Friday, July 31, 2009

Insinuation, assertions and factoids

I owe a debt to Andrew Sherratt. One of the many discussions over coffee or lunch concerned "factoids", defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "an assumption or speculation reported and repeated so often that it is popularly considered true". (The word "factoid" seems to have come into use during the 1970s.)

My attention has been drawn to a factoid on Moneta-L (July 24, 2009; the author was John Hooker (author of "The Hooker Papers" available from the ACCG website). In a discussion of "astroturfing" Hooker comments:
David Gill pays a rate of $400 per 400 words for his frequent PR Newswire releases, yet despite many requests by Peter Tompa to reveal the source of his funding, still refuses to do so. It is uncommon, to say the least, for archaeologists to maintain such expensive PR campaigns without outside funding. With the limited funding available to the ACCG, such releases are very infrequent and Wayne Sayles tell me that he is always finding less expensive methods -- one of which actually gets fed through PR Newswire at a greatly reduced rate. Even so, the ACCG with its large membership cannot afford the levels of PR releases enjoyed by David Gill.
So what is the fact? Looting Matters has been issuing near weekly press releases via PR Newswire since mid-May 2009. This has been stated quite openly. Topics have include the Sarpedon (Euphronios) krater, the place of Switzerland in the antiquities market, the return of antiquities to Greece, and changing attitudes in North America towards antiquities and coins.

Notice the language of Hooker: "David Gill pays a rate of $400 per 400 words for his frequent PR Newswire releases". How does Hooker know this? What is the basis of this statement? (Hooker's certainty allows him to avoid writing "David Gill possibly pays a rate / is likely to pay a rate" or even "Does David Gill pay a rate ... ?")

Peter Tompa - he wears several hats, among them legal officer of the Cultural Property Research Institute, and an attorney in Washington ("Cultural Property Lobbying and Advice") - left a comment on my original post about PR Newswire:
I am curious about the source of funding for your effort. As I'm sure you know, PR Newswire is not a free service. To give your effort credibility I would urge you to provide your readers with some information in this regard. Otherwise, we might just suspect that you are merely acting as an undisclosed agent of influence for some nationalistic, repatriation seeking foreign government, like that of Greece.
Tompa's curiosity has drawn comment from European and North American archaeologists. I am sure that Tompa is curious: he would probably like his viewpoint to be distributed as widely as those of Looting Matters.

So has Hooker taken Tompa's insinuation ("we might just suspect that you are merely acting as an undisclosed agent of influence ...") and turned it into a fact ("David Gill pays a rate of $400 per 400 words for his frequent PR Newswire releases")?

21 comments:

Cultural Property Observer said...

David- Now you express concern about assertions being converted into facts? I'm surprised the irony is not lost on you. Anyone reading your own blog as well as those of Messrs. Elkins (at times) and Barford (by far the worst offender) can only "LOL"

In any event, there is still time for you to clear up the controversy by answering my initial question.

Sincerely,

Peter Tompa

David Gill said...

Peter
John Hooker presents my supposed "costs" as fact --- have you considered that his statement is false?
Can I correct your comment? I make it clear, "'Looting Matters' welcomes feedback, comment or corrections."
Facts and sources are checked before being posted - and if there is something that needs to be corrected I can reassure readers that the change will be made.
So I would like to know how John Hooker was able to make the statement that he posted on a list. You will, by now, realise that his claim is without foundation.
I am sure you are curious about my "source of funding" - but you are going to have to wait.
Best wishes and I hope to read more from you,
David

Cultural Property Observer said...

David- John Hooker evidently derived his post from this one from me: http://culturalpropertyobserver.blogspot.com/2009/05/looting-matters-takes-to-pr-newswire.html

The cost levels are from the PR Newswire website, though perhaps as noted you have some special deal.

This of course still does not answer the question about your funding.

Sincerely,

Peter Tompa

David Gill said...

Peter
Do you mean that John Hooker cites your insinuation as fact? And if his statement has no factual basis then he needs to admit it.
I know you are curious about my relationship with PR Newswire. Please be patient.
Best wishes
David

Wayne G. Sayles said...

