Home The Author The Book Reviews FAQs More Stuff The Other Side


RSS Feed 

Friday, September 11, 2009


Alan Turing again

Now this is interesting: I've just had an e-mail from Gordon Brown in response to my signing the petition to get an apology for Alan Turing. You can read the full thing here, but it does indeed appear to be an apology. An apology couched in self-congratulation for what a great country we are, which strikes me as a bit unseemly when apologising for doing something so shitty, but an apology nonetheless.

Here's the passage that interests me most:

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. Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted as he was convicted under homophobic laws were treated terribly. Over the years millions more lived in fear of conviction.

Several things stand out.

1. He doesn't seem sure whether to call him 'Turing' or 'Alan'. Personally I'd go with 'Turing' or 'Alan Turing', or even for preference 'Mr Turing'; considering everything that was done to the poor man, a little respect seems appropriate, and given the era in which he lived I doubt Alan Turing would have felt respected by a stranger using his first name.

2. What's with 'While Turing was dealt with under the law of the time'? We all know that. It strikes me as wriggling, an equivocating attempt to emphasise that it wasn't Our Fault. Of course he was dealt with under the law of the time: that's the whole point. The law of the time was a stain on the nation's honour and a scourge to its citizens.

3. But having said that, he actually did go so far as to acknowledge that Alan Turing was not the only victim of this law. He doesn't quite apologise to them, but he accepts their existence - and he has the sense to realise that there were millions of them.

So, on the whole, a letter that strikes me as somewhat besmirched with that New Labour dislike of making a proper apology without pluming yourself and shirking as much responsibility as possible at the same time, but a letter that had something good in it nonetheless.

What does everyone else make of it?

I'm now wondering if all the other men who were similarly prosecuted are going to get an apology and / or a pardon, or if it's only the famous ones, considering New Labour's love for celebrities.
See, I'm wondering if Brown was trying to sneak an apology to them in. It's ambiguously phrased.
I agree with you about the weaseliness of that "law of the time" bit.

Mostly, though, I have exactly the reaction I thought I'd have when we first discussed it. I get all teary-eyed and frustrated and enraged, because it doesn't do Turing (or any of the other people persecuted under similar laws) any damned good, it doesn't bring him back, and what they really need to do is just go back in time and fucking FIX IT already! And then I get slightly more reasonable and remember that they can't go back in time, and then I just feel like in that case they should just keep their damned traps shut about it. Stop propping up their moral authority by bleating on about things that are past and gone, and start *having* some moral authority by taking some action. Make sure that sort of thing can never happen to anyone ever again. Nothing the British government can say will make what they did to those people okay, so I want them to stop talking about it.

It's not really a rational response, because you're right about all the stuff you said about setting precedent and sending messages, but it's how it always makes me feel.

ver word: "reambra". Trying to go back in time to fix things.
Strikes me as another attempt by the government to look good by riding whatever bandwagon happens to be big at the moment.
Post a Comment

<< Home


July 2006   August 2006   September 2006   October 2006   November 2006   December 2006   January 2007   February 2007   March 2007   April 2007   May 2007   June 2007   July 2007   August 2007   September 2007   October 2007   November 2007   December 2007   January 2008   February 2008   March 2008   April 2008   May 2008   June 2008   July 2008   August 2008   September 2008   October 2008   November 2008   December 2008   January 2009   February 2009   March 2009   April 2009   May 2009   June 2009   July 2009   August 2009   September 2009   October 2009   November 2009   December 2009   January 2010   February 2010   March 2010   April 2010   June 2010   July 2010   August 2010   September 2010   October 2010   November 2010   December 2010   January 2011   February 2011   March 2011   April 2011   May 2011   June 2011   July 2011   August 2011   September 2011   October 2011   November 2011   December 2011   January 2012   February 2012   March 2012   April 2012   May 2012   June 2012   July 2012   August 2012   September 2012   October 2012   November 2012   December 2012   January 2013   February 2013   March 2013   April 2013   May 2013   June 2013   July 2013   August 2013   September 2013   October 2013   March 2014  

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?