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New Call For Turing Pardon 231

Posted by samzenpus
from the give-him-a-break dept.
mikejuk writes "As 2012, Alan Turing Year, draws to close a group of highly regarded UK scientists, including Professor Stephen Hawking, have repeated the call for a posthumous pardon for Turing's criminal conviction in a letter to the Telegraph. The letter has re-opened the debate, which is controversial even for those who support the idea that Turing was treated in an unfair and appalling way, was formally acknowledged by the UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2009 when he apologized for the treatment Turing had received. In February Justice Minister Lord McNally rebuffed a 23,000 signature petition for a pardon saying: 'A posthumous pardon was not considered appropriate as Alan Turing was properly convicted of what at the time was a criminal offense.'"
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New Call For Turing Pardon

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  • by StefanJ (88986) on Monday December 17, 2012 @01:42PM (#42315359) Homepage Journal

    . . . he needs an official declaration that he was never guilty in the first place, and should never have been prosecuted.

  • Better idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Feefers (985994) on Monday December 17, 2012 @01:44PM (#42315377) Homepage
    Prime Minister Cameron makes a general statement not just for Turing but for all those tortured and prosecuted under what we now rightly see was a terrible and cruel "law". Society has moved on and a bold declaration that not just Turing but all those convicted of crimes of this nature are considered to be pardoned would solidify how far we have progressed.
  • Agree complete (Score:5, Insightful)

    by neminem (561346) <neminem@gmai l . c om> on Monday December 17, 2012 @01:44PM (#42315379) Homepage

    An official "pardon" for a joke of a "crime" would just legitimize the "crime", and say "it's ok to be gay, but only if you're a brilliant scientist". The above declaration would, on the other hand, send a much stronger message, and would actually mean something.

  • Godwining it here (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jeng (926980) on Monday December 17, 2012 @01:47PM (#42315395)

    And the Germans don't need to apologize for the Holocaust since the Jews were put to death in what was at the time a lawful process.

    I'm sorry, but blaming the rules is just another way to not acknowledge just how badly they fucked him over.

  • Absolution (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 17, 2012 @01:49PM (#42315421)

    The word of the day is Absolve. Not for the government but for the Crown and specifically the Queen to Absolve Turing
    of all crimes moral, ethical, and physical.

    absolve /bzälv/
    Verb
    Declare (someone) free from blame, guilt, or responsibility.
    Give absolution for (a sin).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 17, 2012 @01:52PM (#42315465)

    And the Germans don't need to apologize for the Holocaust since the Jews were put to death in what was at the time a lawful process.

    If they apologized specifically to one Jew without apologizing to all the others, I think that would be a bit off.

  • by Desler (1608317) on Monday December 17, 2012 @01:57PM (#42315527)

    I'm sorry, but blaming the rules is just another way to not acknowledge just how badly they fucked him over.

    They fucked over many people under that law. Why should Turing be the only one given a pardon?

  • by Peter Simpson (112887) on Monday December 17, 2012 @01:57PM (#42315533)
    . . . he needs an official declaration that he was never guilty in the first place, and should never have been prosecuted.

    As the government always had the option not to prosecute under the law, the least they can do is to explicitly declare the law an error and apologize to and pardon *all* who were prosecuted under it.

    It's not about Turing, so much as it is prosecuting people for something they should never have been prosecuted for (and the government always made the decision whether or not to prosecute)
  • by somersault (912633) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:00PM (#42315565) Homepage Journal

    It wasn't wrong, it was just illegal. There's not really any such objective thing as "wrong" anyway, only what individuals or societies decide for themselves to be moral or immoral. The majority of people don't consider being gay to be immoral.

  • by Ga_101 (755815) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:03PM (#42315613)
    I really do not get this "You must apologise for everything!" mentality that has sprung up over the past 15 years or so.

    I'm from the UK. The UK has done some seriously horrible things in both it's distant and recent history.
    While Turing is a personal tragedy, his story isn't even a blip on the radar of what has been carried out by my country in the grand scheme of horribleness.
    Yes. Outlawing homosexuality is wrong. Leaving India, Ireland etc. to starve is wrong. Conquest at the barrel of a gun is wrong. Slavery is wrong. We get it. But, to be harsh, the current generation isn't really disputing any of that. Your beef is with the generations that have come before, rotting in their graves and if given their lives again, probably would have done the exact same thing.

    What meaning does a pardon or an apology have if it is not from those that actually performed the act?
    For it just smacks of the worst kind of tokenistic politics.

    I for one am sick to death of meaningless apologising for the many and numerous mistakes of my parents, grandparents, great grandparents and so on.
    I have enough mistakes of my own to be accountable for.
  • Not just Turing... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hpa (7948) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:04PM (#42315629) Homepage
    ... but everyone ever convicted under this barbaric law should have their convictions expunged. Keep in mind there are probably some that are still alive, which makes it even more important.
  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:05PM (#42315633)

    . . . he needs an official declaration that he was never guilty in the first place, and should never have been prosecuted.