David;

What is the big deal? Your buddies twist and convolute facts with nauseating frequency. John Hooker simply missed adding "probably" or identifying his $ figure as the discounted rate that most people would pay. From this, you seem to be terribly offended. Please read the litany of posts on blogs of Elkins, Barford and even yourself directed at Peter Tompa and me. I've been called everything from a looter to a supporter of terrorism to a lawbreaker and a defender of criminals, all without any basis in fact. Would you think those charges might be factoids? We are the ones that should be offended. Dragging John Hooker into the fray over one word is really a sign of desperation.

I've always thought of you as one of the more rational adherents of cultural property nationalism. I hope that perception was not erred.

Regards,

Wayne

David Gill said...

Dear Wayne

Thank you for your post.

I have re-read all the posts on Looting Matters that mention your name. I do not appear to have awarded you any of those titles - correct me if I am wrong.

John Hooker - the author of the ACCG Hooker Papers - has demonstrated quite convincingly that he does not check his facts.

The desperation comes more from Mr Tompa. He does not appear to like my PR Newswire posts - and has made insinuations about my arrangements with PR Newswire. I would hope that he would never use such tactics in a court of law.

I wonder if John Hooker would like to leave a comment so that he could put his side of the story. Was it a genuine mistake? Or was he trying to make the "facts" (as he saw them) fit his theory of "astroturfing"? Was he looking for a conspiracy?

With best wishes
David

Nathan T. Elkins said...

For the record I have also never called the gentlemen any of the things claimed, though I have said , at times, certain individuals appeared to defend criminal activities in the contexts of certain of their comments pertaining to specific cases.

But what of false labels have been used to describe the supposed radical political values of other commentators?

Wayne G. Sayles said...

David;

I do hope that you will answer Mr. Tompa's original question, as you have implied that you will. But meanwhile, where oh where has Mr. Barford gone? You have denied castigating me, and Mr. Elkins chimed in with a similar denial. Now let's hear a denial from Mr. Barford to make the triad complete. I will then be pleased to respond with facts, not factoids. I will freely admit that you personally have been less obnoxious in your criticisms than your compatriots have been, but unfortunately one is often judged by the company one keeps. Likewise, one's words are generally sharpened when heard within a context of aggression. I hope that word is not too harsh in describing cultural property nationalist views and methods vis-a-vis the collecting community.

Sincerely,

Wayne

David Gill said...

Dear Wayne

I am still waiting to read a response from John Hooker, author of the Hooker papers on the ACCG website. I find his silence significant.
Does this mean that he had no justification for his statement? Does it mean that he does not check "facts"? Does he invent information to promote his - and your? - cause?
Best wishes
David

Wayne G. Sayles said...

Dear David;

If I were Mr. Hooker, I would probably consider the charge petty and unworthy of a response. Frankly, I find his silence insignificant. However, I don't pretend to know what Mr. Hooker will or will not do. Meanwhile, as you wait for a response from John Hooker I will be waiting for the denial from Paul Barford that he has castigated me personally, along with others who share my perspective, and replaced facts with factoids as both you and Mr. Elkins have done in spite of your protestations to the contrary. What you seem to perceive as some kind of affront from John Hooker seems contrived to me and pales in comparison to the often slanderous attacks on my personal character and business launched by your "friends" that ironically claim to hold the "high ground" in the cultural property debate. It is nothing less than cyberbullying. But, in the final analysis, we are what we are and self-righteousness does not obscure that fact.

Regards,

Wayne

David Gill said...

Dear Wayne

John Hooker is an author of the ACCG Hooker Papers. It is noteworthy if he does not check his facts.

His silence speaks for itself.

You also write: '... replaced facts with factoids as both you and Mr. Elkins have done in spite of your protestations to the contrary'. Which specific "factoids" do you have in mind?

I cannot be responsible for what other people write on other blogs.

Talking of "cyberbullying" you should read this site.

"Hiding behind a pseudonym does nothing to disguise your egomania and hateful disposition."

Can I leave that with you?

Best wishes

David

John Muccigrosso said...

If I were Mr. Hooker, I would probably consider the charge petty and unworthy of a response. Funny, I was thinking the same thing of the charges of being an "agent of influence" made against Dr. Gill.

And why does "castigation" seem to be a problem when it is directed against you and not performed by you, Mr. Sayles, since it appears to make up a good portion of your posts?

BTW, does PRNewsWire list any pricing info on-line? I don't find any on their website.

Wayne G. Sayles said...

David;

I saw no reference to your PR News releases in the "Hooker Papers".

