Monday, June 29, 2015

Privacy and Blogging

Coinshop owner Dave Welsh on his blog has a post which is a spinoff from one of his comments on the IAPN lobbyist's blog ('Privacy, Qualifications and Blogging Ethics', Ancient Coins Sunday, June 28, 2015) in which he suggests that because someone writes their thoughts on cultural heritage issues, they should expect to have my private life prodded and poked and invaded by "paparazzi".

I do not know whether anyone has noted the sinister implications of the American's insistence that anyone of the 158 million people (at last count) who have a blog are per se "public figures". You see, in US law "Public figures" do not have the same legal protection from slanderous remarks as others. The Disneybreds Over There need their celebrity gossip. Without it their celebrity culture [I use the term loosely] would be stifled. So it stands to reason that in Topsy-Turveyland celebrities should have less protection from any Tom Dick or Hamid that wants to make up scurrilous and damaging stories about them. Over here in the Heart of Civilised Europe, it is more often than not the public figures that bring the libel cases to court.

In my own case, I am not a "public figure" in the American (or any other) sense of the word. In support I argue that I am not recognized as such by that bastion of popular culture - Wikipedia. When a British metal detectorist (we know who you are) attempted to start a wikipedia page for me containing made up and false information, it was deleted on the grounds that I am NOT a public figure. QED.

Welsh considers that "some aspects" of the personal life of a blogger on portable antiquity collecting issues "are indeed relevant, as to how those who read his blog react to it":
These aspects include his qualifications as an archaeologist, and as an observer of (and commentator upon) events relating to antiquities collecting and metal detecting. This archaeologist has not published a resume or curriculum vitae, nor has he disclosed relevant information that would enable readers to make an informed, thoughtful judgement regarding his education, professional experience, political philosophy and motives. All these are essential background necessary to decide how much weight to give to his remarks and opinions. 
 Mr Welsh then goes on to publish several versions of what he considers his own "qualifications" for discussing archaeological methdology, heritage policy, museology, metal detecting, the economic strategy of the Greek government and a whole host of other topics he discusses on his blog and elsewhere.

 I must say when I set about reading a text by Mr Welsh which I discussed on PACHI on Friday, 16th January 2009, ('Roman coin hoards, some US numismophilic erudition'), its author's curriculum vitae was not a document I consulted. That he's an engineer and coinshop owner really had no bearing whatsoever on my decision on how much weight to give to his remarks and opinions.
It was the content of his text ('Preserving Numismatic Context from Destruction by Archaeologists" Dec 15 2007) which I examined. Even if this text had been written by the Duke of Cumberland, or Lord Renfrew of Some Distant Part of Scotland, it would not have made it a better text. The text is (for the reasons I point out in my discussion of it) rubbish, and I do not care who wrote it and what "education, professional experience, political philosophy and motives" or lifetime achievements they may claim in their CV. Rubbish is rubbish. Dodgy arguments are dodgy arguments.  You can see them a mile off.

I think that is a big difference between us (normal people) and coineys. If Peter Tompa says on behalf of the IAPN,  you have to faxbomb the CPAC now, because "if you do not you'll never see another Roman Imperial coin in your life", hundreds of coineys unthinkingly leap into unquestioning action. Because Peter Tompa from Washington DC says so. Nobody questions the statement and whether it even makes sense. Peter Tompa has "authority" in the coiney world, and if he say jump, morons jump.

Mr Welsh is making the same case, for the value of authority. He ignores the fact that a lot of scholarship today is about challenging authority, challenging the traditional views. That conceprt of scholarship seems to be missing from coineyism, where advances are made by comparing new finds against old catalogues, not challengiung the concept of a catalogue.

If however "Blogs which are open to the public (such as this one) are in reality a form of publication", then my main blog has published over 7800 articles allowing the thoughtful reader to decide  for themselveswhat they say about my "education, professional experience, political philosophy and motives".

In fact, the truth of the matter is shown by past behaviour of the antiquity collecting black hat guys. All they want these CVs for is to provide ammunition for personal attack. That is really the only way of responding to decent arguments these people can conceive of. And having a good CV is no protection. So being the heir to the Throne of Great Britain does not protect anyone from vitriolic remarks from the metal detectorists. Lord Colin Renfrew has been attacked by antiquities collectors on innumerable occasions. Mike Heyworth MBE likewise.

The top ten blogs in the Internet are all anonymous. Now you see why.

No comments: