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No Pardon For Turing 728

Posted by samzenpus
from the do-the-crime-do-the-time dept.
mikejuk writes "A petition signed by over 21,000 people asked the UK Government to grant a pardon to Alan Turing. That request has now been declined. A statement in the House of Lords explained the reasoning: 'A posthumous pardon was not considered appropriate as Alan Turing was properly convicted of what at the time was a criminal offence. He would have known that his offence was against the law and that he would be prosecuted. It is tragic that Alan Turing was convicted of an offence which now seems both cruel and absurd-particularly poignant given his outstanding contribution to the war effort. However, the law at the time required a prosecution and, as such, long-standing policy has been to accept that such convictions took place and, rather than trying to alter the historical context and to put right what cannot be put right, ensure instead that we never again return to those times.'"
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No Pardon For Turing

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  • Re:I have to agree (Score:5, Informative)

    by nyctopterus (717502) on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:00AM (#38941121) Homepage

    Gordon Brown apologised a few years back -> http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8249792.stm [bbc.co.uk]

  • Re:Unjust laws (Score:5, Informative)

    by BenJury (977929) on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:04AM (#38941165)
    Thats exactly what they are not saying.

    However, the law at the time required a prosecution and, as such, long-standing policy has been to accept that such convictions took place and, rather than trying to alter the historical context and to put right what cannot be put right, ensure instead that we never again return to those times.

  • Re:I have to agree (Score:3, Informative)

    by semi-extrinsic (1997002) <asmunderNO@SPAMstud.ntnu.no> on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:06AM (#38941193)
    In some US states, there are still laws being passed [nydailynews.com] that enable persecution of "deviant" behaviour, e.g. being gay or transgender.
  • Re:I have to agree (Score:5, Informative)

    by Joce640k (829181) on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:11AM (#38941227) Homepage

    Atheism isn't a religion.

  • Re:It's not a choice (Score:5, Informative)

    by azalin (67640) on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:24AM (#38941359)

    So at the end of the day I find the statement of the House of Lords quite correct, but would appreciate it if someone could apologize for this. ....

    As far as I know prime minister Gordon Brown did exactly that on September 10th in 2009.

  • Re:Unjust laws (Score:5, Informative)

    by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:28AM (#38941395) Homepage Journal

    The right thing to do is to pardon anyone and everyone who is convicted of a victimless crime.

    I'll be testifying on a bill [nhliberty.org] on Thursday that would allow this as a defense in a trial.

    If you care about this kind of stuff, c'mon over to New Hampshire [freestateproject.org] where we're actually making some progress. A thousand activists have moved so far (to join those of us already here) and 19,000 more are waiting for the mass move.

  • Re:I have to agree (Score:5, Informative)

    by Moryath (553296) on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:36AM (#38941479)

    No, they didn't say he was "gay."

    He reported the burglary of his home to police, and the british police used it as an opportunity to get him to admit to a homosexual relationship [wikipedia.org], then used that as the basis of a charge of "gross indecency", and the resulting conviction was used to force him to decide between jail or chemical castration.

    Your "they said he was gay" is so far from the truth that it's ridiculous.

  • Re:It's not a choice (Score:2, Informative)

    by DrXym (126579) on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:37AM (#38941485)

    He was a great man, cruelly betrayed by his own nation.

    He wasn't betrayed. He admitted to and was subsequently tried and convicted for something which at the time was a criminal offence. And leading from that lost his security clearance.

  • No it isn't (Score:5, Informative)

    by chrb (1083577) on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:41AM (#38941529)

    Atheism isn't a religion by any definition of "religion" that is in use today. Try it:

    Wikipedia: "Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values."

    Atheism: no. There is no spiritual or moral component of atheism.

    Wikipedia: "Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe."

    Atheism: no. There are no symbols, no narratives, no creation myths, no attempt to explain the universe.

    I could go on, but I think we've established that atheism does not match the (presumably generally accepted) Wikipedia definition.

    Let's try another: "The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods." Nope.

