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

    by Rik Sweeney (471717) on Monday February 06, 2012 @09:52AM (#38941025) Homepage

    ensure instead that we never again return to those times

    Then perhaps pardoning him would be a step in the right direction?

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

      by snarkh (118018) on Monday February 06, 2012 @09:54AM (#38941053)

      Why only him? Many people were prosecuted along the same lines. I actually think it would be unfair to single him out in that respect.

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:03AM (#38941147) Journal
        In the interests of fairness, they could just change the verdict from "guilty" to "Formally undecidable in many of the most interesting cases". That should justify the special handling.
        • by EdIII (1114411) on Monday February 06, 2012 @03:59PM (#38945539)

          Why change the verdict at all?

          It make make us in the present feel better, but then we would be rewriting history.

          It may not be a bad thing that Turing remains forever convicted for that "crime". Along with his outstanding contributions to his fellow man he will serve as a reminder of how we did things wrong, and how we can continue to evolve and grow into a more advanced society.

          At first glance we might want to vilify the lords that refused and made that statement, but after further reflection, there might be some value in having him remain convicted for all time.

          Just an opposing point of view to consider.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:04AM (#38941167)
        Could offer a blanket pardon, to everyone convicted under those laws.
        • 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, Interesting)

            by Xest (935314) on Monday February 06, 2012 @11:37AM (#38942093)

            A pardon is symbolic confirmation that current government no longer supports the ideology behind what they are pardoning.

            Thus the guy is wrong, a pardon very much does help the living - it gives them confirmation that government no longer supports that viewpoint. It closes the door on that part of our history and says finally once and for all, yep, we fucked up, never again. It concerns me that government isn't willing to close that door, it gives the impression they're actually not willing to close it.

            For this to happen, it means that government does actually have to quite thoroughly be willing to disown that viewpoint, yet currently that's not the case, we still have far too many bigots in parliament. The fact people are even willing to argue this when it's such a trivial act to just carry out the pardon, and when Lord McNally's logic runs contrary to past pardons is illustration enough of this problem.

            • Re:It's not a choice (Score:4, Interesting)

              by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 06, 2012 @11:41AM (#38942153)

              A pardon is symbolic confirmation that current government no longer supports the ideology behind what they are pardoning.

              Thus the guy is wrong, a pardon very much does help the living - it gives them confirmation that government no longer supports that viewpoint.

              Doesn't the official apology do this?

            • by b4dc0d3r (1268512) on Monday February 06, 2012 @12:48PM (#38943065)

              A pardon is symbolic confirmation that current government no longer supports the ideology behind what they are pardoning.

              That does not sound right at all. A pardon is removing a conviction from someone's record. People get pardoned all the time, of all kinds of things that they still enforce. Someone cleared of murder would be pardoned of murder. It would not be a symbolic confirmation of anything, it just expunges the conviction from the person's record.

              I think you're looking for "official apology". As you noted below, a pardon is a formal procedure, not symbolic.

              The government has already disowned the viewpoint, it is clearly not legal to do the same thing these days. I think you may have an emotional investment in this argument, and it is clouding your argument. If you take a step back and think this through, and read all the comments, I think you'll see a pardon is unnecessary. And the official reply is legitimate - we can't go around pardoning people of things that were illegal at the time, and singling out one person for one crime is an affront to everyone who was considered guilty but not pardoned. Every person for every now-legal crime is not "a trivial act" so we just let it stand. Makes perfect sense, again unless you have a personal investment in this case.

      • Because it would at least be a first step. Looking at this from a context of "well why fix one injustice when there are so many others" is a really dumb platform to stand on.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by dave420 (699308)
          Does Turing deserve special treatment? Yes, he's a war hero and did a phenomenal amount for the modern world, but his suffering is just as harrowing as the suffering felt by thousands more, yet because they didn't have the ability to create computers as we know them, they are resigned to being second-class gays? That reeks of exactly what we're trying to stamp out, surely...
      • 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: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.

