Saturday, December 20, 2014

Blurred Lines

Legendary TV journalist Richard C. Hottelet has passed away.

In his last lecture to journalism students, he emphasized the need to be objective:  "Play it straight, do not tell them what you think.  Do not tell them what you feel.  Just tell them what you know."

Unfortunately, all this seems to be lost on a peculiar brand of archaeo-blogger/activist/researcher/journalist who has sought fame (if not fortune) based on a hyped claim that the terrorists of ISIS made $36 million from looted antiquities in one area of Syria alone.

And when that claim fell apart?  Was it time issue a retraction and an apology to those who were attacked for questioning the claim?  Of course not.

Blogging is one thing, but we should all expect more from anyone who also purports to be a "researcher" and a "journalist' and the "news outlets" that publicized this false claim.


John H said...

Like you, neither would I go so far to imply that ALL archaeologists ARE radical authoritarian nationalists - indeed some are - but what troubles me is when this kind of stuff is trotted out:-

"You don’t just have to prove something is not guilty, but show that it is innocent.”

Neither I, nor you, I strongly suspect would care live in a country where civil liberties and the legislature came based on such a dictum.

I am unable to escape my impression that some in the archaeological lobby have forgotten that many of their colleagues were summarily executed under Stalin's iron rule (for example), where 'not guilty' meant for nothing.

As usual, the self-styled 'Keepers of the Heritage' do not take kindly to having their words questioned or being caught in a lie.

Warm wishes

John Howland

Cultural Property Observer said...

Good point. I'm sure any archaeologist who finds himself subject to "justice" in places like Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan would want their rights protected as well. So, why do they want to import such anti-democratic, anti-due process concepts like burden shifting and no permits means guilty until proved innocent to countries like the US and Germany. There are more important concepts that should be protected than "context."

Cultural Property Observer said...

I see Dr. Hardy has now placed a rather odd defense of himself on his blog. I'll leave it to the reader to decide for themselves whether "verify" is a synonym for "corroborate," whether there has been a conspiracy between myself and John Howland to create "straw man arguments" to undercut Hardy's credibility, whether the Hyperallergic articles he wrote about a German numismatist and me were personal attacks or not based upon our efforts to question the use of false information about ISIS looting.

I would, however, again emphasize my concern is and always has been that Hardy has promoted an outlandish figure for the value of ISIS looting in one area in Syria, even though he himself now acknowledges he always had concerns about it. Simply, if he had doubts about the figure, why promote it at all?

As for Hyperallergic, I had hoped at a minimum they would publish this note appended to Hardy's article attacking the motives of myself and numismatic groups I'm associated with, but they instead only published part of what I had hoped. For the record, here is all of what I had hoped they would state. Of course, it's not to late for them to do so though I don't feel it compensates me for publishing such a piece that seems little more than an extension of Hardy's blog and all the prejudices it manifests against private collecting and anyone who supports it:

“This piece reflects Dr. Hardy’s opinions about Peter Tompa and his lobbying activities on behalf of the small businesses of the numismatic trade and collectors. Tompa would like Hyperallergic to emphasize the alleged ‘overtly illegal imports of coins’ mentioned in the article were for purposes of securing ‘standing’ in order to pursue a legal challenge to import restrictions on collectors’ coins of the sort widely and legally collected worldwide. The organizations mentioned are concerned about efforts to reverse the burden of proof for legal imports of cultural goods under the guise of protecting archaeological objects from looting. The historical coins that were imported for purposes of the test case were properly declared to US Customs before seizure.”

John H said...

Mr Tompa, Hardy needed no help from you or I to undermine the credibility of his arguments...that was a self-inflicted wound!

I am surprised that someone with a Doctorate is so cavalier as to trip over the (non)facts in what appears to me at least, to be a headlong rush to smear with innuendo, others who ask pertinent questions raised by his seemingly piss-poorly researched arguments. If it was to impress his peers, they too will have learned a lesson.

More to the point, has Hardy applied this same research logic to other reports of his? Might they be tainted too in some way. We have to ask. We have to know, or, was his latest debacle simply a one-off aberration? What credence can be placed on anything he writes or says?

The days have long since passed when opponents to detecting, and collecting, could fire, scatter-gun fashion unsubstantiated claims without fear of substantiation or retaliation.

Best wishes

John Howland

John H said...

As I'm sure you are aware - you being a switched-on Attorney - cannot failed to have noticed the Defense Counsel's last gasp when there's nothing left.

The familiar desperate tactic and the final throw of the dice is to attack the police evidence.

Heartily well played Mr Tompa. I'm afraid Hardy's evidence was not quite up to it.

Christmas best wishes.

John Howland