As for my comment on the Robyn Cirulli blog, are you putting the cart before the horse? I am humbled to admit that there was a point at which the provocations, insults and scurrilous accusations of Paul Barford, reiterated almost verbatim by Robyn, overwhelmed my better judgment. My admittedly harsh words were directed at Barford, not at Robyn, who I don't even know. But really, in context, what right does she or anyone have to demand a reply to an insulting blog post? If anyone in archaeology were subjected to a barrage as vile as the Barford Attack Machine, I venture to say the rhetoric would be significantly more colored. Anyway, you seem intent on deflection rather than reflection, so I'll just leave it at that.

By the way, I don't know what the point is of Robyn's feigned anonymity. She has a presence on Facebook that links to her blog and simple people searches on the internet reveal quite a little about her. None of us can be incognito these days.

Hoping for a better day and a more serious discussion,

Wayne

John Muccigrosso said...

Mr. Sayles,

I don't read Robyn's blog (apart from what's been linked here), but I'm confused about your claims about this name. I did a google search for "robyn cirulli" and got 15 hits, mainly to this and related postings claiming that the name belonged to the blogger. Going to FB does show a person by that name, but their profile is private, so I don't know how anyone knows anything about that person without being a friend.

Could you help me out here?

Wayne G. Sayles said...

Dear Dr. Muccigrosso;

1. There is a difference between castigation and self-defense. The same comment might be viewed as either, depending upon the circumstances and intent. But that is a long road that need not be journeyed here and now.

2. There is nothing devious or sinister about the "outing" of Robyn Cirulli. She has outed herself:

http://www.blogcatalog.com/user/Rlcirulli1

3. PR Newswire prices are available by contacting helpdesk@prnewswire.com . Of course the prices do vary depending on number of insertions and other factors. There are also other portals that contract services with PR Newswire and enter third party releases into the PR Newswire system at different price points.

4. I'm really curious why this question raised by Mr. Tompa has created such a reaction. The price itself seems irrelevant to me -- almost diversionary. The source of funding may or may not be more relevant if it is being obscured. The process should be transparent enough it seems to me. In the United States at least, lobbying is legal. That is what David is doing, is it not? Is there some other issue here that escapes me? All he would need to do to answer Mr. Tompa's question is to say that he pays for the service himself. If someone else pays for it, and it is a form of lobbying, then in the interests of transparency (not law, I realize that David is in the U.K. not in the U.S.) the source ought to be identified. For example, I will state here and now that all press releases issued by the ACCG are indicated as such and are authorized and paid for by the ACCG, which is a 501c4 non-profit organization. Lobbying is what we do. What is difficult about making a simple statement like that? It's not like anybody is asking David to provide any financial disclosure or include any statement within his press releases. On the other hand, if he does accept funding from a party that he defends in his blogs or news releases that might cast the situation in a slightly different light. Any such appearance of the latter would be easy enough to deflect with a simple straightforward answer to Mr Tompa's question.

BTW,that is an interesting photo that you chose for your profile. It does say a lot in a tiny space. I read your extraordinary CV, I must say that I'm genuinely impressed. You don't let any grass grow under your feet, do you?

Regards,

Wayne

Wayne G. Sayles said...

David;

In an earlier comment I wrote "... replaced facts with factoids as both you and Mr. Elkins have done in spite of your protestations to the contrary".

You replied: "Which specific "factoids" do you have in mind?"


Years ago, I took Archaeology 101 at the University of Wisconsin. I can't recall that straw man arguments and loaded questions (which create factoids) were part of the curriculum, but since I have found many "preservationist" archaeologists using them, I have to wonder if I was poorly educated in that regard? By the same token, couching an accusation by adding "what appears" or "it seems" does not alter a basic proposition and is not particularly clever in my view. A proposition stands on its own, whether in the form of a bold statement or a loaded question. Frankly, I prefer the bold statement because it cuts directly to the chase. Some people don't like that, or me I suppose for being that way. Too Bad.

