ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
We're going to talk now about where college campuses draw the line between free speech and hate speech. Last night in Berkeley, students protested a planned talk by the divisive speaker Milo Yiannopoulos. He's an editor at the Breitbart website. Demonstrators set fires, threw objects, and the speech was canceled. President Trump tweeted, quote, "if UC Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view - no federal funds?"
We're going to talk now to UC Berkeley students who have different viewpoints. Rigel Robinson is a junior who believes that his school was right to cancel the talk. Andrew Bremer is a Ph.D. student who believes that freedom of speech is paramount, even when those views are offensive. Thanks for being here, you guys.
ANDREW BREMER: Thanks for having us.
RIGEL ROBINSON: Thank you so much for having us. Good to be here.
SHAPIRO: Andrew, I'd like to start with you. Milo Yiannopoulos has called feminism a cancer. He has used very racially charged language. I know you don't agree with much or any of what he says, but why do you think he should have been allowed to say it on your school's campus anyway?
BREMER: You know, freedom of speech is something that is paramount to where I can be today. I feel that I can be the person who I am today, as a gay man, because of the First Amendment rights that allowed gay rights activists in the '60s and '70s to stand up for the LGBTQ community. And if those rights were not in place, I don't think that I would be able to necessarily be who I am today and live the life that I do.
SHAPIRO: Sounds like you're saying free speech restrictions trained today on somebody you disagree with could be trained tomorrow on you.
SHAPIRO: Rigel, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway was on "Fox News" asking what people at UC Berkeley were protesting. And she said, is it the free speech - having someone maybe on your campus who has a dissenting point of view or wants to present an alternative point of view? How would you respond to that?
ROBINSON: First of all, UC Berkeley has no issue with having conservative viewpoints on campus. Conservative speakers come to Berkeley regularly, and there have not been protests over the sheer existence of conservative viewpoints. Milo is a very unique situation. Milo is an entertainer who has engineered a national tour around provoking college campuses in order to feed into a narrative that supports this idea that liberal campuses are shutting down free speech.
SHAPIRO: Whose job is it to draw that line, though? And if somebody wants to invite someone to speak on campus who they believe is on one side of the line and you believe is on the other side of the line, why is it your or anyone else's right to say, no, that crosses the line?
ROBINSON: The First Amendment says, you have a right to freedom of speech, to say what you want. It does not say you have a fundamental right to be heard. This is framed around turning Berkeley into a campaign stop and a launch of a campaign calling for the abolition and pulling of federal funds from universities that call themselves sanctuary campuses and the literal prosecution of university officials that are involved in that. When campus name and platform is being used in such a charged way that is dangerous for the students involved and for the very integrity of the institution itself, I don't think there's even a question about it. There is a distinct difference between having the right to say something and being permitted a elevated platform.
SHAPIRO: Ultimately, do you both fear that the UC Berkeley campus has played into the conservative stereotype of liberals being too sensitive, too politically correct, too fragile?
ROBINSON: This is Rigel. And, yes, absolutely there was a trap laid for us, and we absolutely walked into it. And we have, you know, all these accusations of oppression of free speech at Berkeley and elsewhere. But really, I mean, if there's anything that is an explicit governmental infringement on free speech, the president of the United States withdrawing federal funding from an institution because of protesting and civil disobedience occurring there - that is an infringement of free speech that would lose in any court.
BREMER: Definitely the violence that ensued plays, for sure, into a lot of that conservative viewpoint that Milo has. Something that I perhaps wish could have happened instead of what happened last night was bringing viewpoints that perhaps don't specifically denigrate others, but do hold valid positions within our political climate today.
SHAPIRO: Rigel Robinson and Andrew Bremer, thanks to both of you.
BREMER: Thank you so much.
ROBINSON: Thank you.
SHAPIRO: Rigel Robinson is a junior and Andrew Bremer a Ph.D. student at UC Berkeley where Milo Yiannopoulos' speech was canceled last night after violent protests.
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