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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?

Comments:
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.
 
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