The right to free speech is one thing; however it should not be confused with the freedom to do and say anything you want while using the Patch or other internet sites.
These sites have every right to set their own rules or terms of service or use and insist that users respect those terms. That includes the right to make conditions about the language commenters and bloggers employ and to enforce their rules by removing offensive materials or banning the authors of those offensive postings. If you want to participate, then you must agree to and abide by the rules.
They also have the right to demand valid users’ names in a specific format, IP addresses, and to remove people with multiple accounts. The down side of those restrictive efforts is that the cost of overhead and site administration rise sharply and interpose serious financial burdens on media like the Patch.
Shouting down opponents by deleting their blogs and comments and chasing them off the site will eventually only strengthen how much influence these opponents' wield within the community.
Most of the general public are and will continue to be offended by the constant squabbling and tasteless, savage personal attacks. They don't want that kind of behavior as a trademark for the community they live in.
IMO the situation we have now on the Patch is the outcome of not enforcing the stated Terms of Service from the very beginning. It has led to pure bedlam; an environment so filled with vicious arguments and such hateful commentary that most earnest dialog has disappeared.
Dissenters who are willing to risk questioning the status quo or the actions of local government should not be treated like enemies. They are an essential part of the fabric and strength of our democracy. Their detractors should stop the vicious personal attacks before they turn to violence within our community.
Some of the most serious offenders seem to think they have won some sort of perverse victory by turning the Patch into a cesspool - a war zone of words - and chasing away those people who disagree with them and their political leanings.
But in essence they have really just killed the goose that laid a golden egg in the guise of opportunity to reach to the community with news and discussion. The abuse of the system has stolen most of the relevance the Patch once had, and may have contributed to tolling the death of what was once a very good idea.