    I think you're misunderstanding what the Judge is saying. Whether someone's guilty or not does not mean they were right or wrong, ethical or unethical. It means that they met an arbitrary standard based on three criterion; The state of mind of the actor, the actual act itself, and the motivations for doing so. The law is not about right or wrong, good or evil, it is about application of a defined criterion and determining whether it meets it or not. That's it. That is all.

    The laws, even back then, were sufficiently complex and vague in many places that everyone commits a criminal offense at least once a day. In the United States, I have played a game with friends I like to call "Who Wants To Be A Felon" -- and then record their daily activities (for one day) and tell them, based on which laws, how many felonies they committed. The rules are: You can't just sit in your house and wait it out, you have to do something you'd ordinarily do on an average day (go to work, use a computer, eat breakfast, etc.) At the end of the day, I collect the cameras and if I can't find a felony you've committed during that 24 hour period, you get $500 bucks. Dozens have tried. Nobody's won so far.

    That's the reality of our legal system. It's also why you should never, under any circumstances, talk to the police. I'm serious -- even during a routine traffic stop say "no comment" to every question except your name, address, request for driver's license and other necessary papers. That's why the much maligned 5th amendment was created: Not to protect the guilty, but to protect innocent people that might otherwise, through a lack of understanding of the legal system, wind up convicting themselves for a crime they didn't commit. And yet far too many people give up this right -- 86% of cases never go to trial because of confessions. And let me be frank: When you sit down in an interrogation room, you're going up against an olympic boxer with 20 years of experience questioning people. If you open your mouth, you are going to lose.

    Now, with that detailed analysis of why our legal system is completely divorced from the idea of justice, and why the judge was totally correct in saying a pardon should not be issued, let's also consider that Mr. Turing is dead. He won't benefit from a pardon. But we can all benefit from a frank discussion about how society allowed a man to be tortured for being gay, and use that as a stepping stone to more progressive thinking. I think if Mr. Turing were alive, he would be pleasantly shocked to discover in how many places the tides of religious intolerance have been turned back and gays are now given most (if not all) the same legal recognition and protections as heterosexuals are. I think he would also be standing next to people like George Takei in saying that it does get better. And it does.

    But only if we remember in the darkness, what we've seen in the light.

  • Re:Absolution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:13PM (#42315709)

    The Queen's job is conditioned upon her not actually doing anything. If she actually started to use the powers of her office... well, everyone loves the queen, she could probably get away with it. But the monarchy would be stripped of all power even on paper after that, and her successors would struggle to prevent a complete abolition.

  • Re:LOL fags (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:14PM (#42315721)

    Unsubtle, no decent hook line. Inept.

    Zero out of five troll-points for you. Get back under your bridge until you've learned to do it properly.

  • by ackthpt (218170) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:20PM (#42315781) Homepage Journal

    . . . he needs an official declaration that he was never guilty in the first place, and should never have been prosecuted.

    Or a declaration that the law used in the prosecution and conviction was an evil, mean and stupid law, put on the books by a bunch of stinkers.

    and Britain should never apologise for slavery because it was a totally cool thing with the Crown at the time

  • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:22PM (#42315811)

    But, to be harsh, the current generation isn't really disputing any of that. Your beef is with the generations that have come before, rotting in their graves and if given their lives again, probably would have done the exact same thing.

    Queen Elizabeth was crowned the year Turing was convicted. Now, the monarch is certainly not all powerful, but you can hardly say that the crime was committed by a generation of people long dead and buried when the head of state at the time remains the head of state today.

    As for what's makes Turing such a special case that he personally deserves attention against a background of crimes committed to millions: He was one of the smartest, most influential people of his age, he laid the groundwork for modern computing, there is no telling what kinds of advances might have been possible in the world of computers if we had his insight for another few decades. And more than that, Turing was a fucking war hero. His work in code breaking and computer engineering saved countless allied lives during WWII. And how did his country repay him? Prosecution, insults, public humiliation, and finally castration. Because he had a consensual relationship with another man.

  • by lewscroo (695355) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:36PM (#42315943)
    Yeah, that's why I think runaway slaves should be and forever will be looked upon poorly. I mean, they knew what they were doing was against the law. Harriet Tubman was just a lawbreaker and enabler for those criminals, plain and simple. And Rosa Parks was just a troublemaker who deserved to go to jail. And those stupid interracial couples daring to love each other when the laws clearly stated that wasn't allowed. Don't you know two consenting adults can't just go around having sex with whomever they want and think that the government shouldn't be punishing you for it. (sorry I don't know British equivalents though I am sure there are plenty)
  • Re:Agree complete (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:49PM (#42316095)

    I agree. What he did then was a crime, and a posthumous pardon (aside from being a huge waste of time) does not help the gay rights movement. Saying "we forgive you for being gay because you're a great Briton" is not an appropriate honor. Being happy that an unjust law has been removed is. A pardon is not an apology. It is very much the opposite.

