News as Spoon-fed Scrapings

February 11, 2018

By their fruits; so shall ye know them You reap what you sow Your sins will find you out Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh

  1. Class-based News

A Tale of Two Stories

There are two threads to this story. The first thread was the ‘news story’ I heard broadcast on BBC Radio 4 News at 13.00hrs today 3rd February 2018; the second thread is this story as it is written here in BBBC News website (URL above) accessed at 19.00hrs on the same day.

The two threads refer to the same item of news but differ markedly in their details. This second thread of 1900hrs has been toned-down; maybe sanitised a little? after protest perhaps? as there rightly ought to have been given the slant and contents of the initial thread of the story, as this was broadcast to a nation on the one o’clock news on BBC Radio 4 today.

The initial thread claimed only a single break-in and a single theft and haul of items occurred.  The second thread amplifies this single break-in to a ‘series of break-ins’, and this series occurring over the period between 22 and 24 January; that is, over a course of several days.

Note that on neither the initial nor on the second thread was there any content explaining the delay of up to 12 days before knowledge of these break-ins reached BBC News.  Nothing has been said in either version concerning when the thefts were first discovered; nor about why the delay in reporting the loss to the BBC News; nor was there any statement concerning what security measures were in place so as to deter or to prevent thefts of this kind.

To my mind it is likely, since, as we shall show, the first thread differs so widely from the second thread, that the revision has to have come from someone at the Canterbury Trust storerooms who is senior and who was not happy with the one o’clock bulletin – the initial thread. And if this is so I can see why the person was unhappy.

However whether this second thread represents a more accurate description than the first of this affair of the theft, I believe remains an open question.

Along with a single break-in as stated in the original thread, the thieves were described as being seeking ‘old metal’ like ‘pipes and scrap’; i.e. plain commonplace metal thieves. The first thread went on saying: the thieves came ‘by chance’ upon the stores of ancient artefacts, and were not actually seeking them out. The thieves were then ‘likely not to know the true value of their haul of artefacts, and so were likely to ‘offload them for pennies. Listeners were asked to ‘beware’ and to ‘look out for the loot being put on sale at boot sales, etc’ and ‘for a few pennies’,‘ a fraction of their true money worth’.

The words I have put in speech marks in the sentences above represent the gist of what was reported on BBC News at 1 o’clock on Radio 4, and may be not the actual words; although certainly their exact tenor.

A spokesman also is said to have said at 1 o’clock that the theft was a ‘national disaster’.

All of the above reportage has been retracted in the description of the theft given in the second thread, which is to be found on BBC News website (URL given above) and in its stead a story quiet unlike it has been posted there.

Not just several break-ins, but the value of the goods stolen, the archaeological artefacts, are now stated to be negligible in money worth; but yet inestimable in worth to the nation and its heritage.

The thieves are now breaking-in especially to steal the artefacts; not for lead piping etc etc.  The theft of artefacts appears to have been far more expansive and widely pillaged than the initial thread would have had the theft. Many more boxes and stores were ransacked than in the initial version.

The ‘national disaster’ citation has been erased. No mention of boot sales nor of requests that the public look out for the artefacts at such places. The money value the thieves might get for their loot is retained as being ‘a few pennies’ but this ‘few pennies’ seems now to be said to be the general and true estimate of their commercial worth, as the second thread has it.

The initial thread seemed to be saying that the artefacts stolen were very valuable commercially but that they would ‘lay heavily on the hands ‘of the thieves who might find difficulty offloading them and so might sell them for a mite of what they are actually worth.

Two very different accounts then: having in common their offering of absolutely no criticism of the Canterbury archive managers and their apparent lack of security; nor any explanation of the near two-week delay in the BBC reporting the theft(s). These remain mysteries tackled by neither account. A hiatus or two then; what one might call selective reporting or else selective information released by the Canterbury trust – or both.

It’s worth analysing a little these two threads and their differences and their similarities.

As I have suggested – the second version attempts it seems to ‘cover-over’ the first version’ and if so the first version I presume was disagreeable to the furnisher of the second version.

