Lila Rose, an anti-abortion activist and founder of the group Live Action, came to speak in Roski’s two weeks ago. The event, hosted by the LMU chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), was called “Planned Parenthood: Exposed.” But while YAF might suggest otherwise, this event was not about abortion — it was a conservative pow-wow meant to cover up untrue assertions and hateful politics.
The feature speech was nothing if not inaccurate. Rose defended fellow anti-abortion activist David Daleiden’s heavily edited videos from 2015 attempting to paint Planned Parenthood as fetal tissue traffickers, an accusation that has been proven false, according to Snopes. In one of the more conspiratorial segments of her speech, Rose falsely linked Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger to Hitler, a popular smear that’s long been analyzed and debunked, according to NYU.
Though the speech offered a flaccid attempt at balance by giving a shout-out to audience members with pro-choice or neutral views on abortion, the overall tone was characteristically hostile toward left-wingers for supposedly not valuing human life. Rose even presented the idea of there being no reason to take a human life as unquestionable rather than a complicated idea involving various movements, such as the right-to-die movement. Rose has mischaracterized this movement in the past as doctors pushing elderly people to die sooner.
Perhaps the most questionable part of the event was the supplementary material available at some tables, much of which had nothing to do with abortion.
The only pamphlet (not a button or sticker) provided about abortion was a Live Action “Impact Report” for the summer, which claimed that Live Action was both “dominating the conversation around abortion online” and being totally censored by Big Tech.
However, the idea that conservatives are being targeted by tech companies has been shown to be a weak one. The Economist reported in 2018 that Google searches don’t show political bias, and even conservative commentators like YouTuber J.J. McCullough and DeWitt Wallace Fellow James Pethokoukis have been skeptical of this claim. Both commentators point out that most suspensions on Twitter or YouTube against conservative or Trumpist accounts were actually against conspiracy theorists or Neo-Nazis.
Some other samples provided by YAF at the event included a brochure titled “Is Income Inequality a Problem?,” which blames Detroit’s economic decay on “socialist-style policies.” Another brochure called “How Universities Violate Your Free Speech,” had a postive attitude toward the Alliance Defending Freedom, a homophobic hate group that has supported anti-sodomy laws in Jamaica and anti-LGBT+ expression laws in Russia.
The most egregious of this propaganda was a pamphlet called “Is Concern About Jihad Terror Just Islamophobia?,” written by anti-Muslim extremist Robert Spencer. The pamphlet takes every opportunity to paint nearly the entirety of Islam and the Quran as violent while creating a paranoid “us vs. them” narrative about the West being in a moral struggle with Islam.
This isn’t the first time that the LMU chapter of YAF has engaged in Islamophobia. Last fall semester, YAF posted a counter-jihad poster in St. Robert’s Hall around the anniversary of 9/11, according to YAF’s publication Libertas and the Loyolan. The poster contained the same pictures found in the Islamophobia pamphlet.
“It’s misrepresenting and demonizing the Muslim religion when this blatantly Islamophobic poster asserts that their knowledge on the religion is minuscule,” said Zach Rubin, a junior philosophy major at the time.
Past YAF speakers on LMU campus have included Michael Knowles, who called murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi a “radical Islamist,” and Andrew Klavan, who joked about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) wearing a suicide-bomber belt.
Let me reiterate that I am not calling members of YAF bigots, nor do I plan to. Like any other LMU students here on campus, no matter their politics, they should always be treated with respect.
That respect, however, goes both ways. If YAF wants students on campus to engage with its community, maybe it shouldn’t be spreading xenophobic propaganda and inviting speakers to share decade-old conspiracies as fact.
Lila Rose’s speaking event was never intended to be an open forum on abortion. It was simply an opportunity to give a platform to spread discredited lies to people who don’t know better while disguising a parent organization’s extremist talking points.
The Loyolan reached out to the YAF president, as well as another member of the organization, twice over the last week to provide them an opportunity to give additional context and further explain the speaker and the materials provided at the event. As of the time of publication, we have not received a response.
This is the opinion of Cristobal Spielmann, a sophomore environmental science major from Brentwood, Tennessee. Tweet comments @LALoyolan or email email@example.com.