Polarization by free podium for provocation.
There is a lot of talking about free speech again lately,the question being where to draw a line for free expression about ideas which stimulate hate or even violence.
Everybody agrees that thinking is free but when communication of provocative conviction is discusses the sensitivities of the public become also important in the discussion about free speech. From a purely rational point of view the public should be able to at least listen to points of views opposing their own without reacting in a disruptive way towards the speaker or lecturer . But there is the first catch,usually the public has no opportunity to react,they are reading a newspaper or watching TV and thus no way to interact with the information provided, even in a public lecture it is customary not to interrupt the speaker who has been given some authority by the organizing institution to give a talk,at best there is a short time for questions at the end and then it is not certain at all that the deeper questions are getting heard.
In case some topic is assumed to be controversial the organizing institution should perhaps choose to organize a debat between two opposite opinions by inviting experts with outspoken differences of opinion on the matter. A TV-channel reporting mainly opinions of people with a certain political point of view is obviously biased . Once you know this bias you can ignore that station or news distributor,but in public places like a university you can have some reaction, however this is not fitting in the rules of engagement of the situation: you listen and the speaker talks.
The repeated submission to such authoritative speeches does create a sensibility in some of the listeners who then begin to feel that there is some brainwashing going on and they have to resist this more strongly. Well,often they are right,the selection of speakers with a known provocative point of view does hint at some support from the organization in that direction. Hence if some institution does not aim to be a supporter of some ideas then they may select the speakers according to a plan guaranteeing neutrality,either by choosing for debates with several opinions present or guarding the homogeneity of the selected topics carefully. There seems to be a growing sensibility in people with respect to invasive ideas not agreeing with theirs. I believe this is the result of over-stimulation in this information-society with the weight of mass media communication, people look for “safe places” where they are not confronted ,having to defend “their” point of view . Indeed it is only “their” point of view in the sense they accepted opinions from a certain political or philosophical direction,deep in themselves they know they cannot defend these viewpoints well enough in a serious debate (this is independent of whether they are right or wrong!). So the unsafety is just a translation of their insecurity in forming opinions, the reaction of feeling (unaware?) vulnerable to exterior influences ,leading to uncritical acceptance of ideas,hence to a belief.
Thus free speech should be supported within the limits of the law (forbidding calling for hate and violence for example) but that does not mean giving uncontested free podium to controversial speakers. Next to free speech there is absolute freedom of listening and some well-defined version of free organizing of events . Giving free podium ,or even just too much attention to some extreme point of view creates stronger opposition in the public and this leads to polarization which can become a crack in society. We can see that in the US nowadays and to a lesser extent in the UK where a two party situation has led to a widening gap and a break of solidarity between large parts of the population. A growing part of the population is unable to take part in an intellectual discussion with respect to the basic rules of a peaceful society: politeness and respect for others however different in culture or appearance. Hence, they withdraw in fortified strongholds of polarized and eventually even fundamentalist convictions ,feeling uneasy or angered when these are contradicted. One of the reasons is that people tend to associate their personal identity and value with the recognition of their ideas (see the success of likes on Face Book!). Here is another flaw in our society, the value of people is defined by their success in the system based on competition and representativity according to the moral of society, now mainly reached by financial wealth or public glory in the media. But if you want your ideas to get recognition that way they have to superficial,popular or commercial and thus it is easy to get those from exactly the mass media, fake news and conspiracy theories, or advertisements.
Fundamentalism is not only bad in religious convictions it is a disease of our society on all levels of communication and the definition of a society moral breaks in many different morals when convictions are not openly discussed in the whole society (or at least in representative groups) . Conclusion the society should not give free podia to controversy but support the debate culture where opinions can be “defended” freely indeed.It is not true that truth is in the middle but solidarity results from a centripetal strategy.