          • by Xest (935314) on Monday February 06, 2012 @12:09PM (#38942521)

            See my comment here as to why I think this guy is wrong though:

            http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2656331&cid=38942093 [slashdot.org]

            I guess it comes down to your outlook on Turing's pardon. It depends on whether you see Turing's mistreatment as an absolute insult to someone who did so much for the world that must be rectified, or whether you see it as that, and also a symbolic low point of the ongoing fight for better civil rights.

            I see it as the latter, we've made a lot of progress, and a lot of apologies over racism, but sexuality is still very much an ongoing battle. Whilst a church could never dream of discriminating based on race nowadays for example, it can on sexuality.

            I could say I'm a straight, white male, so it doesn't effect me, but that's not true- I am white, I am straight, and I am male, but it does effect me, it effects everyone - bigotry is one of the most fundamental problems our species still suffers to an unhealthy degree. I don't expect to see us rid of it any time soon, but we've made a lot of progress on women's rights, a lot of progress on fighting racism, but sexuality related discrimination? not so much. Any amount of official additional condemnation of it is a good thing, because that's what's required to fight it. When people as great as Turing can be effected by it so negatively then it absolutely effects all of us.

    • by eternaldoctorwho (2563923) on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:03AM (#38941155)
      I think I see their point in that last statement. By "undo-ing" this awful thing, they would pretending like it never happened. It's the same justification why the Nazi concentration were never torn down: as a whole, the human race should never forget the immensely awful things that we were capable of in the past. To do so dooms us to repeat it. That being said, I am all for the pardoning of Alan Turing. He was a great man, cruelly betrayed by his own nation.
      • by gomiam (587421) on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:19AM (#38941315)

        By "undo-ing" this awful thing, they would pretending like it never happened.

        Erm... no, sorry, it doesn't work like that. If you are found guilty, sentenced and later acquited for some reason (trial errors, being proven innocent, etc.) nothing disappears. Reversing the sentence on Turing doesn't automatically make the original sentence disappear, it doesn't make the petition to reverse that sentencing disappear, and it doesn't make the reversal disappear. Nothing would vanish in a cloud of smoke. Of course this make the comparison to dismantling Nazi concentration camps tenuous at best as no information would actually be lost.

        What they see as rewriting history I consider righting a wrong, and righting a wrong after the wronged one's death may not do much for him, but it does a non-negligible bit for us living ones (at least it stands as an example of willingness to do the right thing).

        • by wjousts (1529427) on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:23AM (#38941349)
          Only none of your reasons for acquittal apply here. There was no trial error and he wasn't innocent. There is no doubt as to his guilt (as there was no doubt about the guilt of Oscar Wilde either), it's just that the law that they broke was absolutely abhorrent.
          • Re:It's not a choice (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:45AM (#38941577)

            Well, you could say the trial failed to consider the human rights issues and thus the verdict was based on lack of consideration of the validity of the law.
            You cannot convict someone based on a law that is not valid, whether that is because it did not exist, was not signed into law or it was not within the powers of parliament to enact such a law.
            Declaring the last of these would send a far, far more powerful signal than anything else, since it means that it gives the judiciary a clear mandate to act against laws that are not acceptable.
            Upkeeping it on the other hand means that it is just fine to enact whatever cruel law comes a long just as long as it is formally valid.

        • by BlueScreenO'Life (1813666) on Monday February 06, 2012 @11:07AM (#38941787)
          The issue is not about history being rewritten. The problem is it would set a bad precedent to retroactively pardon people who were convicted in the past under democratic laws just because the laws were unfair. If we're going to retroactively apply laws, why not retroactively condemn people? For example, that would make it perfectly OK to declare Freud guilty of cocaine possession and consumption (which were legal in his days).
      • by somersault (912633) on Monday February 06, 2012 @11:07AM (#38941785) Homepage Journal

        the human race should never forget the immensely awful things that we are capable of. To do so dooms us to repeat it.

