How the pro-Zaev/Tsipras crowd attempts to silence those who simply disagree

Do you want to have an open, honest, robust, and probably rollicking good debate about the Zaev/Tsipras agreement? If so, then don’t look to those supporting the agreement for that debate. They simply don’t want to. In fact, many of them want to shut down debate, much like petulant children who, on not wanting to listen to the adult, will put their hands over their ears, shut their eyes, and shout “la, la, la, la, la, etc.” or some such nonsense until they get their way.

And that is a shame. I love a good debate.

Let’s look at some of their tactics used to shut down debate and silence those who support Macedonia’s name and dignity:

-The “Now or never” crowd. These are those folks and institutions who say “It’s now or never for Macedonia!” and expect you to believe them. Except that this is not true. Stating “now or never” is a false dichotomy presenting only two choice when, in fact, there are more. Read my column on this issue here.

-The “for or against” crowd. Similar to the above, this crowd also presents a false dilemma in attempting to back those who support Macedonia’s name into a corner. For instance, the other week Macedonian journalist Borjan Jovanovski tweeted out at a friend of mine a simple tweet “Are you for or against the EU?” I don’t know my friend’s position on EU membership for Macedonia, but such questions are never simple things, especially when so much is at stake, namely Macedonia’s name, dignity, identity, history, culture and so much more. I know many Macedonians who support Macedonia’s membership in the EU and NATO — but not at the price of Macedonia’s name. Such questions are designed as “gotcha” questions, similar to “when did you stop beating your wife?”

-The “you’re a fascist and/or you’re nationalist” crowd. These folks honestly do want to shut down debate and those who use this tactic simply want to smear supporters of Macedonia’s name with the stain of “fascism” and “nationalism” though most doing the smearing are the true fascists, an ideology of the left (see: Giovanni Gentile).

-The “you’re with Russia” crowd. Similar to the above, former US Embassy employee David Stephenson has made use of this tactic re-tweeting “Those who support #бојкотирам are supporting Russia’s meddling in our internal affairs and our 2,5 long decade aspiration for NATO / EU integration.” This is simply not true. I would say that the majority of Macedonians who want to keep Macedonia’s name, identity, dignity, history, culture, etc. intact are not for or against Russia anymore that they are for or against the US. But using such a tactic is designed, again, to shut down debate.

-The intimidation crowd — this is best exemplified by Kiril Efremovski who identifies himself on Twitter and LinkedIn as a “PR and civil society” guy and “activist by soul” campaigner. The other day he tweeted out such a threat stating, in part, that about “40%” of those tweeting out pro-boycott messages have “pro-fascist attitudes” are “anti-Semites” and that what they are tweeting is “prohibited by the Criminal Code” and carries a “10-year plus prison” sentence. Wow. Talk about trying to silence speech. As a free-speech advocate I do not believe it is government’s right or role to determine what is acceptable speech and what is not acceptable speech. If you do believe it is right and good for government to control speech, then you are not a friend of democracy, and, at some point, the government will come for you and your speech. I promise you that.

-The “we must join Western Civilization” crowd. This is best exemplified by so-called journalist Vladimir Petreski. He recently tweeted “Soon we’ll vote in a referendum for our country to officially join the Western Civilization (sic). Nothing’s more important. But, I’m so spent fighting authoritarian populists here for 10 yrs it’s hard to go on. This fight for democracy thing requires all of you all the time.” The ironic thing is that I agree with him on that last sentence about democracy. That’s right, Vladimir — it’s a constant battle to maintain freedom and that starts with maintaining Western Civilization which means adhering to Judeo-Christian values. I have atheist friends who know that to be true.

By Vladimir’s reasoning, Turkey is part of Western Civilization whereas New Zealand, Australia, and Switzerland (to name but three), are not. Also, being a member of NATO/EU does not make one a member of Western Civilization; upholding the foundations of Western Civilization, which are based in large part, on Judeo-Christian values and beliefs, does. Many in Western Civilization aren’t doing that.

-Finally, there is the “you are undermining Macedonia’s strategic interests of joining the EU and NATO by not supporting this agreement” crowd. This is probably the most insidious of them all. The two things — a vote in the referendum or a boycott of it and Macedonia’s membership in the EU and/or NATO — are mutually exclusive. Polls show that most Macedonians want to join the EU and/or NATO — but polls also show that they don’t want to join at the price of Macedonia’s name. It is wrong — and dangerous — to link the two for a whole host of reasons.

At the end of the day, here’s a fact: as the very idea of representative democracy decays, corrupts, and ultimately dies in our post-truth Western Civilization, these tactics will continue to be used.