Democracy is not about words on a page. It is not about a constitution or a set of by laws. Democracy in discussion and debate is about atmosphere, or mood. I am compelled to comment on this subject as in this forum there is a tendency for some to subvert democracy. Take Fred Eiger. I use him as an example although he is not the only one, but perhaps the most abusive and ardent supporter of suppression of democratic rights.
He has called me, "putrid". He has attacked people for being "stupid" or "potheads" and has used other much nastier terms. He has attacked me for being an immigrant. He lowers the standard of debate and takes it in to the gutter.
I take no offense at this as I have no idea who he is, perhaps he is an older person who is suffering from dementia or senility, after all, you don't need to be a rocket scientist to use the internet. But I also spent 25 years active in the Labor movement as an oppositionist so I am used to personal attacks as a means of avoiding the real issues.
But I have to say this. I do not believe in censorship from above. The best censorship is when others speak up. I stopped responding to Eiger some time ago, my mother taught me never to argue with a fool. But some folks on this forum continue to discuss with him and reply to him and ignore his attempts to bully and intimidate people from expressing their views.
This is not acceptable to me. The problem with allowing this person to insult and bully people verbally is that that it stifles debate. Not for me, or others like me, Eiger is not important enough in the sphere of things to do that, but if there were new people or young people that wanted to express their views on this forum they would be silenced by such viciousness. It would not encourage them to express themselves, particularly the youth, especially if they were expressing an opinion that was not popular ot if they were not confident of their views.
Some years ago, I had a major disagreement with a guy in my Union. He made some rather personal dishonest attacks on me. I organized for members to come to the hall for a discussion on these differences I had with him and his approach. Many supporters of mine came, the majority there were supporters of mine. At one point, a friend of mine wanted to "call the question" which is a way the bureaucratic leaders of the trade Union movement use to end debate; there is no discussion on it. My friend suggested it to me and I strongly opposed. My opponent was in a small minority, we had a majority I told my friend and we have to ensure he had his chance to speak. We didn't need to supress him through organizational measures or trickery. We had to let anyone know, that you can have a minority opinion here and express it and campaign for it openly without intimidation of any sort.
My reason for this is simple. In order to encourage debate and different points of view, people have to feel comfortable that they can speak out and raise their views without savage personal attacks and intimidation. Most people, if they see that they are heard, that their right to be heard is supported, will accept that their argument didn't win the day. But intimidation through bullying or organizational tricks simply undermines democractic debate and therefore ideas. This is what Eiger does.
If Fred Eiger were in full agreement with me on the political issues but spoke to people the ways he does, I would have to intervene and disassociate myself from such methods even though I agreed with the points made. Yet some people engage with Fred here as if he behaves normally. This is not good. The best censorship is group censorship, it is the group speaking out when someone behaves in an innapropriate manner, bullying, name calling etc.
Fred is not the only person I'm sure, I don't read all the posts and comments, but he's definitely one of the worst. He may have dementia, I don't know him. But it is more likely he is a somewhat weak person who has found himself in a position of power over others and has abused it.
The collective response should be to condemn his verbal bullying and attempts to subvert democracy.