Monday, January 26, 2015

Apologist: Tut Mask Botch Job No Big Deal

Archaeo-blogger Paul Barford has now taken on the role of apologist for the Egyptian Military Dictatorship and its cultural bureaucracy.  It's no surprise that Barford relies mainly on official Egyptian and Chinese sources for the claim that irreparable damage to the iconic Tut Gold Mummy Mask is "no big deal" despite reports the soft gold mask was also scratched in the debacle.   And Egypt is a democracy.  And the restoration of the Step Pyramid was performed to the highest standards.  And looting in the aftermath of the military takeover was caused by "cultural racketeers," not mobs angry that "their president" was overthrown.  Such are the fictions that become "fact" in dictatorships like those in Egypt and China.  So, why is Barford so willing to take Egyptian claims at face value and why are his own fellow archaeo-bloggers so willing to remain silent about the matter? Is it really about conservation or control and continued access to digs in Egypt?

7 comments:

John H said...

The words, 'Excavation,' 'Permit' and 'Toady,' spring to my mind, Mr Tompa.

Then again, bearing in mind Barford's sickening denial of the vandalism to King Tut's mask by conservators as being less serious than his imagined 'damage' to the Lenborough Hoard, is par for his threadbare, propagandist, but venomous cause.

He has I suspect - come to realize in a painfully ego-deflating way - that he is little more than a Lilliputian among collecting and detecting giants: A joke figure. It must hurt!

Warm regards

John Howland
England

Dave Welsh said...

If one is provoked into references to Defoe, perhaps it could also be said that Barford is little more than a Lilliputian amongst archaeological and conservation giants: by whom he is generally regarded as being more of an embarrassment than an apologist.

I'm frankly puzzled by his deliberately confrontational and controversial approach. He does have something to say, he is very knowledgeable, but also so provocative that it is difficult to take him seriously.

I do my best to take him seriously when I think he has something of substance to say. He would increase his stature and credibility as a commentator and a critic by moderating his tone.

Dave Welsh

Dave Welsh said...

There was an interesting comment made comparing Obama's reticent approach to Islamist terrorism to "the longstanding pattern of behavior (insistence, denial, castigation) that the hard left has embraced for generations." See http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2015/01/23/stalin-muhammad-and-obama/

In comparing Obama to Stalin, Ralph Peters goes a good deal farther than I am personally prepared to venture.

However, it does seem to me that much the same sort of "party line" utopian fantasizing derided in his article may also be said to characterize the approach Barford follows in making arguments in favor of "cultural heritage" institutions and bureaucracies whose performance and conduct is questioned.

Perhaps it may be said that Mr. Barford represents the "hard left" wing of the cultural heritage spectrum, with its emphasis on statist, authoritarian "solutions" for heritage preservation issues.

It would be better, in my view, not to overtly deride him with the sort of pejorative labels he so often resorts to himself, but rather to make reasoned arguments to the effect that his point of view is very far removed from the mainstream of responsible archaeology.

John H said...

Hi Dave:

You write:-

"I'm frankly puzzled by his deliberately confrontational and controversial approach."

Your wife's earlier diagnosis of Paul Barford seems to my mind at least, to explain a lot about him.

I do not see how he can have any credibility at all, even if he moderates his awful, vicious, tone.

His antecedents suggest we are dealing with - and his past suggests this - that he'd sell his granny for a pat on the head if the patting hand was a communist.

I find him, as an 'archaeologist' and as a man, utterly repulsive.

Regards

John Howland
England

stoutstandards said...

"Most angry people have a victim mentality. They perpetually feel the world owes them something and other people must fulfill their preferences or needs. What angry people say is almost never factual but emotional in content, related to their fears, frustrations, and bruised ego. Attempting to talk with them almost always fails, as raging people are narrowly focused, entitled, and prone to listening only to themselves"....Nadia Persun, PhD

Dave Welsh said...

Hi John,

You write:

"Your wife's earlier diagnosis of Paul Barford seems to my mind at least, to explain a lot about him.

I do not see how he can have any credibility at all, even if he moderates his awful, vicious, tone.

His antecedents suggest we are dealing with - and his past suggests this - that he'd sell his granny for a pat on the head if the patting hand was a communist."

John, I would not go so far as to say that Mr. Barford is a Communist. I am not aware of any evidence that he was ever a member of the Communist Party or that he agrees with the basic tenets of that political persuasion.

On the other hand, I see much in his blog to support my thesis that he is among those who constitute the "hard left" wing of the cultural heritage spectrum, with its emphasis on statist, authoritarian "solutions" for heritage preservation issues.

It is certainly possible to have a "left wing," statist perspective without being a Communist. One description for that perspective is Socialism, and there are many degrees and variations of Socialism.

I see Mr. Barford as representing a left wing Socialist perspective with regard to cultural heritage and preservation of the archaeological record.

That perspective holds that cultural heritage and the archaeological record belong to everyone, artifacts should not be owned or exploited by private persons or private organizations, and their excavation and study should be reserved for trained archaeologists, not metal detectorists or amateurs not capable of carrying out a proper dig and its subsequent publication.

I do not agree with his perspective, however I don't think it is wise to deride him by using pejorative labels such as those he so often resorts to in his blog to describe us. That sort of language tends to repel those whose interests tend toward serious thinking and consideration of all points of view.

I keenly feel the injustice of what has taken place during the past ten years, at the instigation of the U.S. State Department's Cultural Heritage Center, led by archaeologist Maria Kouroupas.

This, not Barford, is the real danger and it is difficult to see how the fundamental principle of the "rule of law" can be reestablished to supersede the present awful reality of "rule by bureaucratic regulation."

I believe that statist, authoritarian "solutions" for heritage preservation issues have made far more headway here in the U.S.A. than in the U.K.

Dave Welsh

John H said...

Hello Dave:

I agree with 99.9% of what you say, though I have never labelled Barford as a communist, but I suspect that his migration to live under communist rule in Poland in 1986 suggests that he is/was sympathetic to the regime.

The situation you say exists currently in the US... "led by archaeologist Maria Kouroupas," is similar to that which existed here in the UK in the late 70's and early 80's. It was roundly countered and beaten by representation to MP's and a brilliant PR/Media campaign.

"rule by bureaucratic regulation," as you put it, is a serious problem for democracy, but has a strong appeal for apparatchik mentality. I wish you well in that direction.

Best wishes

John Howland
England