"The law at the time required a prosecution."

Comments

1
Turing. Not Turning
2
+1 @1.
3
Disgraceful. He was a hero who saved many lives. My we could start an effort to build him a statue or monument.
4
They did issue an apology, although, it's certainly nothing to be impressed with: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8249792.stm
5
Happily, the Guardian describes it as an "initial rebuff" inspiring wonderful vows to push onward for Turing's pardon.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/the-norther…
6
The British government (and British society) is a lot more repressed and fucked up in a lot of ways than our own.

Every time the issue of "dangerous" or "undesired" speech comes up it makes me glad my grandfather came to the US.
7
Seconding #6 ... the UK is rife with hypocrisy and homoeroticism. I don't know if more guys are gay there or if the culture just encourages acting out when drunk, but I've been groped by more than one married family man during various pub crawls and I wasn't putting out LOL.
8
Well, it is the House of Lords. Clearly most of them are too inbred to think straight.
9
@7: Funny. I was recently at a wedding where I had the odd experience of a Brit prodding me to get with his wife while he tried to get with one of the (gay) grooms.

A friend explained to me that it's the result of boarding school.

P.S. Slog keeps glitter bombing my screen.
10
Hey, cut us a break in the UK. The House of Lords is a weird un-elected anachronism. Turing is widely regarded as a hero of WW2 with multiple TV docs, dramas and stage plays touching on his story. The Prime Minister apologised in the name of the government a few years ago. And the government is about to issue a postage stamp honouring Turing.
11
Here's an idea though, rather than pardoning just Turing, why not a blanket pardon for anyone convicted?
12
I'm only 90% sure of my pedantry, but shouldn't

"one of the father's of the computer age"

lose the apostrophe?

Shameful though, about Turing. While the government issuing a pardon would be purely symbolic and won't affect anything day-to-day, Turing is one of the country's national historic treasures. The failure to pardon him (and other homosexuals who were prosecuted by this law) shows an ignorance of IMPERIAL proportions (geddit?).
13
If we blamed the Brits and held them responsible for all they have done we could leave the middle east and make them, the French and the Spanish who created the majority of our problems fix them.
14
In addition to his wartime work at Bletchley Park, Turing is known as "The father of artificial intelligence." All this I learned in college. The fact that Turing was gay, however, didn't come to my attention until I read The God Delusion. I think the LGBT community would do well to take a page out of the (African American) civil rights handbook and publicize the existence and work of significant LGBT people, beyond the world of A&E.
15
@13, since we were once their colonies maybe they could fix all our problems too. We need a nap, after all.
16
@14 TheLando : That is a great idea!
17
Pardons strongly imply a context that the person is granted a reprieve in spite of the law -- not that the law itself was wrong. What the UK government needs to do is not to pardon individuals convicted under that law at the time, but to pass a resolution declaring the law at the time to have been an atrocity, to vacate each and every conviction and replace it with a formal apology.
18
The UK Parliament is in fact about to pass the Protection of Freedoms Bill which will allow people to have convictions for consensual gay sex "disregarded" and erased from the records. It doesn't automatically reverse all convictions, presumably because some of them were for non-consensual sex or sex with under-16s.

I have seen it argued that a pardon for Turing alone would be unfair because it ignores all the other people who were similarly unjustly convicted.
19
Granting pardon is one thing but would Switzerland behave differently if similar circumstances to ww2 were to happen again? Preventing entry to victims of the nazis and prosecution of those who helped them was just one set of controversial policies implemented to avoid German invasion such as railroad transport of German military supplies, turning over Jewish assets in Swiss bank account, buying German gold against fungible currency, etc ..
20
What was done to Turing was terrible (seriously, read about it) and a grave miscarriage of justice.

That said, I agree with the House of Lords here. Pardoning Turing wouldn't fix anything; he's already dead.

Leaving his conviction on the books serves two purposes, as I see it: first, it preserves what actually happened (ie history); and second, it acts as a reminder of how things do get better, though often not as quickly as they ought to.
21
@1, @2 ... that was just a Turing test, sillies...
22
@3 There is a statue of Alan Turing in Manchester. It's in Sackville Gardens, between the city's Canal Street gay district and one of the major university buildings (the University of Manchester being where he did much of his later work).
23
@17, I agree. Many, many lives were ruined.

Turing was given "chemical castration" which is quite simply a violation of every concept of human rights imaginable, and the Hippocratic Oath as well. It is exactly the response of the Nazis, using technology that Nazis used for the same purpose, on the man who is as responsible as any other for defeating them. Alan Turing was in effect tortured by his own government as his reward for saving them.

