Political polarization is one of the most worrisome phenomena even in established democracies—or perhaps especially in established democracies. With a divided electorate and a legislature unable to compromise, the business of governing essentially comes to a standstill. And damage will be done. There is little doubt that the media plays a significant role in confirming people’s political views, forming them, and eventually cementing them. Novelist Stephen King recently had a brilliant idea for countering polarization of the media and the audience—force people to watch media from the political side that is opposite their own.
Listening to at least two sides of an argument is usually a good thing. But when it comes to sustaining mass public action, this may not be the case. For most people, the willingness to take a stand in the public arena, despite the risk of injury or death, requires clarity, courage, and the dogged pursuit of a vision shared with like-minded others. If saddled with the weight of competing considerations, people might just decide to stay home.