Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself. It’s the hallmark of an authoritarian regime.” (Potter Stewart)

All censorships exist to prevent anyone from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently, the first condition of progress is the removal of censorship.” (George Bernard Shaw)

I live in a small mountain and ocean community between Vancouver and Whistler BC called Squamish. I have a lengthy history with, and love for, this community ever since I began coming here in the 1980’s to rock climb and hike. My most significant personal and spiritual life event occurred in Squamish when I took a long lead-fall below the Split Pillar on the Stawamus Chief – the second highest granite monolith in North America at 2000′. In honour of the spiritual connection I have with Squamish and the Chief, the home I purchased back in 2004 has stunning views of the Chief from every window in the house. I literally meditate nearly every single day in view of the Chief and every computer workstation and seating area has a view to the Chief as well. This town, that rock has a deep personal and even spiritual meaning for me and there is nothing I would like more than to see this small mountain community grow economically and become recognized internationally as an engaged, environmentally conscious, globally-aware and responsible community of exceptional leaders in their fields.

As a result of my love for this community, I am outspoken on any issue, topic, activity, individual or business which does not appear to represent the best of what Squamish could become. Although there are many incredible leaders, citizens and businesses in Squamish that represent the highest standards of ethics, professionalism, integrity and community-mindedness, there have been a few “incidents” with local politics, individuals and businesses which fall far below what we should accept for our community.

We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavouring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.” (John Stuart Mill)

What does it take to be a successful and community-minded small-business in a small mountain community? Well the answer to this question should be obvious to most of us. First off, a business should treat it’s customers with respect. Second, they should certainly provide a better-than-average service or product at a fair price and third, they should actively contribute to and participate in, activities or causes which better the community as a whole. Over the past 5-10 years or so with the explosive growth of various communications and social-media technologies, many small businesses have been trying to find the best way to leverage these technologies to improve and expand their businesses and to increase their customer-base. Some of them, like Anna’s Attic and Two Bird’s Eatery are local, on-line and social-media ROCK STARS! They post regularly, are respectful to their customers in person and on-line and they have seen significant business growth as a result of the exceptional quality and diversity of their products and services. These business show no fear of social-media, instead they have fully embraced the community-building, customer-engaging and positive, reciprocal relationship they can build with their growing customer base.

This brings me to the Cliffside Pub, one of the the older pub’s in Squamish and one near-and-dear to my heart since it was the primary “climber pub” back in the 80’s. The Cliffside was until recently, the only place I would regularly visit for a few beers, some INCREDIBLE soups by their new cook and to visit with many friends and regulars at the bar. But recently I have made the tough decision to personally boycott the Cliffside Pub for showing disrespect to it’s customers and for censoring harmless comments on their Facebook page by someone who was simply sharing an opinion about the lack of vegetarian or vegan options on their new menu. Given that we are a community of tree-hugging, outdoorsy environmentalists with a pretty good sized population of vegans and vegetarians, easily demonstrated by the number of people who frequent the restaurants in town that DO support these alternative eating preferences, one would think that it would make good business sense to cater to this growing population. But fine, businesses will make their own choices as to how and what they offer in the way of products and services and the many commercial vacancies are a testament to the businesses that have failed in Squamish. But the issue which took this to the boycott level for me was the removal, the censorship of comments on the Cliffside Facebook Page which was simply a customer expressing their opinion on the lack of vegetarian or vegan options on the menu.

I am a deeply principled man and personally believe that there is little point to having principles, if you are not willing to stand up for them. If you compromise your principles then what is left to represent who you are as a person and what values you stand for? I also have a lengthy history, education and experience with a very wide range of business, marketing, technology, social-media and psychology fields and so I am familiar with how successful businesses operate in today’s interconnected and social-media-savvy world. Removing (censoring) harmless comments on a business social-media site from customers disappointed in some aspect of your business, is the WORST way to respond to customer concerns for many reasons.

  1. First, the freedom to express one’s self is a right protected by the Canadian Charter of Right’s and Freedoms.
  2. Second, by removing a customer’s harmless comments you are basically telling them “WE DON’T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT YOUR CONCERNS AND DON’T EVEN WANT TO HEAR THEM!” Very disrespectful to the people who keep you in business, your customers.
  3. Third, thinking that you will present a better image to your customers by censoring questions or concerns raised on social media which you disagree with, demonstrates a profound ignorance of how best to use social-media for business, not to mention ignorance of all of the very public examples of how this sort of censorship has the OPPOSITE effect of what is intended.
  4. Fourth, censorship of any kind is unethical.

So those are my reasons for boycotting the Cliffside Pub. I am certain not everyone will share my views, but that’s what makes them MY views and MY principles. I also chose not to include a great deal of references to the many points I have made here, particularly the one about censorship of a business community forum/site being bad, not good, for business. I will leave it to the reader to do their own research and form your own opinion.

I am going to miss my many friends, Blair, Bart, Ziggy, Greg, Dean, Tony, Angelica, Savanna and other’s, but I am sure I will see you around town elsewhere. If Squamish is ever going to move beyond mediocrity and become an economically, socially and globally-responsible and successful community, it will require thoughtful, respectful and community-minded conduct by it’s citizen’s, politicians and businesses. In my opinion, the Cliffside’s censoring of harmless customer comments is an embarrassing demonstration of how far some businesses still need to grow in order to lead this community into the future.