        FTFY.

    • by Chrisje (471362) on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:05AM (#38941171)

      No. As some other poster already commented, apologizing to his family, or for that matter to all families of people that got persecuted for similar reasons, would go a long way towards the right direction, but a pardon is just silly. The man got convicted, and is dead as a result of what happened A posthumous pardon would just feel like a big wallop of mustard after the meal.

      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. Having said that, this is an endless cycle. In Holland, the Catholic Church needs to apologize for the Inquisition, but the protestants need to apologize for what they did to Catholics after the inquisition, the VOC people should apologize to the Indonesians, West-Africans, South-Africans (the black ones), the KNIL people should apologize to some Indonesians, the Japanese should apologize to some KNIL people I know, the English should apologize to us for taking Manhattan away, the Dutch should apologize to the English for giving them Manhattan, etc etc etc.

      The apology business is a never ending circle-jerk because if I had a dime for every group that has been maltreated somewhere on the planet during mankind's history, I'd never have to work again.

      • 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.

      • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:33AM (#38941441) Homepage

        I am pretty sure the UK government did officially apologize for Turing's treatment (And I am sure they mentioned everyone else convicted of the same laws at the same time) like a year or two ago.

        And I concur, while pardoning him does not really wipe the evidence that it happened away it is still a step in that direction and not something that should be done.
        In a way, as a guilty man, he is a pioneering gay rights activist and that should be remembered not pardoned.
        It is no "crime" to be convicted of breaking an unjust law, and it can be considered a virtue.

        • by Moryath (553296) on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:47AM (#38941599)

          And I concur, while pardoning him does not really wipe the evidence that it happened away it is still a step in that direction and not something that should be done.
          In a way, as a guilty man, he is a pioneering gay rights activist and that should be remembered not pardoned.
          It is no "crime" to be convicted of breaking an unjust law, and it can be considered a virtue.

          Bullshit.

          The issuance of a pardon can be done in the manner to indicate that the conviction should never have occurred because the law you were convicted under was unjust.

          Which is better: An apology saying "well we're sorry you were convicted but you're still guilty", or a FULL apology acknowledging that the law was so unjust that it never should have existed, much less been the basis of criminal convictions?

          Not only that - if Turing were alive today, do you have any question they would have granted the pardon long ago? If it would be important to grant the pardon to a living person, it's just as important to grant the pardon today, for the peace of mind of his family and for the improvement of society in the FULL acknowledgement that what happened, and the laws it happened under, never should have.

          A man was harassed, persecuted, and driven to suicide by people enforcing an entirely unjust law. A pardon, posthumous or not, is in order.

          • Which is better: An apology saying "well we're sorry you were convicted but you're still guilty", or a FULL apology acknowledging that the law was so unjust that it never should have existed, much less been the basis of criminal convictions?

            After I'm dead, both are equivalent to each other (in a system which doesn't punish descendants for their parents crimes; in a system which did, there would remain a substantive difference, but that's more a problem with punishing descendants for the crimes of their ance

      • by kubernet3s (1954672) on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:34AM (#38941463)
        That's actually not what's at stake. That's the central error in the HoL's reasoning. It's not about "fixing" something they did wrong: yes, they humiliated and persecuted a man not guilty of violating any law a civilized society would enforce. However, the fact is that the official policy of the government has been, and indeed still is, that his contributions are illegitimate, and that rather than being one of Britain's dearest national treasures, he was a criminal and a deviant. The pardon is not about making right something about the past, but making right something which is wrong about the present.

        Turing needs to be pardoned so that the British government can affirm that it does not consider its old judgments valid. It will not cause us to "pretend it never happened," any more than the Catholic church's pardoning of Galileo caused us to forget his mistreatment. No one is going to look up Alan Turing in a textbook, see he was pardoned, and go "oh, well that's that then" and forget the barbarism of his time. And to act like upholding Turing's guilt will remind the government to always reflect on the errors of the past, as if it were some sort of cross they were nobly bearing, is egregiously deceptive and a little nauseating.

