Campaign to get UK government to apologise for hounding Alan Turing to his death

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84 Responses to “Campaign to get UK government to apologise for hounding Alan Turing to his death”

  1. dculberson says:

    I believe the apology, which is a formal statement that the behavior was wrong, could help prevent a repeat of the same behavior in the future. It would be a learning moment, if you will. It would also mean a lot to living people in similar life circumstances.

    I think only a person in a position of privilege could call this a meaningless gesture. Do you think that the descendants of slaves felt that the U.S. House apology was meaningless?

  2. Anonymous says:

    @Shadowfirebird

    To find Turing you have to google father of computer science.

  3. tomic says:

    Wow, so many comments read like 4chan. Babies!

    Duh, “apology” is the form; the act is one of discussion for the living. Turing wasn’t some random guy; the *enormity* of his work is hard to overstate. It’s intricate and subtle and powerful; you’ll need to do research to understand it and THAT IS PART OF THE PROBLEM.

    Dozens of people of global stature made postumous comments about turing like “Without him we might have lost the war”.

    Plow through Hodges’ turing bio, form some substantial arguments against, but the thinly veiled hatred is a bit tiring.

    Please excuse (or not) my anger; believe me, as an out of the closet faggot I’ve heard every excuse to maintain status quo you can imagine and then some. Like many people I’ve lost work, jobs, connections, in subtle and not so subtle ways, and this ‘anti-apology’ whining just sounds like more of that.

  4. Anonymous says:

    In a way I feel that Turing was singled out: once he was no longer vital to the ‘war effort’ his security clearance was revoked (his homosexuality made him a ‘risk’). This undoubtedly affected his ability to continue his work. If this helped drive him to suicide is open to debate; but my guess is: yes. As both a student of computing, and British, I have long felt that the way the state treated him was utterly hypocritical and deplorable.

  5. Brainspore says:

    @ Timothy Hutton #61:

    As you can see I have already come out in support of a general apology, but this appeal is not for that…

    And then you went and contradicted yourself in post #41 when you called such apologies “meaningless” and seemed to ridicule the idea. It’s hard to reach any kind of consensus when you appear to be all over the place on the same issue.

    FWIW, I agree that the government should offer such an apology to all the people who were persecuted for their sexuality regardless of how famous they were.

  6. Anonymous says:

    To be honest I can’t see why the government *wouldn’t* appologize. Unless it would make them vulnerable to compensation claims by Turings relations.

    My Captch incidently is “Pro necking”. It captures my views perfectly.

  7. siliconsunset says:

    @54 YES.

    Not only do I want them to make this actual apology, I would like to see them print it on t-shirts. T-shirts which they will wear while making said apology. T-shirts they will also offer for sale, so that I can buy one in every color and size available.

    <3 Turing. Even if one doesn’t feel sympathetic toward his sexual preference, who among us hasn’t been persecuted for SOMETHING to SOME degree? A little empathy, please. A great man did a great thing and was treated rather poorly for his efforts.

  8. Timothy Hutton says:

    shadowfirebird – Charles Babbage, who?

    Father of Computing is a meaningless appellation – it hinges on criteria not included in the title. Are you talking about a machine that can calculate, is programable, uses a stored program, analog or digital, mechanical or electronic, etc…

  9. arkizzle / Moderator says:

    “This case is specific to Alan Turing, are his parents alive? Siblings? Sibling’s children?”

    No. This case is specific to anyone who was affected by Turings life and work, and anyone who feels he was unfairly treated by the land he fought for. That would be almost every person in the UK, and many in Europe.

    You don’t get to say who cares for what issue. You don’t get to tell us how to feel or who to champion.

  10. Moriarty says:

    Inasmuch as the original meaning of “computer” is “one who computes,” I’d say that in the very unlikely event that a single “father of computing” existed, that person is very, very lost to history. (And, of course, a “father of computers” doesn’t exist, unless you’re a creationist.) The earliest tool yet found believed to have been a arithmetical aid is about 20 thousand years old:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishango_bone

    [/pointless, pedantic digression]

  11. Brainspore says:

    Time to clear his name and give him the honours so long overdue.