    Dictionary.com gives several definitions. Some don't apply because of the lack of gods etc. The rest don't apply because of the lack of practice - there are no religious practices associated with atheism. Some other definitions include a requirement of "faith" which could qualify, but when we define "faith" in a religious context the definition is something like "Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof." Kind of a circular definition.

    So, here's the thing: what is the definition of "religion" that would include atheism, and is this definition widely accepted? Would it make sense for somebody to say "Yes, I am very religious - I'm an atheist", or would people find that odd? Because if they would find it odd, then it probably isn't a valid definition. And if your definition is too broad, and just includes practicies, beliefs etc. and negates the need to believe in a personal god, then you are going to end up defining sports fans as being a religion (belief - "my team is the best", communal acts/practices - "watching the game" etc.) Apple fans ("Apple is the best", communal acts "queing for new iphone", group spirituality - "mourning of Jobs" etc.).

  • Re:It's not a choice (Score:5, Informative)

    by RDW (41497) on Monday February 06, 2012 @11:00AM (#38941725)

    The guy who successfully campaigned for the UK government to issue an official apology about the treatment of Turing (rather than a pardon) comments about this here:

    http://blog.jgc.org/2011/11/why-im-not-supporting-campaign-for.html [jgc.org]

    "I could get behind a petition for a pardon for all those people, especially since living people are still hurt by that law, but not just for Turing. Pardoning him doesn't help the living...But even that's unnecessary...Chapter 4 of the [Protection of Freedoms Bill 2010-12 - legislation in progress and close to completion] specifically allows for the disregarding of convictions under the old law that was used against Turing. Once disregarded the law causes their convictions to be deleted. It's not quite the same thing as a pardon, but its effect is to lift the burden of a criminal record from these living men."

  • Re:It's not a choice (Score:5, Informative)

    by Xest (935314) on Monday February 06, 2012 @11:18AM (#38941921)

    Because he's become a figurehead for the movement, and by saying yes, what was done to Turing was completely wrong, you're admitting that past stance on gay rights was completely wrong. It's symbolic acceptance of the fact times have changed, and a symbolic statement that we should never repeat that awful past.

    I'd buy the Lord's argument if it weren't for the fact Britain has apologised and pardoned many a time for things like slavery in the past, which were also deemed right at the time, but wrong now. Discriminating on sexual preference is no better or no worse than discriminating based on race, so the fact we've apologised and pardoned over race related issues stemming from our imperialist past, but wont pardon over discrimination based on sexuality gives the impression that the Lords actually to this day do not actually take sexuality based discrimination seriously.

    Just to illustrate how full of bollocks Lord McNally actually is, take this example:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4796579.stm [bbc.co.uk] ...or to sum up for those who can't be arsed to read the link, in 2006 we pardoned 306 World War 1 soldiers who were executed for cowardice. It was also perfectly legal action at the time. So the question is Lord McNally, why the hypocrisy?

    Really, this has nothing to do with the philosophical argument cited by McNally, as his excuse is contradicted by many past pardons. This is entirely to do with the fact that even to this day both the Lords and the Commons are far too full of ignorant bigots and it unfortunately shines through not just in terms of homophobia, but by the repeated xenophobic views of many members of parliament and not just limited to the Tories is as often stereotyped but even people in Labour like Margaret Beckett.

    So if you really want to know why Turing isn't getting a pardon, then it's because it's not too far from the truth that some politicians in the UK still to this day don't really think the law back then was even far wrong.

  • Re:I have to agree (Score:4, Informative)

    by misexistentialist (1537887) on Monday February 06, 2012 @11:25AM (#38941997)
    There is no consensus on the age of consent, with laws varying greatly, putting it someplace between 12-18. Some decisions can't be made until 21. But a 10-year-old can be tried and punished as an adult. Feminists claim that a man of 40 who dates a college student is a equivalent to a child rapist. And prepubescent school kids can be charged with sexual assault for a well-placed kick.
  • Re:It's not a choice (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 06, 2012 @11:46AM (#38942203)

    Check here: http://blog.jgc.org/2011/11/why-im-not-supporting-campaign-for.html
    A clear reason why the WW1 soldiers got pardons and Turing didn't, from the very guy who campaigned for the apology in the first place.

