Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Debating Heritage Issues: "Totally Unacceptable Language"?

Stern words from Charles West @Pseudo_Isidore 6hrs ago
@Hugh_Willmott Good on you. It's totally unacceptable language to use in a public forum: he makes himself look ridiculous.
The tweeter is referring to my blog and what I write here about the lack of a proper definition of "responsible artefact hunting". I am not sure what is so "totally unacceptable" or "ridiculous" in stating that there is a lack of definition for a phrase which people have been bandying about in British archaeology for two decades without meaningful definition. I would rather say that it is indefensible that such a state of affairs exists.

The problem is that again we see thin-skinned British archaeologists are pretty sensitive about any kind of criticism of their mantras, seeing any attempt to query them as some kind of personal attack (see here and the mistaken reference to an "ad hom" comment). So we see stuff like this:
5 godz.5 godzin temu  Had a week of threatening cyber abuse, and didn’t want to speak out. But need to set an example for my son.
Let's get this right. For Dr Willmott, "threatening cyber abuse" is one guy saying "I think you are wrong".* Wow.  

Charles West, apparently not really understanding the issue being discussed (one may suspect here another of those who think they can absorb another's argument through telepathic osmosis rather than acquainting himself with what is written in plain words), trundles out  the "[unspecified something] will drive artefact hunting underground" argument citing an about "nighthawking" there. He totally misses the point, but we have seen time and time again the "threatening nighthawk" argument is used by archaeologists and artefact collectors alike to avoid discussing the issues surrounding artefact collecting. So no surprise there. Dr Willmott responds to this  5 godz.5 godzin temu)
We all appreciate that, and of course I’m very thick skinned. But bullying=always unacceptable. Not if or buts 
"Bullying"? The guy repetitively writes sycophantic stuff in the public domain about how thankful he is for collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record and expects everyone to whole-heartedly agree with him, and if one guy says he does not (one guy), he is labelled a "bully"? Eh? No, I would not call that thick-skinned, would you? Also we do not all "appreciate" the suggestion that the way to improve heritage crime figures is simply to remove some offences from the law books. That's bonkers. This online exchange however gets even more bizarre. Dr Willmott has really lost me here:
5 godz.5 godzin temu  Yes I’m riled. Explain such racist and profanatory language to your own child. [...] 
Whoah. "Racist"? "Profanity"? Are we reading the same blog here? What on earth is he on about?

Let's just list below what I wrote in such allegedly "racist" terms using such blatant "abusive" "profanity". The first is prompted by Dr Willmott's tweeted enthusiasm about a lead item found with a metal detector, the other three are mainly responses to his further tweets on the topic. They are all comments on things said by Dr Willmott and others in the public domain:
1)  'Lightweight PAS Finds-Fluff Alert' PACHI Friday, 19 February 2016 (here in the update is my comment on his dismissive response that it is "easier to carp from the sidelines than actually contribute"),

2)  '"Not Hard to Understand, Really"' (The title is a quote from Dr Willmott's dismissively patronising response, I also raise here the question of just what we mean in archaeological terms by 'record an object') PACHI Friday, 26 February 2016,

3)  'Archaeology SOLD OUT: Lincolnshire "Celebrates" Pilfering of Archaeological record by Private Collectors and the Antiquities Trade', PACHI Friday, 26 February 2016,

4) 'What is "Responsible Artefact Hunting"? Archaeology is not Rocket Science' PACHI  Monday, 29 February 2016, and

5) 'Academic Will Not Address the Question' PACHI Tuesday, 29th February 2016 (by metaphor placing the discussion into the wider resource management context)
You can try to "spot the profanity" if you wish to play along with the Sheffield academic's mythmaking. I'd prefer you to pay attention more to what I write (and the meaning behind it) than his superficial dismissal of how I write it.

Anyhow, Dr Willmott says he wants to "face the bullies" and has now decided to actually address the question his phraseology arouses.
Open invitation sent to Mr Barford @PortantIssues to see if he’s willing to discuss things openly without abuse. Let’s see. ["@ajdaubney I intend to try and establish an open line tomorrow, if the parties concerned can step up out of the shadows. @PortantIssues" ]
[How about discussing things openly without false accusations?] Far from lurking in any "shadows", this blog has been openly questioning current policies and attitudes on portable antiquities collecting and other heritage issues since 2008, so such an accusation is quite out of place. Anyway, that snipe from Sheffield aside, I have been saying all along that I'd like to hear what Dr Willmott means by his repeated use of the term "responsible artefact hunting". So here is my question again:
"Responsible artefact hunting"? Can archaeologists and other academics using that term so freely now give us a precise holistic definition of what that means in a global, not local, context - and from the point of view of the conservation of, rather than promoting collection-driven exploitation of, the archaeological record? 
Dr Willmott, this blog contains my views on the topic, the floor is now yours.
* "Threatening cyber abuse" is what one gets from responsible metal detectorists for saying that something's wrong with current policies on collecting and coin dealers for criticising bad practice in the trade. THAT's "threatening cyber abuse" Dr Willmott. I sent you no death threats, have not posted your personal details online, and have encouraged nobody to threaten and attack members of your family - and neither will I. But that's what metal detectorists (not "nighhthawks") have done, and not once. So please don't talk to me about cyber abuse.

UPDATE  1st March 2016


@PortantIssues Changing someone's image, taunting, and creating fictitious characters based on someone is cyber bullying, in my view.

He means this tongue-in-cheek post. I'd prefer challenging rather than "taunting" (heat and kitchens come to mind). The apparently humourless Dr Willmott seems to think it is OK for him to say these things about the conservation implications for the archaeological record, but sees the same thing as reprehensible when put in the context of another discipline. What makes archaeology so special, that birds and rhinos don't have? They at least are renewable resources.

For the record, I did not change the image of him, I changed the rock he is holding into a bird to match the content of the text (a metaphor) I wrote. If the rock writes to me to complain, I will change it back, but it's quite a nice bird I think. Matches the text.

Instead of calling parodic metaphor "bullying", a reasonably articulate academic could instead try to address the (rather serious) issue it highlights, which is my questioning of the assertion that there the artefacts he's been joyously plastering on his Twitter account are the products of something called  "responsible artefact hunting". I ask what that is in a wider context and so far am not hearing any sensible answer. 

1 comment:

Paul Barford said...

I see from the tracking software that Mr Willmott is still searching this blog to see if I am still writing about him. No, I am not because his failure to actually say what he means by the terms he so glibly uses shows he really has nothing to say that is worth listening to.

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