    “Clear his name?” Turing was an actual homosexual, was he not? He wasn’t wrongfully accused, he was guilty of something that shouldn’t have been illegal to begin with.

    If an apology is due it is to the countless homosexuals throughout the UK who suffered under those laws, not just the ones who were computer geniuses. I daresay that Turing wasn’t the only person driven to suicide by being forced to hide who he was.

  12. Scarybug says:

    I’d love to see the UK apologize to Turing, and all the other homosexuals who were persecuted, but I’d also like to point out that the United States is STILL kicking essential personnel out of the military for being homosexual. Maybe they’ll be able to reverse course and apologize while some of them are still alive.

  13. Timothy Hutton says:

    dculberson claimed:

    I believe the apology, which is a formal statement that the behavior was wrong, could help prevent a repeat of the same behavior in the future.

    Is there a “Great Big Book of Apologies” that government refers to in an effort to keep them from repeating the errors of the past? The debate around the apology will live longer than the memory of it being made, I suspect…

    I think only a person in a position of privilege could call this a meaningless gesture.

    I think you’re wrong. Couple it with legislative relief and it does mean something, but the apology adds nothing to the legislative relief.

    Do you think that the descendants of slaves felt that the U.S. House apology was meaningless?

    Yes I do. It is no more meaningful than when the person the customer service line says they are sorry your cable went out. The difference is, the customer service rep at the cable company can get a truck rolled and fix your problem, the U.S. House of Representatives doesn’t have any trucks to roll…

    I also think the interned Japanese Americans in 1988 also felt the apology signed by President Regan was meaningless, in case you were wondering.

    Does Oscar Wilde also get an apology?

  14. epo says:

    @#1: Just like yours is one of those useless posts that makes you feel better I guess.

  15. toyg says:

    This is sad. Turing is being used by sectors of the UK gay lobby as a political wedge to bash an already-weak Labour government. Despite the good intentions, we all know that the newsbite would be “Brown apologises to gay war hero”. That is wrong on so many levels.

    Please, friends: you got your civil unions (not so long ago) thanks to the efforts of this same government, an entity that will need your support in a few months in order to survive. Now it’s not the time to raise your price: the buyer is bankrupt and, if anything, is asking you for a loan.

  16. Timothy Hutton says:

    Brainspore quoted someone else that wrote:

    Time to clear his name and give him the honours so long overdue.

    What honours are “long overdue” Alan Turing? The honours his nameless co-workers at Bletchley Park also received? Among his co-workers Alan Turing is the most famous, most honored of them all…

  17. Brainspore says:

    @ Timothy Hutton:

    I also think the interned Japanese Americans in 1988 also felt the apology signed by President Regan was meaningless, in case you were wondering.

    It’s clear that not all of them felt that way, Timothy.

  18. Timothy Hutton says:

    Brainspore – two things, first AFAIK reparations were always part of the request, the Gov’t didn’t decide to add that to the apology the Japanese Americans asked for (and so rightly deserved).

    Second, can you not see the difference between apologizing directly to those actually impacted versus those who were not directly impacted? Alan Turing is dead, and no apology will make him feel better, he had no children, his parents have passed on (I assume), and I’ve not heard of any siblings…

  19. Anonymous says:

    It appears Cicada Just Failed the Turing Test.

  20. Takuan says:

    Tim, ya talk like an Aspie.

  21. Timothy Hutton says:

    Arkizzle – you’re extrapolating – that’s not in the quote Cory put on top of this posting:

    Robbo sez, “Genius mathetician Alan Turing was arrested and convicted of ‘gross indecency’ because he was a homosexual. His brilliant career was destroyed, his service to his country was ignored and he was hounded throughout the rest of his life until his death by suicide. Time to clear his name and give him the honours so long overdue.” [emphasis added]

    Seems pretty specific to me, it’s all about Alan Turing.

