The Silencing of Dissent and Threat to Free Speech in Uwchlan Township
Updated: Oct 9, 2019
Once a quiet, friendly, easy living community, Uwchlan Township has turned into a terse and often hostile communication environment fueled by political angst. While democracy can be messy, the viciousness of our local politics has become downright threatening. Many residents now refrain from speaking up – Which is counter to democracy.
The main stimulus of the hostility originally started from a Facebook Page called the Uwchlan Safety Coalition (USC). Originally, promoted as a non-partisan page, it quickly morphed into a public square of sorts where residents presenting dissenting views, questions or challenges in response to any of the proposed climate policies get ridiculed, shamed, threatened, and at times removed from the group.
The most serious problem, however, within the activist politics taking place is the war on free speech.
War on free speech is happening in our backyards through bullying, piling-on, public defamation and shaming of residents with dissenting views regardless of party affiliation.
Bullying behavior is counter to the cited intent of these “community safety” social media community discussion groups and validates that these “discussions” merely serve as ideological echo chambers and political campaigning tools for the activist faction of the Democratic party which tends to be well-funded by environmental special interest groups like Food and Water Watch.
The USC Facebook page was instrumental in flipping the local township board from all Republicans to all Democrats in 2017, based on a single issue, the controversial Mariner East 2 Pipeline. This pipeline has not, cannot and will not be stopped admittedly cited by officials across the political spectrum, including the BOS, PA State Reps, and the Governor. Current Uwchlan BOS officials are well aware; the pipeline is beyond their scope of authority as it was for the previous board. It was the previous Board that had written as per PA State Representative Carolyn Comitta described as “revolutionary” legislation to present at the County and State level to prevent situations like this from reoccurring. Regardless, current local and state elected officials made empty promises, (outright lied), including the enforcement of the Uwchlan Township ordinance 2014-16 to stop the pipeline, which the current board rescinded on that promise just three months into their first year.
One single and complicated issue was used to achieve a “win” to advance national climate policy proposals at the local level, most specifically anti-fracking and elimination of fossil fuels revealing why any input that does not align with this larger policy agenda is shouted down.
It isn’t about the pipeline in and of itself, period.
Many of these newly-elected officials, candidates, and key followers alike participate in bullying attacks. Such verbal attacks were plentiful early on on the USC Facebook, other local community Facebook pages (other townships, Marchwood, etc.), and related forms of social media. Past posts cited that those with differing views be put “on warning” or “on notice.” It is noticeable when looking back on the threads of conversation how those with dissenting views have retreated due to such vicious attacks. You will no longer find dissent.
There are many situations of bullying and defaming behavior we can detail, but here are a few that stand out. Earlier in the year a resident who shared that he had not had an adverse experience with the pipeline construction was predictably piled upon and ridiculed, but most importantly pictures of his home were researched and posted on the USC and neighboring township sites making it available to thousands of residents inviting protest and potential harassment – This is not community safety.
Just last week, we were informed by a Uwchlan resident in Marchwood that Mr. Miller, the BOS Chairman, has been going door to door, defaming a specific person labeling him a “racist” to discredit a Republican Supervisor Candidate appearing on November’s ballot. A notarized statement is on file detailing the conversation, and legal counsel is secured. Additionally, Mr. Miller had been identified as labeling Republicans as “Those people” on FB, specifically citing that Republicans could not be trusted with the public’s welfare. When publicly confronted at the BOS meeting, he defended himself, noting that what he said had been in the context of a personal conversation with a longtime friend on FB. So, it’s okay for Mr. Miller, an elected official, to stalk other people’s FB pages and take snippets of what he could use to serve himself and those he seeks to protect? - A case as “Do as I say, but not as I do.” Mr. Miller doesn’t care that he makes sweeping assumptions and generalizations about others and, most dangerously, that he feels justified.
Earlier in the year, Mr. Miller had also made attempts to fire the Republican solicitor of the Industrial Development Authority publicly stating political affiliation being the reason. He stated that he believed that the solicitor would not have Uwchlan Townships' best interest in mind due to party affiliation and stressed that he and Ms. Bauman and Dr. Doan were all Democrats.
Another particularly disturbing situation involves the last BOS meeting when a resident was accused of being “disingenuous” by Mr. Miller, the BOS Chairman, and spoken to in the utmost derogatory of ways by the townships’ solicitor, Mr. Mark Freed when the resident appropriately challenged the BOS on their violation of procedure (PA Sunshine Law). Mr. Miller had made a unilateral decision concerning a resident-led committee and cited that he dictates the conversation and decisions that get made. When the resident requested that he wanted to hear from Ms. Bauman and Dr. Doan, the two other supervisors, Mr. Miller responded that “ They voted me as Chairman to speak on their behalf.” Mayme Bauman, the Vice-chair, had no voice at all. Kim Doan was physically quieted, as Mr. Miller waved his hand at her and Mr. Freed, cutting her off and dismissing what she was trying to say. They sat silently, complicit to this overreach.
In a posting of a civic event for a Republican Candidate Meet & Greet - The person who posted the event was publicly called out for “lacking decency” and shamed on Next Door for merely posting to the site – By Dr. Kim Doan, Township Supervisor.
On Election Day of the primary, May 2019, Democrat Commissioner Candidate Ginny Kerslake outright bullied their volunteer at the polls; standing directly in front of her table and speaking derogatorily due to the volunteer's connection to Kathi Cozzone, Commissioner and having literature displayed in support of her reelection. It was horrifying.
Then, of course, we’ve also experienced the Nazi comment directed toward pipeline workers publically Tweeted by PA State Rep Danielle Otten, PA State Senator Katie Muth's boycotting the 4th of July, and US Congressional Rep. Chrissy Houlahan of the PA 6th comparing the President to a terrorist. The list goes on…. and on.
What’s astonishing is that when residents confront specific officials over actions, or lack thereof, or something about them or their policy positions of concern, instead of responding, many of these officials will creatively raise themselves into a higher level of victimhood, which comes with tacitly implied power to silence any dissent. The psychological level is one of beating others down into complete submission and utter silence. They posture themselves as morally superior and shame any dissent, aiming to win at any cost.
What is most insidious, however, is that this political bullying and its antics are a crafty way to manipulate facets of human nature, including leveraging our greatest fears, being socially shunned, boycotted, publicly shamed, and deemed nonexistent used to shut people down and inhibit participation in our democracy.
Might we dare to go as far as comparing the political bullying described as being similar to what happens within the Stockholm Syndrome when hostages start feeling sorry for their captors and move away from opposing and fleeing and instead shut down, adapt and empathize?
Many residents have shut down in order not to upset anyone and have become worn down from the noise and have grown apathetic towards participating in our political process.
Political bullying marginalizes residents.
Some may say, well, this is politics, and that if you put yourself out there, you risk the blowback – True. However, before this time, we never had this experience in Uwchlan involving our officials.
Political bullying does not fit with our way of life in Uwchlan and Chester County.
We have arrived at a new low in our times. This unquenchable need for power, control, and dominance at any cost. All in the name of moralism – whereas cited plainly in Uwchlan on the “non-partisan” pipeline safety page is explicitly noted that moralism outranks established law.
This moral crusade is the new anarchy threatening our freedom and our democracy.
Is this servant leadership? It is not.
We think Uwchlan can do better than that.
It’s yours to decide on November 5th.