Ben Shapiro, Baby Hitler, and What Would Hitler Do (WWHD)?
Before America’s psychotic break over the weekend, as a national lynch mob gathered to destroy a teenage boy for “smirking while white,” pundits were nattering about Ben Shapiro and Baby Hitler. Remember? No, I’m not surprised you don’t. I mean, that was almost five days ago. Clinical studies have shown that living caged with crazed spider monkeys hurling their poop at you diminishes short term memory. And that’s what we all endured over the weekend.
Nevertheless. I’ll soldier on. One of our most articulate young conservative speakers, Ben Shapiro, addressed the March for Life. That was a brave and important gesture. In the course of his remarks, he sparked some online controversy. That even led to some advertisers cancelling their sponsorship of his television show.
What did Shapiro, a religious orthodox Jew, say that was so provocative?
Confronting Bad Philosophy
He took on one of those goofy ethical conundra that pseudo-intellectuals like to toss around. You know, instead of actually grounding their morals in any solid view of the world. Or Who made it. Or how it works. Instead, they ask us to tie half our minds behind our backs, then address some thorny issue.
One goes like this: “Let’s say you had a time machine. And you could go back and kill baby Hitler to prevent World War II and the Holocaust. Would you do it?”
This is the kind of nonsense that eats up class time in philosophy classes at elite universities. If you’re curious how people with no metaphysical principles try to build ethical sand castles in mid-air, go slog through this Baby Hitler round-up at Vox.
Shapiro is no fool or sophist. But he surely knows that many of the young people in the crowd face dopey brain teasers like this one from their professors. So he cited this so-called dilemma, and came down strongly on the right side of it. No, as a pro-lifer, he would not go back and murder baby Hitler. He’d remove him instead, to a healthier home with a less abusive father, or something.
Never. Kill. The Innocent.
Don’t wave off how principled Shapiro is being here. As a Jew, he likely lost family members to the Nazi murder machine. Certainly, he grew up seeing Hitler as the most potent icon of evil. For him to renounce child murder, even as the price of perhaps avoiding the Holocaust, illustrates how sincere he is about the sanctity of life.
Killing baby Hitler is the kind of thing that adult Hitler would do.
Shapiro pointed out that as a baby, Hitler was still innocent. He hadn’t yet done a thing. So it would be wrong to snuff him out, for the sake of avoiding bad consequences.
Note what Shapiro didn’t say. He didn’t suggest that it would have been wrong to shoot Hitler once he was in power. Once he’d torn up democracy in Germany, and started throwing peaceful political opponents into concentration camps. … At some point, surely, it would have been just to use violence to topple him.
Just not to pull him out of the cradle and smash his skull against the rocks. To use an Old Testament image.
Was Hitler Just Misinformed?
I’d like to make a point that Shapiro didn’t, though I expect he’d agree with it. Killing baby Hitler is the kind of thing that adult Hitler would do.
In fact, when he launched his campaigns against Jewish Germans (then Jews in the rest of Europe) Hitler made his motives clear. He believed, really believed, that Jews were the cause of wars, economic collapse, Communism, unemployment, venereal disease, pornography, and the collapse of the family. (Among other things.) He said regularly in public that Jews were a “bacillus,” and spoke of eradicating them as a service to humanity.
Are we supposed to think that he wasn’t sincere? That Hitler merely chose the Jews as a handy scapegoat? That he knew full well the truth — that they’re no morally better or worse than any other group of people?
His actions and that of his underlings belie that. Why else take thousands of patriotic, well-educated German Jews and millions of harmless Polish and Russian Jews and gas them in camps? Instead of feeding them decently and benefiting from their labor? Why use desperately needed trucks and trains not to try and win the desperate war he’d launched, but instead to murder unarmed, peaceable civilians?
No it seems that whatever dark epiphany Hitler experienced, as he described in Mein Kampf, when encountering Jews in Vienna, really did convince him. He saw every innocent Jewish man, woman, and child … the way that today’s consequentialists look back at Baby Hitler. As a source of untold destruction, which we must eradicate for the sake of the greater good.
Of course, Hitler’s theory that Jews are deadly, anti-human parasites was false, even insane. But is that all that was wrong with it? Was he merely ill-informed? Misguided, perhaps?
Is our only quibble with Hitler a factual one?
Are we on board with killing the innocent, but only if we’re more careful about targeting those who in the long run are likely to harm us? That’s what Roe v. Wade did, according to no less an authority than Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As she told a journalist: “there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.”
And that’s why Ben Shapiro was dead right to talk about this at the March for Life.