Monday 19 October 2015

Mr Crawford and the PAS Forum

Metal detectorists trolled the UK archaeological outreach
organization's public forum leading to its closure
In the text above I discuss how a metal detectorist describes how he put his own selfish interests above the needs to preserve sensitive rural sites from erosion in stewardship. He was frustrated that he was not being listened to (by others less selfish no doubt):
Remember the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) forum? We all aired our views, only to to have them heavily moderated in the anti metal-detecting way by the forum administrator who was their appointed online PAS representative. Two anti metal detecting/collecting members were given free rein whilst people like me, who promoted  recording, were strongly moderated. All of my communications were summarily dismissed and I was told to stop scaremongering, as this might put off PAS recorders [...] I think that my Finds Liaison Officer (FLO) knew that the the system would not listen to her, either, so she drifted away from me. [...] More importantly, why try to silence me after all I had done for the PAS and our history?
I can guess it is because most people think you are wrong.  I can imagine a FLO drifting away from a person who says he selfishly wants to continue eroding a site clandestinely which if he reported its existence instead would be protected from further damage by stewardship provisions. That sort of attitude is 100% the opposite of the ones PAS was set up to promote and propagate. PAS was out to show that detectorists were not in general the selfish and idle looters which the preceding STOP (Stop Taking Our Past) had depicted them to be. That this was not the case was irrelevant, PAS 'spin' persisted in presenting the positive and totally shielding the negative from public view. Mr Crawford was presenting the negative side of artefact hunting, the selfish gimme-gimme and I suggest that would be the reason for any 'drifting away' of those whose concern (and job) is to protect the archaeological record/heritage and mitigate damage done to it by non-recording of removed material.

It is not only grossly unfair, but complete nonsense to say that through the activities of the 'forum moderator' (PAS's IT staff member Dan Pett) Dean Crawford was "heavily/strongly  moderated in the anti metal-detecting way". Utter balderdash. It seems pretty likely that I, together with Heritage Action's Nigel Swift, are the two "anti metal detecting/collecting members" mentioned in the quote above, as allegedly not pro-recording and who "were given free rein". That too is nonsense.

The UK is a country where free speech is allowed, and yes, Paul Barford and Nigel Swift have their own opinions about artefact hunting and collecting and frequently make use of the social media to get a discussion of the issues out in the open. The public forum of an organization called the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which is meant to be all about interacting with the public on portable antiquities and archaeological matters, is precisely one of the places where such a discussion might be expected. It certainly seems to me that the several dozen metal detectorists who constantly trolled that public  forum were given substantial leeway, to not only put forward their point of view, but the PAS was very lax in curbing (to be fair, hard-pressed to curb) their bad behaviour and aggressive tone as they did so. Perhaps Mr Crawford's contributions were deemed even more unsuitably-phrased than the average 'Baz Thugwit' comment which that forum carried as a matter of course (sadly the archives of the forum are now hidden - there are some real gems from some of them). In short, I think Mr Crawford is bending the truth a bit (lot) when he claims he was silenced by an "anti-metal detecting" PAS.

By the way, the PAS is not "just" for metal detectorists, there is a sixty-million public out there who pay for the PAS who are not metal detectorists, but stakeholders in the heritage - and it is for them too that countryside environmental stewardship schemes were set up.


Paul Barford said...

For the record, Dan Pett was placed under a lot of pressure by running the Forum with the constant misbehaviour of a whole group of metal detectorists trying their hardest and by the only means they knew how to discourage the use of the public forum for open discussion of the issues surrounding portable antiquities. Instead of the IT specialist officer, running the Forum was a job for the Education and Outreach Officer (but that was the first post to go in the cuts). Dan was at the time he was running it fair, and was obviously caught (like the rest of the PAS when dealing with metaldetectory oikism) in a cleft stick. It is disappointing to see that he later changed his approach and when the metal detectorists got their own way, decided to blame the inevitable demise of the forum on "aggressive archaeological postings", rather than an organized campaign of disruption by a cabal of anti-archaeological and anti-conservation metal detectorists. Still, I feel, the way things are going with the PAS and it support of artefact hunting, in the long run, we'll be the ones having the last laugh. Maybe we'll get our apology then.

Anonymous said...

I'd rather have action than an apology, although I'm certainly owed one as Dan can probably see now. You can't finally admit that 70% of qualifying finds never get reported while still insisting that those who pointed exactly that out and repeatedly begged detectorists to behave (lest the game would be up) more than a decade ago were guilty of "aggressive archaeological posting".

Can you Dan?

Paul Barford said...

Can you Dan?

Can you?

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