Friday, 20 February 2015

Defending or Destroying? Lobbyists and the Responsible Antiquities Trade

Over in dug-up-antiquity-dealing land, they seem to consider that when substantive issues are raised about the damaging effects of the way they go about their business is not to try to understand the issue and discuss it, but simply to go after the people raising these issues with a whole series of personal attacks. Presumably people like Arthur Houghton III feel that if they say enough bad things about people who criticise no-questions-asked collecting, they will become discouraged and fall silent. This is what metal detectorists of the DIG generation did, and most British archaeologists would not now say "boo' to a detectorist over there because they know that the only possible result is hassle and personal nastiness. These however are gangster tactics. Silence any challenges by implied threat.

Antiquities trade lobbyist Peter Tompa and his "Cultural Property Observer" blog has the same approach. He appears determined to derail the debate on heritage policy in the same way (indeed even welcomes the nasty ad hominems of metal detectorists on his blog). I decided to try and ascertain whether the people he represents in his paid lobbying (that is at least the International Association for Professional Numismatists IAPN and the Professional Numismatists Guild - PNG) were fully aware of this modus operandi, and whether they supported it.

On 2nd February, after a particularly nasty series of comments on the CPO blog, I wrote to the boards of both professional associations:
FAO A. Kirsch ; K. Ponterio ; M. Paoletti ; J-l v.d.Scheuren- IAPN representative
FAO: Robert Bruegemann, T. Hanlon, F. Weinberg - PNG Representative
Dear .... Please forgive me for contacting you directly on such a matter, but there really seems no other way to get action taken against the unprofessional behaviour of an individual who claims to be one of your representatives and whose idea of presenting your case seems to consist of mounting an unrelenting series of personal attacks upon myself. Please put a stop to this toxic activity. Thank you Paul Barford
Fast forward two weeks, when I sent the following to the PNG (Thursday, February 19, 2015 6:48 AM):
Dear PNG, May I assume, from the total lack of response to my letter of 2nd February 2015 about the material being published by a representative if your organization in the name of 'lobbying for' the PNG, that you and your professional members are perfectly happy with the image of the profession that is being propagated there? Can we take the lobbyist's vehicle, the "Cultural property Observer' blog to represent the standards of "Knowledge, Integrity and Responsibility" to which the PNG and its members aspire? Have you looked at what he writes there? Yours sincerely Paul Barford
 Meanwhile the IAPN played dumb (my reply: Thursday, February 19, 2015 6:37 AM):
Dear Mr. Van der Schueren, Thank you for your reply. I must say I am puzzled by your organization’s reaction to my letter. I would have expected that on being notified that one of their representatives (a paid one at that) has been producing material damaging to the image of an organization and its members, the institution itself would review the material concerned and decide for itself whether this is the sort of public image they want to present.

Mr Tompa has been running his blog since 2008 and has 1347 posts, most of them relating to the relationship between the archaeological heritage and the worldview of a specific group of collectors of ancient coins. In general, I am not the only one thinking that the whole tenor of provocation, character assassination and ad hominem attacks which is exhibited there is not in any way appropriate to the situation in which the international antiquities trade finds itself in. I was hoping the IAPN might be able to see that by itself.

You ask me to point out to you “the specific instances” rather than yourselves spending any time examining what has been written on your behalf. This really is in the interests of the IAPN and its fee-paying members, but the fact that you cannot really see any problems there suggests that I may be forgiven for assuming that your assurance that you will “take appropriate action” is a fiction.

Nevertheless, in order that you cannot shift the blame for your inaction onto me, I have spent some of my time doing what I really think you should be doing and present below a few reactions to a number of the texts and comments published on your lobbyist’s Tompa’s blog in the last month of 2014 and this year. I only pick out a selection of these posts, I suggest though that you look at them in context of what is happening on your lobbyist’s blog in general, and in particular how Mr Tompa feels the IAPN’s cause is best served by concentrating to a large measure on attacking people like myself who argue for a change in our approach to the no-questions-asked antiquities sales and the need for more transparency and accountability in today’s market. I also invite you to consider how members of the general public and lawmakers of various political persuasions, seeing the antagonistic way the lobbyist for the professional numismatists, will see the trade and those involved in it.

As I stress, it is demonstrable that many of these posts were created and edited (and the many pejorative ‘comments moderated’) from a computer which due to the timing of its use would seem to be that in Mr Tompa’s law-firm office (ISP number [redacted]).
I later sent the same documentation of where I took issue with what Peter Tompa was publishing on his lobbyist's blog to the PNG (Friday, February 20, 2015 6:04 AM). For the record, I append the document to which I refer in the post below this. This shows the kind of thing the two professional associations were being asked to judge whether it fitted with their own image of what their associations and members stand for.Take a look and judge for yourselves.
[Tompagate 1]

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