Should Time Travelers Kill Baby Hitler?

This is a serious topic of discussion in today’s Bizzaro World.

At a live broadcast at the March for Life in Washington, DC on Friday, political commentator Ben Shapiro made the claim that no one who is pro life (or anti-abortion) would go back in time and kill notorious 20th Century German dictator Adolph Hitler when he was a baby. Shapiro’s critics seized on this opportunity to mercilessly attack him, and so far, have even gotten two sponsors to leave his show in protest.

Shapiro’s statement is perhaps more shocking because he is an outspoken Orthodox Jew, and Hitler was responsible for the targeted mass murder of millions of European Jews during WW2. While it’s rarely a good idea to mix history and politics, the ethical question of killing Hitler as a baby is an interesting one.

Hitler, who rose to power in Germany in 1934 and reigned as absolute dictator until his suicide in 1945, is almost solely responsible for the Second World War (in Europe, anyway) and subsequently the deaths of millions of people. Could this apocalyptic war be prevented if someone went back in time and killed Hitler when he was a baby?

Ben Shapiro’s reply to this hypothetical scenario was that, as a baby, Hitler had the potential to be anything. He could have, given different circumstances, gone on to live a normal and unremarkable life. The entire premise of the time travel murder theory is that Hitler’s life trajectory was inevitable, or it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Shapiro countered that a person’s actions aren’t determined at birth, so killing infants to prevent future crimes is probably a bad idea. If you believe in the sanctity of human life, you believe every person has the potential for good. Yes, even baby Hitler. If someone intervened in his early life to put him on a different path, the tragedy of WW2 could have been avoided.

In a sane world, this entirely fictional scenario would remain an interesting philosophical question. But, alas, we live in the Age of Outrage.

In removing sponsorship from his show, Quip toothbrushes actually said:

“Our mission is to make good oral health more accessible to everyone, and podcast advertising is one way we’re able to realize this… However, following one of our ads being read in a venue we did not endorse, we have chosen to discontinue our advertising relationship with this show. We are also taking steps to ensure all of our advertising partners are aligned with our oral health mission and values.”

Oral health mission and values! WTF are those? Is Quip actually taking a political position on the issue of abortion?

Advertisers have a strange relationship with controversy, courting it on one hand and avoiding it on the other. But Shapiro’s point about “Baby Hitler” was among the least controversial claims he made at the rally. Shapiro’s entire broadcast was incredibly partisan, painting Democrats as rabidly pro-abortion and immoral at a nonpartisan event. The March for Life featured two Democratic politicians (including one from my home state of Illinois) and religious leaders like Archbishop Joseph Naumann.

You would think Shapiro’s critics would be more outraged about that. Instead, a thought experiment based on an Internet meme became a weapon in a hyper-partisan war to remove political opponents from public spaces. This is the Bizarro World in which we live.

What are your thoughts?

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