Helping people with questions does not in itself prevent them from being democratic. Nor does it foster this. These are separate issues. The administrators could have chosen to operate as I do on my own website, where only I can answer questions. They chose to allow others to answer questions. That doesn't mean that they have to subject themselves to the will of those others.
If I allow somebody into my house, that doesn't mean that I have to listen to them when they tell me how to bring up my children. I can throw them out of my house whenever I please.
And the administrators of this forum can throw us out (by banning us) any time they please. It is not our forum - it belongs to them. The fact that they have chosen to tolerate some us frisking around here does not change that.
Not least of my concerns would be the qualifications that the moderators have for determining who is a nutter or a pedant and what is helpful. I also believe that nutters and pedants should be accomodated within the general discourse, unless they display antisocial behaviour to the extent that warrants banning. (Moderators are much better at determining what is frankly abusive than what is simply unhelpful or unacceptably unorthodox.)
We should also consider that it's not just the crackpot that would be sent to Coventry - the whole thread would have to go; and all those who are participating in the discussion with them in the spirit of tolerating their ideas for a while would be subject to the same offensive penalty of being told that their ideas are not worthy of being aired in the mainstream group.
By the way, there are many situations where pedantry is exactly what's called for (and who knows, maybe even nuttiness).
I feel that there is an argument for moderators to step in sometimes, and transfer the pedants and nutters* to a separate forum (Crackpot's Corner?) to have their fun, leaving the helpful answers in the original thread.
In my ignorance of forum technology I thought this might be possible.
I would also add, in response to your vehement disagreement, that I was not urging that this should be done. I said simply that I felt there was an argument for this. I also feel that there is an argument against it.;-)
Apart from the dross of spam and tacky astroturfing, banning is always a last resort and an unpleasant thing to have to do. However, from time to time, we do come under attack from trolls, who come in under multiple names, using spoofed IPs, etc, to start fights and make trouble- they're one of the less charming features of the web, but a real one.
I don't censor views- I will say that I disagree, or that things are wrong; views can be expressed freely, but we should try to be mannerly about expressing them.
I would like to once more, publicly, express my immense thankfulness for the important and relevant services provided by UsingEnglish to the English language. I concede the benefits provided by this site to its users by far overwhelm any banning or similar issues.
What I like best about forums is that they are user/learner-driven. The vast majority of threads are started by learners; for instance, I only start threads for information, announcements and the odd poll/question about idioms etc. Tthe rest of the time, I am responding to things started by learners. Grammar dominates in so many books and courses, but in the forum the balance is different, with questions about usage, meaning, style, etc, having a greater role, which I find healthy and enjoy. So really, it should be us thanking you. :-D
forum rules, which stipulate quite clearly:
For breaking above rules you may be warned/banned appropriately!
We've already had one forum destroyed by the behaviour of a handful of members and I have no intention of letting that happen again. People get suspended or expelled from school, and so they do here.
Anyway, what makes you think that a forum is like somebody's private home? The fact that it is owned by a private company? There are a lot of public places that are run by private companies - theatres, cinema houses, exhibition halls, etc. also language schools, colleges, you name it. Does it mean that they can set their own rules and regulations contradicting the basic principles and values any democratic society abides by? I don't think so. If you shut up every tongue saying something different from what you want to hear, there's a danger that the community of free and broad-minded individuals may turn into a party of bootlickers.
Finally, I think that the administration of the forum has been quite tolerant and understanding and democratic so far. Please, don't provoke them into toughening their censorship policy, which may have a very negative impact on the social atmosphere on this forum.
I don't think I have anything constructive to add to this thread, so I'll leave you to it.:-)