  22. Tdawwg says:

    And why, an aspie asks, is that worth noting?

  23. noen says:

    It’s an awful lot of energy to expend over something so trite and meaningless. Could there be some other reason at work here? Nawwwwww…..

  24. Brainspore says:

    @ Timothy Hutton:

    Look, I completely get the difference between an apology that comes with financial reparations and one that doesn’t. What I’m saying is that the apology is part of what those Japanese Americans asked for, so clearly it had some meaning to them. Otherwise why not just ask for the reparations?

    You seem to take some perverse pleasure in telling other people whether or not they should appreciate the gesture when governments offer apologies. I say let those people decide for themselves.

  25. Robert says:

    I don’t think people understand what it means for a government to apologize, or even to apologise, which would be the case here. It is a formal acknowledgement that what had been historically done was the wrong thing to do at that time and place, and a pledge that in similar situations, said government will not do that again.

    In other words, it’s not an apology to a zombie Turing, or a prayer in the hopes that should Turing’s Second Coming occur, he won’t wreak divine Turing-Complete vengeance upon us all.

    It’s a promise that the government will not turn on a contributor because of his or her sexual orientation.

    Of course, none of it is binding, but it becomes part of the historical record, and a nation can be judged on that basis.

  26. vjinterkosmos says:

    A public apology for having the machine grind up one f the brightest minds of the 20th century takes about 10 minutes on the beep, and rolls in tens of thousands of gay votes.

    So, of course they will – instead of doing something about the same thing happening today and tomorrow.

  27. Takuan says:

    I do not like thee, Doctor Fell.

  28. Kimmo says:

    Robert here has come closest to what I was thinking…

    I reckon the central issue here is one of legitimacy, or at least perceived legitimacy; a government has it to the extent it is/appears accountable.

    An ‘apology’ made by a head of state on behalf of his government is without a shadow of doubt a formal admission of wrongdoing, and the ripped-off citizens of the world should welcome each one drip-fed by their stingy governments.

    Of course, if Brown was to start apologising for government policies, it might lead to people calling for him to apologise for the Orwellian nightmare currently sweeping the UK… : p

  29. Takuan says:

    still waiting for the Vatican to offer up some of those church treasures to their child victims. Apologies from power always taste more real with money attached.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PluRW3_FEt0

  30. dculberson says:

    Timothy Hutton .. let’s see, position of privilege, check. You’ll excuse me if I don’t consider your opinion the authoritative voice on the subject.

    I’m not being rude, just saying that if you haven’t been there, I don’t think you’re able to consider whether or not it’s a worthwhile gesture. As Brainspore said, it’s a worthwhile gesture to some.

  31. buddy66 says:

    It’s a teachable moment. A government apology would be a terrific thing. I don’t know what the UK equivalent of the old classroom Weekly Reader is, but to have millions of schoolchildren informed about (and discussing) the injustice of Turing’s persecution is to offer aid and assistance to thousands who are in the process of recognizing their own *different* sexual identities.

    Do it for the children.

  32. Takuan says:

    I would like to see a formal investigation into the possible murder of Alan Turing.

  33. Timothy Hutton says:

    Takuan – I’ll take that in the manner in which I choose to believe you meant it, and point out that a) I had to google “aspie” (I thought you misspelled “asspie”, but that would be out of character for you (where is the hyphen?) b) this site made me think you could be right, the following “You might be an aspie if…” hits pretty close to home:

    …you write about one topic like fans, and that makes you think about the time you were in a department store when you were a kid and the display selling fans had one of them blowing air upwards and there was a beach ball bouncing up and down on the air from the fan, and that reminds you of…and then you realize that your worst writing flaw is the run-on sentence. [emphasis added]

    (Between you and me, I’m having a heck of a time getting in the swing of things with Twitter, I typically go to -24 (red), then trim back the Unix way, deleting vowels until I get to 140 characters… ;^)

  34. Timothy Hutton says:

    dculberson – you’re opinion that started with the words “I think” are just as valid as my opinion that started with the words “I think”.