        Perhaps the most trenchant point people have made is that, by the logic that Alan Turing should be pardoned, all persons convicted of gross indecency for the practice of homosexuality should be pardoned. That is indeed correct. However, Turing is a fine place to start. If Amy fucking Winehouse can smoke crack on camera, and have the government twiddle its thumbs and look skyward, we can forgive someone who may be considered by no small stretch one of the architects of the modern world a little "indecency."
      • About his family (Score:5, Interesting)

        by abigsmurf (919188) on Monday February 06, 2012 @11:17AM (#38941899)
        His family are/were convinced that he didn't actually commit suicide, just that he was really careless with toxic chemicals.

        Apparently his lab was such a mess and he was so sloppy that it would've been more in character to have been a tragic accident than suicide. These were the people who knew him best too.

        For those who are interested, the BBC did a really good documentary on Bletchly park. Went into great detail about the code breaking process and, unlike most programs, actually showed in detail how the codes worked and how you could break them.
  • I have to agree (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nahdude812 (88157) * on Monday February 06, 2012 @09:52AM (#38941031) Homepage

    Alan Turing was outright persecuted for failing to conform to society's norm. The government owes Turing's family and the rest of the country, even the rest of the world an enormous apology.

    But granting a posthumous pardon does not change the past. We were still robbed of one of history's brightest and greatest minds because of homophobia. I agree with their reasoning, granting the pardon ignores and whitewashes the past. We should remember and tremble at what intolerance and hatred produces, not pat ourselves on the back for being more forward-thinking than our predecessors since as a society I don't think we've actually changed. Sure, it's no longer as popular to hate on homosexual people as it was in the past, but we have all new forms of hatred and intolerance which our modern society deems acceptable, and which will be just as subject to the next generation's ridicule and derision.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Scutter (18425)

      Sure, it's no longer as popular to hate on homosexual people as it was in the past, but we have all new forms of hatred and intolerance which our modern society deems acceptable, and which will be just as subject to the next generation's ridicule and derision.

      Atheism is the new red-headed step-child [ft.com].

    • 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:I have to agree (Score:4, Insightful)

      by 91degrees (207121) on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:03AM (#38941151) Journal
      The government owes Turing's family and the rest of the country, even the rest of the world an enormous apology.

      Already done [bbc.co.uk]

      Really, I think that's all the government can do. I suppose a pardon might make us feel better but it's not going to do much to help. I propose we simply recognise him as a pioneer and as an important part of the codebreaking at Bletchley Park.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Somewhat revisionist. Turing was a closest homosexual. That made him a prime target for blackmail at a time when most countries were extremely paranoid, and fixated with espionage. Turing was in an extremely sensitive position regarding his knowledge, something a foreign government would be desperate to get hold of.

      Sticking his penis up a man's anus was not the issue. Try learning history instead of simply doing a dweeb sabre-rattling exercise.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      In some US states, there are still laws being passed [nydailynews.com] that enable persecution of "deviant" behaviour, e.g. being gay or transgender.
    • Not exactly. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:15AM (#38941273)
      If Turing had belonged to the right regiment or club, it would all have been hushed up. The reason he was arrested and convicted was that, as a mathematician and electronic engineer, he was excluded from the inner circle of the British Establishment, whose view was that scientists and their like were not out of the top drawer.