Here are just a few straw men and loaded questions from your own pen:

"Is it a 'coincidence' that as the officers of the ACCG (Wayne Sayles, Executive Director, August 6, 2008; Peter Tompa, President, August 9; August 16, 2008; see also David Welsh, member of the ACCG Board, and Chairman of the International Affairs Committee, July 11, August 10, August 20, 2008; and see earlier reactions) launch what appear to be co-ordinated attacks on those connected with the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute (CAARI) and archaeologists commenting on the ethics of collecting..."
http://lootingmatters.blogspot.com/2008/08/cyprus-further-looting.html


"Is this alliance of three organisations in reality acting over freedom of information? Could there also be an implicit commercial interest in the liberalisation of the market in ancient coins?......The ACCG seems intent on criticising a policy that is intended to offer some protection to the archaeological heritage of Cyprus and China by placing restrictions on the movement of material that may have been derived as a result of illicit diggings on archaeological sites. ... Do such actions present to the world an image of North American collectors of archaeological material (and that includes ancient coins) who are more interested in owning objects than preserving archaeological contexts and integrity?"
http://lootingmatters.blogspot.com/2009/06/antiquities-ancient-coins-and-changing.html

"Are they saying that it is acceptable to loot an archaeological site in Turkey because the coins found in the hoard were not minted within the territory of the modern state of Turkey? ... And if we extend the logic,would it be fine to pillage Athenian red-figured sympotic pottery from Etruscan tombs because the pieces were made in Greece not within the confines of the modern Republic of Italy?"
http://lootingmatters.blogspot.com/2009/02/some-activist-archaeologists-are-too.html

In all fairness, David, you have often presented "facts" without this sort of rhetorical manipulation. I have no complaint about any of those facts (when accurate) as they apply to me or to the ACCG. We have nothing to apologize for in defending our beliefs and rights. I think we all do have moments when our enthusiasm or indignation gets in the way of prudence. But, I personally would have more respect for the bold statement than its wimpy alternative, even if I disagreed with it. You've made a big issue lately about getting the facts right, so why don't we all just get back to stating facts and stop making pointless insinuations?

Regards,

Wayne

Robyn said...

Mr. Sayles,

I'm curious, exactly where did you get my information? Was it here:

"She has a presence on Facebook that links to her blog"

as you first stated? Or was it here:

http://www.blogcatalog.com/user/Rlcirulli1

as you stated when someone actually called you on your "mis-information". As I'm sure you are now aware, there is no information on my facebook page, nor is there a link to my blog on it. Never was. So why would you even write that to begin with?

I chose to remain anonymous because as I stated to Mr. Tompa, my goal was not to draw attention to myself, but to the issues I discuss on my blog.

Your comment to me on my blog wasn't because I "reiterated verbatim" what Paul Barford said, you left it because you thought I WAS Paul Barford. The bulk of my original comment talked about my outrage as a private collector and taxpayer at what the ACCG is doing. Last I knew, Paul wasn't a collector or an American taxpayer. The only other thing I talked about was the fact that you continually leave out the requirements to import those coins and mislead collectors as to what's required, as evidenced when you said the "Cypriot government had to sprinkle holy water on it". That part is true no matter who writes it, and is obvious to anyone who has followed both sides of the argument.

If you are going to accuse someone else of not being truthful, you should first be absolutely sure you are being truthful yourself, don't you think? We already know that your facebook comment wasn't truthful, and we also know that the information you give on your blog in regards to the Chinese/Cypriot MOU are half-truths.

Here's to hoping you are more truthful in the future.

Regards,
Robyn

Wayne G. Sayles said...

Robyn;

As I stated, your information is both on Facebook and in the blog catalog. Getting from Point A to Point B does not take any great stroke of genius. Actually, you are wrong about the link. When I typed your name into Facebook it brought up your blog in the margin to the right under "Web Results". This section is apparently a random sampling since I have tried again and did not get the same result -- I guess it's like throwing dice. You must be aware that the spelling of your name Robyn cuts out a lot of the chaff and your married name is not the most common name in America (though your maiden name apparently is). How do I know so much about you? Quite elementary, my dear Watson. There are free "People" searches on the internet and all you need is one bit of information to unravel a whole string. But you probably knew that. In order not to make the situation worse (from your perspective) I won't post the url of the online source that gave me this info, but I will share it with you privately if you really want to know. Your name, age, address, phone number, spouse's name and age, and any aliases or former names are all available in public records that can be searched free. In case the thought crossed your mind, I did not pay for any information about you -- it is available free to anybody who wants to look it up. Now, to set your mind at ease just a little bit, I don't care about any of that info and have no intention of using it in any way. I just like to know who I'm dealing with when I'm engaged in public exchanges.

