NY Times Magazine Asks, “Would You Kill Baby Hitler?”
If you were confused to see “Baby Hitler” trending on Twitter yesterday, you weren’t alone. The New York Times Magazine set social media ablaze with a poll asking if readers would kill the future genocidal dictator if they could. Forty-two percent said yes.
Perhaps in response to “Back to the Future Day” on Wednesday, the Times Magazine posited the classic conundrum of hypothetical time travel. Presumably, those who would kill baby Adolf Hitler believe they would prevent the Holocaust and World War II, and those who wouldn’t fear they would somehow cause even worse atrocities. And a few even believed that, ethically speaking, consciously killing one child is not worth potentially saving millions.
The responses ranged from philosophical to ethical to scientific to comical. Some said it was a no-brainer to kill the child, but that assumes there are no unforeseen consequences. Others said those unforseen consequences are the whole reason it’s too risky: What if an even more effective leader rose to power instead, and the Nazis won the war? And some went into the metaphysical paradoxes of changing the past that have stymied many a sci-fi movie.
A few said they would kidnap baby Hitler and raise him better than Mr. and Mrs. Hitler did. What if, after all, the Hitler the world actually knew was scarred by a lifetime of dodging time-travelling assassins?
What would you do? Let us know in the comments below.