Sunday, April 1, 2012

"Coiney 2012"

This is from the Philadelphia Enquirer April 1, 2012:

COINEY 2012: A Video Hit that Misses?

By April Fells

The archaeological advocacy group Saving Antiquities from Everyone (“SAFRE”) has joined with the archaeological advocacy website “Chasing Afrodite” to promote a video to publicize the evils of ancient coin collecting to a wider audience of young adults.

But a cyclone of controversy is swirling around Coiney 2012, a video by SAFRE members Dr. Nathan Snikel and Gill Barmore. The video that targets ancient coin collectors or “Coineys” has gotten more than 76 million views on YouTube since it was posted March 5.

Some say that Snikel and Barmore are a bunch of self-promoting, overprivileged young adults, others that they are brilliant filmmaker/advocates who know how to use new-media tools to grab the attention of high school and college students.

Actually, they are both, and Coiney 2012 embodies all the potential - and pitfalls - of high-tech advocacy.

Ancient coin collecting used to be known as a somewhat nerdy pastime for middle age and older men interested in ancient history. Then, SAFRE began arguing that ancient coin collecting encouraged the looting of archaeological sites by metal detectorists with ties to the mafia or terrorist groups. First, no one took such claims seriously, but then in 2007 SAFRE’s efforts gained a boost when Cypriot advocacy groups, which had hoped to get the US to agree to side with Greeks over the Turkish enemy on questions related to the division of Cyprus, instead got as a booby prize the commitment of then Undersecretary of State Nicholas Beans to order import restrictions on ancient coins, despite the views of State’s own advisory committee. No one could actually figure how this then became a cornerstone of US foreign policy, but since that time, SAFRE has allegedly worked hand in hand with SAFRE members embedded in the State Department Cultural Hermitage Center to extend import restrictions first imposed on coins from Cyprus, to ancient coins from Italy, Greece and China. Coins from Albania, Bulgaria and the rest of the alphabet are now set for new restrictions every other month.

Both the video and the Coiney 2012 campaign seek to raise awareness and to press the U.S. government to keep up the import restrictions on coin collectors or “Coineys” as the campaign wants them officially designated. Visitors to the Coiney 2012 website ( can sign a “call to de-coin the Coineys,” donate US coins, get an advocacy kit, or, by clicking share, post a link to their Facebook page.

The edgy, half-hour video appeals to those called millennials, or Generation Y, those born approximately between 1980 and 2000. Filmmaker and narrator Snikel begins Coiney 2012 by asserting a new world order created by Facebook, YouTube, and other social network sites: "There are more people on Facebook than there were on the planet 200 years ago. Humanity's greatest desire is to belong and connect. . . . And this connection is changing the way the world works."

It's about being cool. If a friend doesn't know about Coineys at this point, Snikel says, "you automatically think they're an idiot."

Criticism - and there has been a lot - has targeted the video's approach and accuracy, and SAFRE’s finances. The group raises millions yearly and spends much of it on filmmaking, travel and some great beer and “Legalize pot” parties.

The effort has also received criticism abroad, from “Coineys” in other countries. Italian coin collectors are the fiercest critics of all, claiming the group profits from Italy’s troubles, displays a colonialist attitude in its work, and fails to mention the Italian cultural bureaucracy cannot even take care of cultural treasures like Pompeii - charges SAFRE has hotly disputed.

There's another problem: If all these young people do is watch and share the video, then Coiney 2012 is not much more than "slacktivism," Net-based pseudo-activism that's little more than clicking computer keys. SAFRE and Chasing Afrodite have planned activities beyond the video, but the video's getting all the attention.

Moreover, there have been some whispers by worried SAFRE members that the campaign may have backfired, encouraging a new group of youths to take up ancient coin collecting because it is now “gangsta cool” in some hipster circles.

If Coiney 2012 in fact ends up bringing new, younger collectors to ancient coin collecting it will indeed be the hit that missed in a big way.

1 comment:

Wayne G. Sayles said...

Durn fools are gonna ruin the coiney hoedown and turn it into anuther woodstork.