      Perhaps equally importantly, the background was one of gay-bashing in the US Establishment, who regarded homosexuals as a security risk (because, in typical backwards thinking, the Russians might blackmail them...which could not happen if their behaviour was regarded as unexceptional.) The US was already very worried about UK agents with Russian links spying on them, and was demanding a purge of unreliable elements from the British security services. Turing was high enough profile to show that we were "doing something", but low enough status to be thrown to the wolves,

      This is the real background: class solidarity and stinking hypocrisy. Not much has really changed in the upper echelons of British society; it still comes as a shock to them when the British public turns out to be years ahead in their attitudes. And the actual workers in the security services are still treated like shit - Peter Wright wrote his book, Spycatcher, because as a mere surveillance expert he didn't qualify for a pension, unlike the higher-ups with their Eton and Oxford backgrounds.

      • Re:Not exactly. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by micronicos (344307) on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:25AM (#38941363) Homepage

        Thank you Kupfernigk, spot right on!

        Sadly we now have a government composed of these aristo thugs. Americans can understand the class system intellectually but you have to have grown up in it to really appreciate its demonic force & antiquity. The 'old boy network' (and it is boys not girls) is alive & well and still runs post-imperial Britain with the same self-centred blinkers & mealy-mouthed hypocracies.

        The sad thing about the Turing criminal case is that it was he who volunteered the information that he had a gay relationship to the police; this was in the course of reporting a burglary at his home; he was such an innocent, lovely man.

    • 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.

  • Well yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 06, 2012 @09:54AM (#38941057)

    They are actually spot on with this. What entitles Alan Turing to a pardon above all others that endured the same fate? The statement is clear and regrettable, and effectively a pardon to all rather than a select few - it's just not a formal pardon. If they had to do it with every past law that was deemed unfair by modern standards they would waste a lot of time, especially in the United Kingdom.

    • Attainting? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by JSBiff (87824) on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:10AM (#38941217) Journal

      I have no idea if this ever came to bear or not, but I remember recently, I was reading up about "Bills of Attainder", and one of the things about British Law, apparently, was that if someone was "attainted" because of a criminal prosecution, they could in some cases be forced to forfeit all property/wealth, and so their family would be effectively "dis-inherited".

      I don't know if anyone ever had forfeiture because of those particular laws, but I should think that *if* anyone was subject to that, that it would be appropriate *today* to posthumously pardon those people and give reparations to the families (it might not be possible to give lands back, as they presumably long since been given/sold to someone else, but they could at least compensate those people for the seized assets).

  • 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

    This train of thought is not so stupid at all. "Pardoning" Turing would help no one, and would not increase his glory. The glory he has, he has in our minds.

    QFD

  • by Hatta (162192) on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:07AM (#38941195) Journal

    Instead of retroactively correcting the injustices of the past, how about we look at who is suffering injustice today? What are we doing today that future generations will be appalled at? We still persecute people for making harmless personal choices. Let's stop.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      OTOH, our descendants may be amazed at the amount of ignorance we displayed with regard to certain "harmless" personal choices, which turned out not to be as harmless as all that.

      Nowadays it's obvious that smoking is bad for you. 60 years ago, some doctors and scientists said it was good for you. It took a long time to change the official attitude to tobacco, and even longer to change the public attitude, because smokers and corporations resisted change at every step, insisting that smoking was a right and

  • by sgt scrub (869860) <saintium@@@yahoo...com> on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:07AM (#38941199)

    They are going to use Turing to represent how bad it is to pass judgment on someone based on an unjust law? How... Turing complete.

  • by Troyusrex (2446430) on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:09AM (#38941205)
    to judge people from a different age. Values change over time. Would it be just to posthumously find Thomas Jefferson guilty of slavery when it was legal in his time? There's probably something each of us is doing today that in 100 years will be looked back on as a hideous crime (keeping pets? Scolding our kids?) and there are things we consider crimes now that in 100 years they won't believe anyone was ever so primitive as to believe it's a crime (drug use? Assisted suicide?).
  • by khipu (2511498) on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:17AM (#38941297)

    The term "pardon" means forgiveness of a crime, so the fact that Turing was properly convicted under the law back then isn't an obstacle to a pardon it is a requirement; if he hadn't been convicted, he couldn't be pardoned now.