    What exactly is my “position of privlege”? You do understand I am not the actor, right? ;^)

    I’m not being rude, just saying that if you haven’t been there, I don’t think you’re able to consider

    Yet, not being in a “position of privlege” hasn’t stopped you from deciding how those folks who are feel/view things like this… Interesting.

  35. noen says:

    Contrary to those opposed gestures really do matter and they really do make a difference. I think that opposition to an apology is in part rooted in an ideology that believes such things as governments and corporations are not true entities and therefore cannot “apologize” for anything. This is nonsense. Collective entities really do exist and demanding an accounting for past wrongs is not a “worthless gesture”.

  36. Timothy Hutton says:

    Brainspore – from your own link:

    The redress campaign culminated with the signing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which provided monetary compensation and a formal apology to the victims of the WWII internment. [emphasis added]

    Differences from what the Original Posting is concerned with:

    1) The formal apology was made to survivors, not to the press

    2) It had monetary compensation (not just an apology)

    Would the apology alone have sufficed, in my opinion “no.” So they Gov’t threw in money and that sufficed for at least some involved.

  37. Anonymous says:

    Dear Mr Turing;

    Old chap, thanks SO much for winning World War 2 for us. Sorry about the whole dreadful suicide business. Most unfortunate. I hope you understand, we prosecuted thousands for buggery, it was nothing personal.

    Again, most appreciated on the matter of defeating Hitler and saving the world’s democracies, and inventing the computer besides.

    Yours Etc.
    Her Majesty’s Government

  38. Brainspore says:

    @ Timothy Hutton:

    Would the apology alone have sufficed, in my opinion “no.” So they Gov’t threw in money and that sufficed for at least some involved.

    Sufficient or not, the apology itself obviously had worth to many Japanese Americans or they wouldn’t have asked for it in the first place. If you visit the Japanese American Cultural Museum in Los Angeles you’ll see that a copy of the formal apology is proudly displayed near the end of the exhibition relating to the Internment.

    Also, what do you mean “the formal apology was made to survivors, not to the press”? Just because there were still survivors around left to hear it doesn’t mean that the apology wasn’t also intended for the families of those who had since died. And if you think they didn’t make a show for the press out of it then you clearly don’t remember Reagan.

  39. Anonymous says:

    @Cicada, perhaps he has family and they’d probably love to have a formal apology issued. I think that the bigger issue is that the apology does as much for the one apologizing as it does for the victim. The government can acknowledge a mistake and pay its respects to a great and talented man.

  40. shadowfirebird says:

    “The father of computing” isn’t exactly the most meaningful appellation, true. (And the fact that there can be a “father of computing” AND a “father of computer science” and they can be *two different people* is clearly ridiculous.)

    The point I was trying to make was that in the minds of your average non-geek — the sort of person who doesn’t know what browser they use, or thinks it’s called “Windows” — someone had to invent the computer, and if they have a name for that person at all, it’s likely to be Babbage.

    Granted, there is no “inventor of the computer”. But it seems to me that Turing, who probably built the first working, programmable, electric computer deserves more of the credit in the modern zeitgeist.

  41. dculberson says:

    Timothy, I will certainly concede that my opinion has no more weight or value than your own!

  42. arkizzle / Moderator says:

    1) The formal apology was made to survivors, not to the press

    You don’t think there are ‘survivors’ living in the UK now, who have lost friends and feared for their freedom, who might appreciate the gesture regardless of the Turing specificity?

  43. Takuan says:

    we need stories and stories need actors.

  44. Cicada says:

    So, an apology by people who didn’t commit the offense given to a person who doesn’t exist anymore to accept it.

    File it as one of those useless gestures that makes people feel better, I guess.

  45. belgium says:

    @1 You mean like this one?

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25921453/ns/politics-capitol_hill/

    Or this?

