Monday, 2 February 2015

Focus on Metal Detecting: Problem of Focus and Comprehension

Over on a metal detecting blog near you, a metal detectorist manages to illustrate the point I make here about the cognitive limitations of many artefact hunters which hinder any proper outreach by the PAS. Kris "Bleeps" Rodgers has decided to bulk out his blog with a "what if" discussion - phrased as a warning. He asks what would happen if metal detecting was banned in the UK.  Before we look at what he says about what he calls "the banning of metal detecting.  The ultimate death of tones.  Diggergeddon" (illustrated with a picture of an H-bomb musroom cloud in lurid colours) one observation is required.

This is a typical metal detectorist straw man argument. As I, and others, have repeatedly pointed out, nobody is calling for a ban on metal detecting in the UK (see 'Beware of the Bogeyman Banner' PACHI Sunday, 27 July 2008 which obviously -seven years on - retains its topicality). That is a myth detectorists use to allow them to construct their straw men, knock them down and think they have resolved the problem. An analogy would be airheads accusing a group trying to get a speed limit on the High Street where it passes a school after several kids have nearly been hit by cars of trying to "close the High Street". I think you'd not have too many problems thinking of a suitable epithet for those who then laboriously trot out a few arguments for "not closing the High Street"...

So Mr Rodgers says if metal detecting were banned:  fewer "important finds would be registered", there would be "no more declared finds", "a large percentage of my bleep seeking comrades want to do the right thing", "we are not nighthawks (and we don't like them)", "we don't find much gold", but "not all metal detectorists are saints" If metal detecting was banned  "it will be forced underground" (note the First Conditional).  We've heard all this before, I have answered these points a number of times. I doubt if I spend time doing it once more suddenly every single metal detectorist will be led to the conclusion that these are false arguments and we'll not see them pop up again in another few weeks. Many metal detectorists can barely read it seems from the extent of any effects resulting from laying out  in writing the counterarguments to their fixed and parroted mantras.

Mr Rodgers addresses "all those bodies dead against the hobby" and suggests that "the current situation is a lot better than the discussed outcome". Well, actually if we put this in the context of what actually IS a realistic subject of discussion, it is not. Instead of "banning" metal detecting, groups like Heritage Action (as they write VERY CLEARLY almost in monosyllabic words for the hard of reading) and myself are arguing that we need to regulate the way the hobby is done. That is basically having a piece of paper ('protocol' in Mr Rodger's terminology) obliging the searcher to 'doing the right thing' (which includes mandatory reporting as in Scotland). This would immediately sort out the good guys from the cowboys and results in all the potential negative phenomena Mr Rodgers lists being resolved at the stroke of a pen.

After setting out a litany of misfortunes that would be consequent on "banning metal detecting" Mr Rodgers wheedles:
Surely, even the most cynical of you can see that communication, education, and the consistent enforcing of these ideals is the more proactive route we can all go down together.
Well, we cannot if a large part of the metal detecting community does not understand the simplest of communications (see above) and is not at all educable. To apply ideals effectively, you have to understand them. I submit that the evidence very strongly suggests that many metal detectorists cannot understand the issues being discussed (as we see here) and why certain things are said, why archaeologists are disturbed by what we see (Crosby Garrett, "Nazi War Diggers", Hollingbourne, Holt Hoard, Lenborough Hoard etc etc). In which case, the great social experiment that is the seventeen million pound PAS has clearly failed. It was based on the assumption that they would. That assumption is daily proven wrong on the forums and blogs. Take a look for yourselves.

I really have a problem understanding how anyone can come out with one of Mr Rodgers' statements which flies in the face of everything observable about "the metal detecting debate". I guess some people really have no powers of observation either:
The internet has changed the situation within metal detecting drastically.  Those that are anti-detecting normally base their opinion on what happened in the eighties and nineties, before the internet, and the plethora of information on protocol.  These days, it’s a lot easier to know what the right thing to do is.  There are no excuses, and this has changed things.  
But... ah... this blog for example, Heritage Action, Rescue and all the rest, are not talking about what happened before there was sliced bread, the horseless carriage, the internet or the PAS. What is being criticised is what is happening right now, what we all see written (and left unchallenged) by uncomprehending artefact hunters on the forums now (i.e., ON the Internet!), what we see in the fresh videos they publish now, here and now when there is a "plethora of information on responsible artefact hunting" and indeed "no excuses" for such ignorance and bad practice. Metal detectorists can be found looking for those excuses though (Hollingbourne, Lenborough) The criticisms are that this has NOT "changed things" enough to make the issues raised ones which can be ignored. Mr Rodgers is not thinking for himself, the metal detectorists mantra number seven is that "critics of metal detecting are dinosaurs, they will come round". Add the word "irresponsible metal detecting" (which is what we are criticising) and see how that reads.

All the time when dealing with PAS "finders" (C2s and Ds according to the PAS, and "challenged by formal education") we are up against ignorance, inability to focus, inability to see the core of the argument but a thousand and one peripheral issues and shooting off on a knee-jerk tangent. THIS is what makes any kind of outreach to artefact hunters an extremenly difficult task, and it is seeing constant repetition of this pattern which makes me feel that it is unlikely to succeed.

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