Tuesday 25 August 2015

Ssssocialists, Superficiality, Stupidity and Sources in the Heritage Debate about Syria

"Collectors, trust me - it's not really happening"
- Peter Tompa at Dura Europos

Although they claim  that they collect antiquities to "study" them , collectors really do seem to behave a lot of the time as simpletons, preferring to accept the word of an "authority" rather than working things out for themselves. So they have to be reminded by the coin dealers' association paid lobbyist that they should "Consider the source" (CPO Monday, August 24, 2015) before they accept anything anyone writes about there being any kind of problem with no-questions-asked buying of artefacts from conflict zones in the Middle East or North Africa. In other words, he's telling people who've been through the US schooling system what he suspects they never learnt there: that they should read critically and use various independent means to assess the believability of what they are presented with. The lobbyist assures the collectors that there is nothing confusing in his own approach:
This blog is up front.  It reflects the views of collectors.
That'd be odd if it did. Its author is a paid lobbyist of a dealers' association and is associated with several dealers' interest groups (not all of them accurately-named, to conceal that). I do not think anyone would be misled by a lobbyist for the tobacco companies claiming to "represent the interests of smokers" when discussing the effects of smoking on health, or any other industry of concern to society as a whole. But, collectors are apparently simpletons, they buy this one each time.

Mr Tompa wants superficial and gullible collectors to believe that what HE says about "claims about looting in Syria" is the one and only truth about looting in Syria because what he says "reflects the view of collectors". All the rest should be dismissed he says.

Syrian heritage professionals know nothing about the looting taking place in their own country, Tompa says, because this "is pure propaganda". Mr Tompa in on office off a Washington backstreet knows everything about what's happening there, people on the ground know nothing. Tompa would have collectors believe he is qualified to speak, and the people on the ground with information from those who can see it with their own eyes, well, obviously - dear collectors - that is "propaganda".

American (only?) scholars who attempt to monitor looting and raise awareness - well "obviously" dear collectors there is a "conflict of interest" innit? Tompa harps on about some of them getting a $600,000 contract to do that. This was ASOR, an organization which according to Mr Tompa, "takes a dim view of private collecting". Here is the ASOR statement on that - as can be seen, it covers ONLY collecting of illicitly-obtained artefacts, not collecting in itself.  But collectors are superficial simpletons, they are not going to check the source.

And then there is UNESCO. One can imagine Tompa hissing the name: "Unesssssssco": 
UNESCO is run by a former Bulgarian Communist (now Socialist) and its pronouncements reflect a state ownership approach that ignores the rights of individuals, ethnic and religious groups.  Not surprisingly, UNESCO supports repatriation of artifacts to Assad in the midst of a civil war despite the Assad regime's poor stewardship and even purposeful destruction of cultural artfiacts.
There is it again, the repatriation-word. Where is the evidence, Mr Tompa for that? Can you show your readers the statement of Ms Bokova, your nasty Communisssst blonde bogeylady, saying that? No, of course you can't because you've not checked your sources either. Why would a lobbyist for the antiquities dealers attempt all the time to deflect attention to repatriation (read: "taking things away from Americans") when all the time what is being pursued is in reality prohibiting and preventing the illicit import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural property? Why? What interests have dealers in the illicit import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural property that they do not want people talking about it , so invent a substitute meme - "repatriation" to absorb collectors' attention? Indeed, collectors are simpletons and they buy it each time.

As for UNESCO's policies "ignoring the rights of ethnic and religious groups", only somebody woefully ignorant of its many activities could say such a moronic thing and hope to get away with it. But collectors are simpletons, he can count on them buying his tripe.

As for that 'ssssocialist' UNESCO DG (have you paid your subscription yet, America?) Irina Bokova, She's a very nice lady, and was 18 when the 1970 Convention was written. The notion that it is states which are responsible for cultural heritage protection is nothing to do with Ms Bokova and her 'sssssocialism', it is part and parcel of the mission of the organization to which she was appointed in 2009 (clue: the name United Nations). The 1970 Convention, Mr Tompa, dear collectors, is about nations helping each other protect their cultural heritage - however foreign that may sound to a US lobbyist for the antiquities trade which is all about taking it and making money from it.

But yes, everybody should be looking very critically about what is being said about the no-questions-asked trade in antiquities - and especially look at the drag-everything-down-to-the-personal-level-and-conspiracy-theory methods of the supporters of the practice. Enough said.

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