If you had the ability to go back and stop one of the most evil men in history, would you? Most people would say yes. But there is a catch; you have to go back to when the killer was an infant and finish things there.
This is the recent scenario that the New York Times Magazine has presented readers, and it’s currently causing a firestorm of controversy. In a recent poll, the publication asked readers whether or not they would kill Hitler when he was a baby if they were granted the ability to go back in time.
“It’s a fun way to get a little more sense of who our readers are,” said Jake Silverstein of the weekly poll they release under the Dear Reader section. The magazine’s editor-in-chief, Silverstein explained to CNNMoney why this particular question was approved when usually the magazine poses questions that are less weighty such as ‘How many times have you been in love’ and ‘How much of the Bible have you read’.
“[This question is] a little more offbeat, and peculiar and personal,” said Silverstein. “I think that in recalling the slate of questions, that this is definitely the most ethically provocative of them.”
However, the poll reaches a lot farther than the audience of the magazine. Responses on Twitter have ranged from thought-provoking to ridiculous.
So what is the correct answer? Well, it varies from person to person, and is deeply rooted in a person’s morals. There is now a slew of people debating whether killing a baby Hitler would be ethical. 40% of readers answered yes, 30% answered no, and the remaining 28% that did respond said they were not sure.
Along with the ethical debate lies the question of uncertainty this would bring regarding our timeline.The Cold War, anti-Semitism, the influx of scientists and artistic geniuses, the Manhattan Project, these things and more could have taken a turn for better or for worse.
“Removing Hitler from history would be a gamble with the highest stakes imaginable,” writes Matt Ford for The Atlantic.