study of the problem. But it remains just one view, put up for serious discussion. That discussion remains at square one four years later - no little thanks to you.

"any information that I post up on my blog would only be used for paraphrasing to suit another agenda"

Yes, but not all the words on that blog WERE yours. Some of us took your "discussing responsible detecting" initiative at face value and attempted to engage with your ideas. Some of us - assuming this was treated by the author seriously - spent a bit of time doing that, after thinking about what you said.

Had I for one known that less than eight weeks later you'd delete the whole blog as of no consequence, I'd have not given your ideas a moment's attention.

My "agenda" as you put it is sorting out a problem I see with irresponsible attitudes in artefact collecting - something you say you want(ed). That's what I am tapping away here for. It's my blog, and this is my personal view and something I believe in firmly. But it's up here for discussion.

Funnily enough, together with your comment came another one from some French tekkies which began by thanking me for presenting their case this morning with "intellectual honesty", and you accusing me of intellectual dishonesty.

Anyhow, nobody has to take my word for anything, I usually give links to my sources, the reader can look at where I got it from and sort out for themselves whether what I say fits their perception of the facts. Well, except in your case because you deleted what you'd said, removing it from the public debate.

Let me add that there were TEN pledges of the EMDA, you went off in a huff because you could not agree to the third of them. We never heard about the rest. Too late now.

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