Wednesday 26 September 2018

Writing About the Preservation of the Archaeological Record in the eyes of a PAS FLO

FLO has declared this blog 'Fake News' 
We've already had the Head of the PAS co-authoring an article that announces that artefact hunting and collecting are not damaging the archaeological record. Now one of his staff declares on the facebook page of RESCUE that preservationists are a public danger (!) What is going on in the PAS? [By the way, note that this is in fact in the middle of a discussion of the video of "Scotty's Bellingham Dig" discussed on my blog earlier, but the FLO who visited the site is wary of actuially saying abnything about the people that did what we see in the video]
Benjamin Westwood Benjamin Westwood The UK does comply with the Valletta convention. The argument that it does not is just polemicism by Paul Barford and others with a clear agenda to divide the archaeological community and the public by spreading more fake news.
In England and Wales, as I said in the point to which the FLO is replying, there is no legal instrument to comply with Article 2iii of the Valletta Convention. That is a fact, not "fake news" (and it is hardly likely to bring the nation to its knees if the British public turned against metal detectorists and those who support them). Comments such as that are simply ridiculous and show the extent of the fantasy-world of the supporters of collectors. The Durham FLO's comments make those raising concerns about artefact collecting sound like the Trumpist conspiracy theorists' worst nightmare!
 I asked him:
On what basis do you throw out such strange and unsupportable accusations? Why is it "divisive" to suggest that there are perfectly valid archaeological grounds for raising issues that exist within a policy towards the archaeological record, pray tell us. Tell me why in fact, as archaeologists on this FB page [remember, this was on the page of RESCUE], we cannot unite under the idea of protection of the archaeological record from deliberate destruction, dismemberment and knowledge theft by collectors? Who here is being "divisive" if not the lost souls (Ixelles Six and the ilk) who say looting is not damaging? What is the international legacy of the PAS in this regard?
There are some interesting reflections that derive from posing the question in that way. Mr Westwod however apparently cannot see them, and simply tries to dodge the question by piling on more unsupported accusations in full rant-mode:
Benjamin Westwood It's interesting that you raise the spectre of Trump in your response, as this is exactly how i would characterise your blog: a mirror image of the alt right/left blogs that have sprung up of late where a nugget of real and worthy news/facts are wrapped in layers of polemicism, misinformation, and often outright falsehood, while purporting to be the 'real' news in a sea of fake 'MSM' news. When, of course, the exact opposite is true.
Wow. This blog is a polemic, yes, with those (FLOs included) who stand idly by and try to convince us that everything is more or less OK, while artefact hunters, dealers and collectors trash the archaeological record. So yes, among other things, it is a polemic with the intellectual (I use the term loosely) legacy of the Portable Antiquities Scheme in England and Wales and all, globally, that support it and see it as some kind of (and more often than not, the only)  panacea for dealing with the damage caused by the collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record. There are other polemics too, with dealers, with the American ones in particular and the weasel words of their lobbyists. 'Polemic', I'll own up to. This blog has a weltanschauung firmly based in what I believe to be the role of the professional archaeologist in striving for the preservation of the archaeological record and indeed (as I see it) the discipline itself.

As for the rest of this guy's accusations, in my writings here and elsewhere, I try to provide links to where I get my material from (if any links are missing it is oversight rather than intent). I count therefore on the intelligence of my readers to be able - rather than taking my word for anything - to check for themselves what I say against the sources, think around what I write. I really do not expect anyone to believe what I say just because they read it here. In fact, I am not particularly interested in a readership that would behave in such a way - that's not who I am writing for. In my opinion, there is too much intellectual passivity in certain sectors of the heritage debate, too little joined-up thinking.

So, I can confidently leave it up to the reader to decide what this blog represents (apart from my personal presentation of my personal views - to which I consider I have every right). A bloke in Durham says  what this blog contains is (like) one where (correcting his grammar slightly): "nugget[s] of real and worthy news/facts are wrapped in layers of polemicism, misinformation, and often outright falsehood, while purporting to be the 'real' news in a sea of fake 'MSM' news". If you agree with Brother Benjamin from Durham, tut and move on. Don't bother with reading what I say here if you think I am wasting my years composing asnd publishing 'fake news'. In the sidebar to the left are a lot of links to other heritage blogs including those with an opposing view to mine (I must update it, not all have lasted as long as PACHI). I hope though that some of you at least will conclude that on the whole I write sense, and that you'll admit that there are real issues, even if you do not agree with evertything I say, or the manner I sometimes choose to express what I think. You are free all of you to comment (note my guidelines, it's my blog) to correct, protest, or start your own blogs. The more, the merrier. Anyway, my blog is coming up to two million hits, which for such a niche interest  is not bad. It seems not everybody agrees with Mr Westwood.

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