    That article was linked in the very article that the Slashdot post linked to.

  • Re:I have to agree (Score:4, Informative)

    by dragonhunter21 (1815102) on Monday February 06, 2012 @12:03PM (#38942425) Journal

    It is tragic that Alan Turing was convicted of an offence which now seems both cruel and absurd-particularly poignant given his outstanding contribution to the war effort.

    Maybe not an outright apology, but not saying "HE WAS A SODOMITE HE DESERVED EVERYTHING HE GOT". They admit that he was treated cruelly, but he was guilty of the crime he was accused of. They didn't pardon him so it would stay there, to show them that yes, they did do things like this, and to remind them not to do it again.

    Plus, the Prime Minister said this:

    While Turing was dealt with under the law of the time and we can't put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him ... So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan's work I am very proud to say: we're sorry, you deserved so much better.

    So there's your apology.

  • Re:Of course it is. (Score:2, Informative)

    by DragonWriter (970822) on Monday February 06, 2012 @12:15PM (#38942619)

    The problem there is that the majority of religions demand that the faithful either convert or destroy the non-believers. (Yes, even Christianity, they just focus more on the convert part, and try hard to pretend the destroy part never happened in modern times, even though it's still happening in third world countries like Somalia and parts of the southern USA.)

    Christianity has no widely accepted eliminationist doctrine, though certainly there have been many times in history where Christian leaders have pushed an eliminationist program. The same is true of many other religions.

    Atheism, as a doctrine, demands absolutely nothing of anyone.

    Atheism may have no widely accepted eliminationist doctrine, but there are certainly atheist leaders who have pushed eliminationist programs based on their desire to eliminate other beliefs, even in the modern era. The USSR was a particularly obvious example here.

  • Re:It's not a choice (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 06, 2012 @02:27PM (#38944307)

    Being transgendered is not a choice. It's more a feeling that you've been born in the wrong body. You obviously don't know any of these people; I'm half tempted to get one of my trans friends to respond to this. Though to be honest I'm not sure it'd get a rise out of them: this sort of prejudice is all too common.

    Considering that sex is right up there with food as the strongest instincts we have, that really takes a lot of the "choice" out of the affair. You're playing semantic games and exposing your biases. You advocate celibacy, compliance with unjust laws, and further discriminatory laws, on the basis of a misunderstanding of human sexuality and semantic bullshit. Assuming it won't affect your gender identity, why don't you go take a flying fuck?

  • Re:It's not a choice (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 06, 2012 @02:51PM (#38944575)

    Being "trans" is not a choice!?

    Correct, it is not.

    Are you seriously trying to claim that people have no control over whether they dress up as a member of the opposite gender and attempt to fool people into thinking that they are that gender?

    We aren't trying to fool anyone. We aren't dressing up as a member of the opposite gender. We're dressing up as our gender, and are trying to fit into our gender roles. I'd say that not dressing as our gender isn't even close to a very good option, as indicated by elevated suicide rates among trans.

    Being celibate is different. In that case, you're missing out on part of who you are. Everything else is usually intact. People are often involuntarily celibate and live long and happy lives. But being trans, you aren't just missing out on part of who you are. Deep down to the core, everything about you is wrong. It's rare to live a long and happy life in that state.

    That being said, if he isn't getting pardoned, then we should stop paying people who have been involuntarily been castrated, to those who had forced lobotomies, among other things. I mean, they were legal at the time. It was moral too. They totally deserved what happened to them, right?

    It's like you serving a jail sentence and suddenly the crime you did was no longer a crime, but moreover it is recognized as never should have being a crime. Not pardoning Turing would be like not giving you a chance to get out. Except it's even less of an "issue" because Turing isn't here to benefit from it, it's just a very good sign to the populace that we've come so far.

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