There’s a common misconception that all opinions have equal value. I think it might have had noble beginnings—everybody should be allowed to express and defend their opinions. But that doesn’t mean some aren’t more harmful, misinformed, or just flat out wrong than others. Throughout my career as a science communicator, I’ve had to push back against this false notion of “hearing from both sides”. The media will give just as much time to a creationist as they would an evolutionary biologist. In a segment about public health you’re likely to hear from both a doctor and Doctor Oz.
The intention is to seem—to borrow a phrase from the news network that makes the least use of it—fair and balanced. Indeed it does seem fair to present a dissenting view, even if it is a minority one. But in reality, all this does is create the perception that these are two equally valid viewpoints. Which is wrong.
Recently, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee invited an alt-right to speak on campus. The university was warned by members of the student body that this was a terrible idea, as said speaker was known for their toxic, often transphobic views. But they went ahead anyway.
Said speaker got on stage and promptly delivered a full-on, premeditated, hate-filled verbal attack on a trans student.
The constitutional right to free speech only protects you from repercussions from the government. It doesn’t mean you can say whatever you want without consequences. It doesn’t mean anybody has to listen to you. It doesn’t mean that all opinions deserve equal airtime.
This guy should never have been given a platform. This isn’t some under-represented individual struggling to be heard. This is a hateful bigot who already has a robust following of similarly horrible people, who was banned from twitter for pointing that racist hate mobs at people. UW-Milwaukee should be ashamed for throwing one of their own students under a bus so that people with bad opinions wouldn’t think they were one of those “special snowflake” universities with a liberal slant.