Certainly the change in the status of the thieves – from commonplace metal thieves stumbling upon something much classier, into high-level art plunderers aiming at high-end plunder; this change represents a noticeable feature of social class bias.

The blundering metal thieves who have, it seems, so little education and so few appropriate connections that they were likely to dispose of their high-end loot at car boot sales and so on; ignorami striking lucky as it were – this is all clearly a set of assumptions driven by social class differences, coming in all probability from a person of prejudice at a higher social class than the supposed dumb metal thieves.

The dumb common metal thieves would not know the inestimable true money value of the loot; and so would offload it cheaply, goes the initial narrative.

Likewise the initial narrative saying that the theft was a ‘national disaster’ is clearly a consideration made by a person whose perspectives on life are rather askew; maybe from a person rather obsessed by petite bourgeois values and so being what common people call a little ‘hoity-toity’.

The second version avoids mentioning the ‘national disaster’ angle and contextualises the theft to it being a severe blow to the national heritage, which is somewhat more measured and accurate.

The thieves have been absolved of their ignorance in the second version, and no social class assumptions on the thieves are made in it. In the second version the intention of the thieves to steal heritage artefacts, the thieves’ prolonged access to the finds store and their freedom to rummage massively throughout large areas of storage of artefacts, all this is discovered to us.

In the second narrative the monetary value of the artefacts stolen is low and so as a motive they become unable to have incentivised the thieves to steal them.  Unless of course the second statement like much else in this second version, seems to have been issued as a corrective to the first version; and I fear, in the case of the money value of the artefacts being very low according to this second version, this claim in fact represents a falsehood. A falsehood probably told so as to encourage the thieves to dump their loot as it being not worth the hassle. Or else, or maybe also, told so as to tone down the great magnitude of the robbery in terms of hard money lost.

For think; the thieves intended to steal this artefact loot; they were present three days doing so; the second version states this as fact. And so why should such care be taken and time spent at risk of being spotted, deliberately to steal artefacts whose money value is pennies?  No, I believe the artefacts are extremely valuable in money terms; possibly, even probably, stolen to order – stolen with a buyer or buyers, or at least a specialised marketplace, in the thieves’ minds beforehand.

So from version 1 to version 2 we have gone from stupid blundering working class chancers taking this heritage loot on the off chance it might fetch something; and into a prolonged deliberate robbery of masses of specialised artefact loot by thieves possibly having a marketplace in mind beforehand in which to realise the high monetary value of the goods.

Whichever way one looks at this affair; and whichever version a reader prefers, it remains that a great dereliction of care and stewardship has been allowed to go unnoted in the media. The Canterbury trust has not stored its finds sufficiently safely and securely. It has been slow to report the theft.  It has allowed thieves on its premises for three days running undiscovered.

All the talk and accusations have been upon the thieves; none has been on the dereliction of the Trust at Canterbury. If it has not been dereliction; then the Trust should explain how it has not been a dereliction to the public, of whom ultimately these finds and artefacts are the property.  No-one else pays for the digs that found them and the care, work on, and custody of the finds – part of the National Heritage.

But honestly, thinking on things, it is not a loss but only a change of ownership.  Just as when I myself die my lovely library will be broken up and dispersed into others hands, just in the same way as many items in it have been in other hands before they were in mine; so too our National Heritage inevitably, given that human life prevails, will end up in other hands. Either in the form of generations of British yet unborn or else like the Elgin Marbles and the Sutton Hoo treasure, our heritage eventually will be passed on to another custodian, maybe, probably, broken up and dispersed.

What goes around comes around.  Perhaps these same stolen artefacts might surface into other public custody in other nations or in ours at some time in the future; and when the thieves have died and the guys they sell them to also have died, maybe there will be some auctions at which later generations at the Canterbury Trust are present and who buy some back, not noticing nor even aware of the fact that once long ago they were in the collections of their forebears at Canterbury?  Who really owns what? As Shakespeare tells us:

“He who dies pays all debts”