Lila Rose and the Real Power of Student Activism

Lila Rose’s most recent hidden-camera Planned Parenthood investigations show student activism at its most effective. Ever since the Sixties, student activists have acted as if they are most effective when they are loud — when they “make their voice heard” or “demand their rights.” Yet this kind of activism is effective only on campus (and only if it comes from the Left), largely because the loud voices are raised to a sympathetic audience — administrators — who often look back longingly at their own activist past.  

But for the rest of the country, student activism can be summed up in one word: “Annoying.” The idea that these 18- to 22-year-olds have unique and special insight into the issues of our day — especially insights so special they need to be shouted at the highest possible decibel level — is almost comical. Not quite as comical as Lady Gaga commenting on military policy, but close.

But Lila does demonstrate a quality that disproportionately appears in youth, a kind of fearless creativity that mortgage-holding, job-protecting adults often lack. Lila’s hidden-camera exploits don’t make an argument, they prove a point. Applying the age-old storytelling maxim of “show, don’t tell,” they show Planned Parenthood behind closed doors. Citation of statistics and statements of belief about abortion pale in public importance compared to the callous reality portrayed in those videos — and for that, we can thank Lila and her Live Action team.

At the same time, however, the older generation has to have the will to follow through with the political and policy changes that a small band of students could never enact. Defunding Planned Parenthood is exactly the kind of low-cost political act (after all, how many voters are going to toss their representative out of office for voting defund America’s primary abortion mill?) that would have huge ripple effects for the culture of life. Of course the editors of the New York Times and other mainstream outlets would gnash their teeth in rage, but how many Republicans owe any part of their success to the New York Times?

This will be an interesting test for the new Republican House. Can they summon up the nerve for a bit of targeted, pro-life deficit-cutting?

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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