Did you notice that lots of people on social media were talking about baby Hitler Friday? It was a top trending topic on Twitter. Why did this happen? The short answer is that Ben Shapiro brought up baby Hitler to make a point at the March for Life and a left-wing activist clipped a portion of what he was saying to ridicule him. Here’s the 21-second clip:
Ben Shapiro at March for Life: "The truth is no pro-life person would kill baby Hitler. Baby Hitler was a baby." pic.twitter.com/PPgQcbWSrq
— jordan (@JordanUhl) January 18, 2019
You may have noticed that Jordan, the person who clipped the video, didn’t actually say anything about it. But Jordan clearly knows his audience. Progressives spent the morning making fun of the clip because it’s Ben Shapiro talking about baby Hitler. And once it got going, everyone wanted to chime in. Vox wrote a whole piece about the philosophical problems with killing baby Hitler which pointed out that this question has been circulating in the media since 2015:
— NYT Magazine (@NYTmag) October 23, 2015
In fact, one of the people who was asked this question back in 2015 was actor Tom Hanks. Hanks seemed to think everyone would agree with killing baby Hitler when, as you can see in that NY Times poll above, about a third of people say they would not.
In any case, here’s the context to this. Shapiro gave a speech at the March for Life Friday which was partly about the culture’s attempts to avoid looking at the reality of abortion through the use of euphemisms and disingenuous arguments. One of the arguments he referenced in passing was one made in the book Freakonomics, i.e. that abortion lowers crime rates. In addition to his speech, Shapiro also talked through a list of 10 arguments frequently made in favor of abortion. The last one of those was the argument about lower crime rates. That’s where he mentioned baby Hitler.
After introducing the argument from Freakonomics, Shapiro said, “I don’t know who is comfortable with the pre-crime version of humanity where we get to decide before you’re born whether you’re likely to be a criminal and then abort you based on future criminal activity in which you have not participated.”
“The argument, I guess, here is that ‘Would you kill baby Hitler?’ And the truth is that no pro-life person on earth would kill baby Hitler, right? Because baby Hitler wasn’t Hitler. Adult Hitler was Hitler. Baby Hitler was a baby. What you presumably want to do with baby Hitler was take baby Hitler out of baby Hitler’s house and move baby Hitler into a better house where he would not grow up to be Hitler. That’s the idea.”
The crowd seemed to appreciate this both because it’s a solid argument against using abortion to lower crime rates and because it’s an amusing way to make the argument. Shapiro then argued that “the crime statistics do not match up” so even if you accept the Faustian bargain of ‘more abortion, less crime’ the data doesn’t seem to support that.
Here’s the fuller video clip which contains Shapiro’s quote about baby Hitler. He’s making a perfectly reasonable argument in response to a real argument that is sometimes cited as a benefit of abortion. His progressive critics were doing exactly what Shapiro suggested the culture tends to do whenever it’s confronted with abortion, find a way to avoid looking squarely at it.