    Furthermore, you pardon someone when you find that his positive contributions have outweighed the harm he has caused. For Turing, that is true not only because of his immense positive contributions, but because what he was punished for then is now not even considered worthy of punishment.

    If anybody ever was deserving of a pardon, it is Alan Turing. And you really have to wonder about the motivation of the UK government for denying it.

    • by Sqr(twg) (2126054)

      I think most people would be offended if you told them you "forgive them for being gay". It implies that it's something that needs forgiving.

      What the U.K. government is saying is that Alan Turing did not do anything that requires forgiveness. The law was "cruel and absurd" and shouldn't have existed in the first place.

  • by VinylRecords (1292374) on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:23AM (#38941351)

    Think about all of the things that Turing accomplished in his life. Father of computer science. Father of artificial intelligence. Incredible at code breaking. Brilliant mind with exceptional talent. A genius. Patriot during a time of war. Marathon runner. A leading and formidable intellect he had.

    But all of that didn't matter because he was gay.

    A pardon is a joke and whitewashes history and puts a false Disney happy ending on a horrific story. "Oh yeah he was persecuted for being gay but at least after he died he was pardoned so we get to feel good about ourselves". This isn't a fairytale. This is history and it wasn't nice.

    He was one of the smartest people alive and majorly contributed to the war effort and none of it mattered against him being gay. And after being humiliated and stripped of his security clearance he killed himself. End of story.

    And how did he kill himself? Just like Snow White was poisoned in his favorite fairytale. He poisoned an apple with cyanide and then took a big chunk out of it and waited to die. That's his fairytale ending. A pardon is an empty gesture in my opinion.

    • by ledow (319597)

      Replace "gay" with "black", "female", "uneducated", "from a third-world country", "Muslim", "Christian", "Jewish", "foreign", "weird", "Down's", etc. or any other of a million adjectives and the same has been true throughout history.

      Though the government are treading extremely cautiously, they are never denying that he worked wonders - see their statements on this issue from the BBC and other news outlets. That's an unusual step - they would normally avoid the superlatives when discussing things like this

  • Bishops (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:34AM (#38941455)

    Maybe a simpler explanation has more to do with the fact that there are still 26 bishops sitting the the House?

    26 bishops of the Church of England sit in the House of Lords. Known as the Lords Spiritual, they read prayers at the start of each daily meeting and play a full and active role in the life and work of the Upper House.

    Ref: http://www.churchofengland.org/our-views/the-church-in-parliament/bishops-in-the-house-of-lords.aspx/ [churchofengland.org]
    I don't think we'll see much in the way of progressive/human thinking here...

  • by concealment (2447304) on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:42AM (#38941543) Homepage Journal

    This topic is an obvious cheerleading piece for political correctness.

    We all know what we're "supposed" to say.

    As a result, it is not only boring, but works as a form of oppression to exclude any opinion which does not agree with the "correct" one.

    This is in contrast to science, where we explore experimental results, make tentative conclusions, and explore those through a heuristic process.

  • by jholyhead (2505574) on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:49AM (#38941611)
    Pardon's have been granted to soldiers shot for cowardice during WWI. Why is that an acceptable correction of an injustice, but this not? Cowardice was just as illegal as 'gross indecency' at the time, yet that was overlooked in favour of righting a grievous wrong.

    What a bloody disgrace.
  • by blind biker (1066130) on Monday February 06, 2012 @11:49AM (#38942227) Journal

    Make public domain all his works. And I don't mean his manuscripts which are poorly catalogued and barely readable (and unpractical to read, as they are scanned as bitmaps). What I mean is, make public domain his published papers - all of them. It's a damn shame that in 2012 we still can't access his last paper "Solvable and unsolvable problems", published in Penguin Science News 31, in 1954!

    And for those who don't know, "Solvable and unsolvable problems" may be Turing's most important work, one that casts a dark cloud over our misplaced certainties.

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson

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