You're right, I did initially think you were Paul Barford using a pseudonym. You have rendered your thoughts in precisely the same language as Mr. Barford, used the same "buzz words" that he uses, made the same illogical arguments, focused on the same topics, and all but signed with his name. My comments were directed squarely at him, not at you, though you were obviously in the line of fire. I make no apology for anything I might ever have said or will say about Mr. Barford, but I do apologize to you for mistaking your posts as his or believing you to be a surrogate for his views. You're right again, that Mr. Barford is not an American citizen (a small blessing) but he is the one who started this "waste of taxpayer money" harangue -- of course you knew that didn't you? And you agree that holding the U.S. government accountable for its actions is a waste of money? Don't worry, they can take it out of the stimulus package. It's like a PWA project for government attorneys.

I fear that you may have been misled about the nature of the Cypriot import restrictions, undoubtedly from believing what you read in Barford's blog. Whether the Cypriot government will or will not issue an export permit is irrelevant (though I've yet to see one). The restrictions apply to coins of Cypriot "type" regardless of where they come from. That means that every Cypriot coin without provenance, no matter how or when it got to where it is today, is essentially considered looted in the eyes of U.S. Customs. That is an absolutely idiotic position, as anyone who knows the first thing about coins can affirm, but that is indeed what the State Department agreed to. It has nothing at all to do with preserving sites in Cyprus, it has to do with eliminating private access to the coins in America. Now that is a fact (not a factoid), and nothing Mr. Barford and his Barford Attack Machine spins will alter the fact. That is why the ACCG imported unprovenanced Cypriot and Chinese coins from Britain. They must by law be seized -- and they were. Now, we'll let a judge decide whether the restrictions are valid. And by the way, do you really believe all that ignorant blather about the ACCG breaking the law with this import? Let's get serious.

Wayne

Robyn said...

Wayne,

Thanks for the response,

No need to share where you got my information, I have run searches on myself before, and I am aware of exactly what information is out there. As I said, I want to draw attention to the issues, not myself, and the thought of some
whacko calling or coming to my house did cross my mind.

To the best of my knowledge, I was the first to say anything about your "test case" being a waste of taxpayer money, see here:

(http://piecesofthepastethicalantiquiti.blogspot.com/2009_05_01_archive.html)

although Paul did talk about it in a post after that, and gave a link to mine.

I don't believe that I'm being misled about the import restrictions, and Paul's blog isn't the only thing I read for
information. They aren't asking for provenance back to the find spot, only for a relatively short period of time. I don't think 7 months or even 2 years is unreasonable. I think it's a bit paranoid to think they are only doing it to keep those coins out of the US. I believe they are trying to protect archaeological sites. Surely you don't believe
that an archaeological site is never looted in the quest for those coins?

I do believe that what the ACCG is doing is breaking the law, but for the sake of argument we'll put legalities aside. How do you get around the fact that the ACCG is violating it's own code of ethics which says: "and will comply with all cultural property laws of their own country" or its bylaws that says: "The guild does not in any way support, condone or defend the looting of designated archaeological sites, nor the violation of any nation's laws
concerning the import or export of antiquities" Members of the ACCG should be bound by those always, not just when it suits them.

Take care,
Robyn

Wayne G. Sayles said...

Robyn;

You misunderstand the provenance issue. There are literally millions (no exaggeration) of ancient coins in collections and the trade today that do not have any provenance. Nobody every cared to track a coins history in the past and only archaeologists and Nationalists are concerned with it today. To impose provenance requirements on commercial transactions today is to by default mark all of those millions of coins "illicit". Obviously, collectors and dealers are not going to stand still for that. Are we paranoid? Well one thing in itself, like the Cyprus or China MOU would not cause me to be "paranoid". But a decade of well planned and executed steps toward eliminating free trade does cause my radar to paint danger signs. I would call that caution and concern rather than paranoia. Finally, the ACCG IS NOT breaking any law, nor violating its code of ethics. Check with your attorney.

Regards,

Wayne

John Muccigrosso said...

Mr. Sayles,

Thanks for the info. I still don't know how anyone knows what's on Robyn's FaceBook page.

The picture is an old one, from the aftermath of the US bombing of Libya in the 80s.

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