  • by Kittenman (971447) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:51PM (#42316115)

    There's not really any such objective thing as "wrong" anyway, only what individuals or societies decide for themselves to be moral or immoral. .

    Now there's a can of worms.

  • Re:Agree complete (Score:5, Insightful)

    by neminem (561346) <neminem@gmai l . c om> on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:51PM (#42316121) Homepage

    You will note that I basically agreed with everything you said. (Other than my sarcasm quotes around "crime", which I will stick to.) Yes, it was a "crime" at the time. Therefore, pardoning would be silly, and wouldn't help much with anything, given Turing's long dead, he wouldn't care much. Officially retconning the very existence of the "crime" out, though, while it would do just as little to help Turing, would send the strong message, "we feel this was a terrible idea and are sorry we used to think otherwise." They wouldn't do anything "to make the masses happy", they'd be doing it, at least hopefully, because they *agreed* with those masses and wanted to show their agreement. Yes it was a crime at the time. Yes, the people responsible for sentencing the dude to punishment did exactly what the law said they should have done. But... so?

  • by lewscroo (695355) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:51PM (#42316123)
    Turing surely shouldn't be the only one. But he's a damn good catalyst to get things going to pardon everyone prosecuted under such an unjust law. Do you think this would be brought up at Slashdot (or elsewhere) if the article said 'We need to Pardon Bob Smith for having committed the crime of being gay'?
  • Re:Agree complete (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Datoyminaytah (550912) on Monday December 17, 2012 @02:54PM (#42316159)
    Following this logic, if he were still alive and in prison, there would be no reason to release him once his "crime" ceased to be labeled as a "crime."
  • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Monday December 17, 2012 @03:03PM (#42316263)

    There's not really any such objective thing as "wrong" anyway, only what individuals or societies decide for themselves to be moral or immoral. .

    Now there's a can of worms.

    The other way is a can of worms, too, since you'd then have to somehow determine which moral code was the correct one -- assuming that one of the existing ones is the correct one, which might not be the case.

  • by GuB-42 (2483988) on Monday December 17, 2012 @03:24PM (#42316459)

    Turing doesn't deserve pardon.
    He knew the rules, he broke them anyways, he got what he deserved.
    Homosexuality at the time was a major social taboo and a criminal offense. The fact that it shouldn't have been the case is not the question. And of course, pardoning him and him alone would mean that the law doesn't apply to great scientists, a terrible message IMHO.

    It is the shame that Turing had to die for this reason but wherever we do, it won't change the past.

  • Re:Agree complete (Score:5, Insightful)

    by VValdo (10446) on Monday December 17, 2012 @04:09PM (#42316895)

    Steven Fry agrees [twitter.com]:

    With due respect to Stephen Hawking, let's not pardon Alan Turing. He did nothing wrong. Let's have him on a banknote. And Ada Lovelace too.

  • Re:Let it go (Score:4, Insightful)

    by admiralh (21771) on Monday December 17, 2012 @04:13PM (#42316945) Homepage

    Apparently you don't realize the massive advantage that accrued to whites as a whole due to slavery, Jim Crow, and other forms of wage theft that blacks suffered through history.

    The average white person receives gets significantly more wealth from his/her parents, and the reason for that is because their parents were able to pass down more wealth, and so on.

    When a class (or race) systematically have their entire wealth stolen, they cannot pass wealth they do not have on to their children. That disparity is not solved in a single generation.

    Oh, and telling people to "shut up" because you disagree with them, how very Limbaugh-ian of you.

  • Re:Let it go (Score:4, Insightful)

    by admiralh (21771) on Monday December 17, 2012 @06:44PM (#42319069) Homepage

    I never said that blacks today don't have more opportunity now than 200 years ago. What I said was that the economics of the wage theft that occurred then is still evident in the relative wealth of blacks vs. whites.

    You can always point out individuals that have done better (notice your examples made their money in the entertainment industry, so too Paul Robeson, Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson, Lena Horne, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods).

    But taken in the aggregate, whites have benefited from the wage theft that occurred throughout history. It's becoming more class-based (more whites are getting wages stolen because of laws like Right To Work and such) but race is still a big component of it.

    Ever wonder why "Right To Work" laws were first passed in the South in the 1950's, at the beginning of the Civil Rights era?

    While I don't believe that direct-payment "reparations" are the answer, to dismiss proponents with "shut up" is to ignore the history of black/white disparity.

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