Friday, September 27, 2013

Freedom of Speech

"California style"
by Paul Barford

It says on the box:

The ACCG was formed to provide a voice for ancient coin collectors on issues that threaten the hobby. [...] [to] provide decision makers in the legislative and administrative branches of government with our own views on the complex issues surrounding preservation of historical sites [...].
I remarked upon how one of the ACCG's officers has been attempting to achieve this aim on behalf of all coin collector members. Today the world wakes to find another one. This one is very revealing of the US mindset. They think we should worship their free-speech ethos, yet are all for suppression of comment when it affects them. So we have here Mr Welsh musing about "Slaying Barford" (Thursday, September 26, 2013), not by the US preferred tactic of remote stealth attacks by political assassination drones, but by "One Detectorist's Revenge".
"Steve Taylor remains the only detectorist to ever have shut Barford up, which he did for about two months in the fall of 2011".

This is quite interesting, I am assuming the ACCG have full awareness of just who it is they are getting (figuratively) into bed with here. I don't expect that, as with our previous discussion of the meaning of the words il/licit, Mr Welsh's memory has retained the full facts about why this blog was hidden (not closed) for several weeks. The Warsaw Prosecutor General still has the files. At the time, readers may remember that Mr Welsh was loud in declaratively offering his support to me and my family as a result of the events following Mr Taylor's actions. Sincerity it seems is not his middle name.

Thus it is we now find ACCG's Mr Welsh lauding UK metal detectorist Steve Taylor for "shutting Barford up" for two months and writing "the Barford Song". Obviously the ability to shout down any critical comment and engage in vulgar insult-throwing is very much to the taste of this Reputable Dealer,  Professional Numismatist (sic) and pillar of the Ancient Coin Collectors of America Guild.  Whether or not that is what will impress the "decision makers in the legislative and administrative branches of government" (in the offices of some of which it would seem are individuals whom are quite frequent visitors to this blog) remains to be seen.

I rather think debating the various views "on the complex issues surrounding preservation of historical sites" involves engagement of the issues involved, not shouting down those who raise them and running away from providing an alternative reasoned argument. All the time in this recent discussion with ACCG spokesmen Wayne Sayles, Peter Tompa and Dave Welsh (and Sock-puppet-Arthur through the medium of CPO) about possible ways forward for the antiquities market we see nothing but sniping, insults and ad hominem attacks.


Hmmm ....

Evidently there is still what one might describe as "a very raw nerve" in the much-scarred psyche of Mr. Barford, with respect to this particular individual.

Now reading what Paul has just posted in his PACHI blog, one might think that I had fulsomely (and malevolently) praised UK metal detectorist Steve Taylor for his 2011 legal confrontation with Mr. Barford and for his ongoing efforts to mock, ridicule and deride Mr. Barford, in particular through "The Barford Song" -- which Taylor recorded as a video clip and then posted to YouTube, where it has attracted considerably more interest than it deserved.

No doubt Steve Taylor has (through his ongoing confrontation with Barford) become something of a cult hero to a certain segment of the detectorist community, which understandably resents the relentless and fierce criticism that Mr. Barford incessantly directs toward metal detecting and the manner in which artifacts found by metal detectorists are subsequently dealt with.

But what did I actually say, to provoke such a vehemently confrontational response from Mr. Barford, positively reeking of his anti-American, anti-Californian, anti-trade and anti-collecting prejudice?

 On September 19, I recorded my thoughts regarding "The Barford Song:"

"This bit of disreputable doggerel says something unpleasant about the resentment (and perhaps even hatred) that the metal-detectorist community feels toward Mr. Barford and his constant sniping criticism. In the end it does their cause no credit, tending instead to create an impression that some metal-detectorists perhaps are not very nice people."

That's a significantly negative comment, by no means amounting to '... lauding UK metal detectorist Steve Taylor for ...  writing "the Barford Song" ', as Mr. Barford alleged in his blog post.

Going back to Taylor's 2011 efforts to intimidate Barford by threatening legal action for copyright infringement, I did not then (and do not now) approve of any effort to silence Mr. Barford by preventing him from presenting his opinions in his PACHI blog. As Barford himself observes, "... Mr Welsh was loud in declaratively offering his support to me and my family as a result of the events following Mr Taylor's actions."

Indeed I was, and so I remain. Freedom of speech is a longstanding, vital American tradition and the subject of the First Amendment in our hallowed Bill of Rights.

In her biography on Voltaire, Evelyn Beatrice Hall wrote the phrase: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" (often misattributed to Voltaire himself) as an illustration of Voltaire's beliefs. That remains my view of  Taylor's efforts to intimidate Barford, and to force him to shut down his "lying blog."

Returning to the subject of  freedom of speech, that fundamental right applies to me just as much as it does to Mr. Barford -- and even to Mr. Taylor. That freedom clearly justified my discussing the ongoing confrontation between these two individuals as a news item, in the factual terms quoted below:

 ' "Barford Slayer" is going a bit far, because the man is still alive -- but Steve Taylor remains the only detectorist to ever have shut Barford up, which he did for about two months in the fall of 2011.'

What Mr. Barford apparently did not realize is that he is so cordially disliked and hotly resented (perhaps hated might be a more accurate word) by the UK detectorist community, that many of its members are constantly preoccupied with publicly discussing and venting their outrage at his constant sniping criticism. They seize every opportunity to express their outrage in communications with other detectorists, in  comments posted to blogs such as mine, and in private messages to discussion list owners and blog owners.

I am a leading example of the latter, due to my well known and consistent opposition to Mr. Barford's anticollecting views, and to his vocal insistence that an unrealistic, rigid requirement for provenance documentation of every artifact (however minor and inexpensive) is a necessity for "ethical collecting." I have accordingly gotten a great deal of private message traffic recently regarding Steve Taylor's feud with Mr. Barford.

Mr. Barford is a controversial public figure, continually "in the news" because of  his confrontational approach toward antiquities collecting and metal detecting. I previously observed that he apparently maintains a double standard in his views regarding the law,

"Mr. Barford believes that the law is something that does not apply equally to everyone. It applies strictly and harshly to collectors and the antiquities trade, and loosely and elastically to archaeologists and cultural property retentionists, according to his point of view."

The same evidently can justly be observed regarding Barford's attitude toward criticism and derogatory
statements made against individuals and organizations. Harsh criticism may justly amd appropriately be directed toward collectors, the antiquities trade and metal detectorists. However Barford himself and other anticollecting archaeologists are "off limits," and their targets are not allowed to reply in kind.

It seems to me that the last word on THAT sort of attitude was spoken long ago by a great American philosopher, Frederick August Campbell.



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