@3, there is a statue of Turing in Manchester, in a little park in the heart of the gay neighborhood there. He's sitting on a bench with an apple in his hand. It is very moving. This is a picture of Mrs. Fnarf sitting with him there: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fnarf/15728…
24
The holocaust also killed gays, and I'm sure smuggling gays into Switzerland was a crime. I bet the Swiss govt hasn't pardoned any gay-smugglers. Theyre pretty chauvinistic, which tends to mean gay-hating (except for closet cases.)
25
@21 - Ha!!!
26
@6 I wouldn't go so far as to say that. They certainly seem much more okay in general with homosexuality. And atheism. You wouldn't find a lot of buses with "there probably is no god, so stop worrying" printed on them in America.
27
@3 He does have a statue, though it's been criticized in some quarters for being unwilling to play with dogs.
28
@11 This
29
I agree with @17. Plucking the most "deserving" homosexuals from history and petitioning for their pardon one by one as they get noticed by the public is somewhat undermining the cause. The persecution shouldn't have happened to anyone and the focus would be better spent on studying and publicizing what happens to society when atrocity is disguised as law. It's almost a little bit of a further indignity to force something no longer regarded (by sane people anyways) as a crime through the pardoning process, post-humously.
I also agree with @14 . Turing is a powerful anecdotal demonstration of the impact of law without justice or ethical perspective. He doesn't need to be "pardoned" for his non-crime, but his is certainly a story that should be told.
30
I tend to agree that a general pardon to all cases (except when non-consensual or involving minors) would be better than pardoning simply Turing (one of my personal heroes, by the way -- Hofdstadter also mentioned Turing's gayness, as I recall, in his famous Gödel, Escher, Bach book.).

But then again, we're dealing with the British government, in which old traditions are set in stone. I suppose eventually they will realize that this is what they should do, but don't be surprised if it takes forever.

Switzerland isn't that much better; they go with the wind. Remember that they were the last country to grant women the vote (in 1971). In fact, if we trust Wikipedia, the Swiss canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden only granted women the right to vote on local issues in 1991.
31
Since it's Dan's posting, I'll add a theater reference I haven't seen posted yet. I learned of Turing's orientation and persecution in "Breaking the Code" on or near Broadway circa 1985.
32
Full quote (from Lord McNally);

"It is tragic that Alan Turing was convicted of an offence which now seems both cruel and absurd, particularly... 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."

Personally, I agree with that. Same reason (on, of course, a massively smaller scale) nobody's pulled down Auschwitz - Alan Turing's prosecution and conviction is shameful and embarassing, and should continue to shame, embarass and remind the British government/judiciary/society of what happens when we stop thinking of humans as human. Alan Turing is the most public face of the suffering experienced by post-Victorian gay British men - overturning his conviction won't 'fix' anything (he's already dead as a result of this) - rather, his conviction should be remembered so others' aren't forgotten. #3? There are statues and memorials. Alan Turing is already a relatively significant figure in the British public consciuosness - he is remembered, he is recognised as the victim of disgusting discrimination. The failure to overturn the conviction in no way represents a failure to recognise the significance of Turing's life, prosecution, and death.

I'm also well aware of the tendancy of Europeans to make smarmy, smug, completely misinformed know-it-all comments about the US, and how annoying that must be, and how well all y'all do to hold your tongue. As such I'll show the same restraint and not reply to #6, #7 etc.

However, #10? That "weird un-elected anachronism" is presently the only thing stopping that smarmy little Thatcherite shit-bag Cameron from wrecking the NHS. I think I'd like to keep it around for a little bit.
33
Brilliant blog, thanks
34
The Lords' argument isn't even consistent with their own government's policy. In 2006, the government pardoned all soldiers convicted and executed for cowardice in World War I, even though they were legally convicted of what was a crime at the time. How is Turing's case different?

See Peter Coles's excellent post at http://telescoper.wordpress.com/2012/02/… for more.
35
@32: I was logging into the comments section to mention just that.

The House of Lords aren't simply being obstinate in this case, they're making it clear that they don't want to whitewash what they themselves point out is a shameful episode in Britain's legal history. It's better to learn from the unjust past than to have some damnatio memoriae and hope no one figures out that intolerance ever existed in society.
36
@32(Los_del_Mango), 35(Salmon): but if a pardon for Turing (and others condemned under the same unfair law) is meaningless or akin to 'whitewashing', why did the government pardon the soldiers accused of cowardice, as ted(@34) above points out? Wouldn't it be exactly the same situation?

I don't think a pardon is akin to whitewashing, because it wouldn't erase the condemnation or the fact that such an unfair law did exist. Just like official apologies to the Jews from the German government (including speeches in the Knesset) don't erase or whitewash the Holocaust. It would simply be a symbol of the fact that we nowadays do understand that the law was wrong, and that those condemned under it were treated unfairly. I understand there are already other symbols of that fact -- the statues of Turing, for example -- but why not add one more? Do you think it would be bad?
37
The House of Lords can't pardon anyone and never has been able to pardon anyone; it's a political institution not a judicial one. You may be confused because what we now call our Supreme Court replaced a special section of the House of Lords, but that special section was always judicial not political also.
I agree with others that the best tribute we can pay to Turing is to work hard to never let such things ever happen again.

And as a signal of progress I would point to the Court of Appeal decision here reported in the Guardian last Friday:

"Two devout Christian guesthouse owners have failed in their attempt to overturn a £3,600 fine imposed on them for refusing to allow a gay couple to occupy a double room.The Court of Appeal unanimously ruled that Peter and Hazelmary Bull, who run Chymorvah House in Marazion, Cornwall, had acted unlawfully in cancelling the booking in 2008.'

That unanimous ruling in defense of gay couples has taken massive criticism from all the usual suspects but I think Turing would prefer that we keep on fighting homophobic actions of this kind; the Bulls are apparently hoping to appeal to the Supreme Court...