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/7241965.stm

    It is always worth recognising a mistake and apologizing for it. No matter how late.

  46. Zarkonnen says:

    Of course, asking Gordon Brown to apologise for what happened to Turing when Brown was three years old would be absurd.

    But they’re not asking any *person* to apologise, they’re asking the entity that is the UK government to do so. In the absence of any apology, the official position of a government is that all its past acts were perfectly right and justified. And what happened to Turing clearly wasn’t.

  47. Chocolatey Shatner says:

    I didn’t even know Turing was gay until a couple of years ago. And while it surely does him no good, the publicity may help younger, living gays by giving them a different sort of role model than we usually have. I mean, knowing wouldn’t have erased my shitty high school experience, but it would have made it a little more tolerable.

  48. mgfarrelly says:

    Oh please, it’s right to apologize because what was done is wrong and to acknowledge that wrong is to take a step, however small, to that wrong never occurring again.

    Must we, as adults, debate endlessly that which small children understand?

    It’s worth noting that the stature pictured (which weighs over 1.5 tons and made of of nearly a half million pieces of Welsh slate) was commissioned by Sidney Frank, a billionaire whose fortune came from importing Jagermeister and promoting Grey Goose vodka. He donated it, along with a half-million bucks to Bletchley Park before he died in 2006

    It’s an amazing piece, and place, get there if you can.

  49. PaulR says:

    Belgium @ 2: You forget the Roman Catholic Church’s 1992 apology to Galileo, four hundred and fifty nine years after his 1633 trial for heresy, among many others.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apologies_by_Pope_John_Paul_II

    And Canada’s apology to the Japanese ‘interned’ during the Second World War.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_Canadian_internment

    And to the First Nations for the disaster of residential schools.
    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2008/06/11/aboriginal-apology.html

    Alan Turing served his country and humanity as a whole very well – far better than just about all of the hypocritical British ruling class who hounded him to his death. I think apologizing to him is long overdue.

  50. Cicada says:

    If you feel like saying to people who are currently living, “Hi, we’re different, we’re not going to do that to you now”, that makes sense.

    This? And the examples given? Drivel. That it’s repeated drivel doesn’t make it less silly. Senseless as scapegoating. If you care, make a material change in the present. Feel-good gestures are cheap and easy.

  51. mgfarrelly says:

    @Cicada:

    Well, when the formal clearing of Turing comes and millions more people learn of his accomplishments, and the shameful history of homophobia that hounded him, a footnote will read
    “Cicada things this is drivel.”

    And we will all know your size and shape and make.

  52. Cicada says:

    @7- Tell you what– if you’re prepared to say that the apology will do one whit of good to Turing himself (good luck on the theology there), then I’ll say it’s meaningful.

    If you want to point out to people that what happened to Turing was a massive wrong, go for it– you’re right. If you want to add that as an example of the general stupidity of homophobia, you’d have a strong argument.
    But it’s too late for any meaningful apology, any meaningful rectification or any such thing. The politicians who hounded the man to death are, themselves, dead– they are the only ones who could meaningfully apologize for doing wrong. The life remains ruined– Turing is unable to accept any apology, forgive, or deny forgiveness.

    That is another problem with the “Let’s apologize far after the fact”– it denies the possibility that the person receiving the apology would have refused it. There seems to be the assumption that the apology’s gone some way to make things right, when the person or people might have told the apologist to go to hell.

  53. Anonymous says:

    What’s wrong with doing it? We’re going to be apologizing for Bush/Cheney for a long, long time.

  54. Timothy Hutton says:

    Arkizzle – my problem is you read things into my statements that weren’t there (I never told anyone how to feel, I guessed at how they might feel, same as you and several others did here as well) and ignored things that were there (calling for general apology)…

    Again, I called for a general apology in post #17, one of the first things I said, but not being a citizen of the UK it isn’t my place to organise a petition to tell them what to apologise for.

    That 1,414 people have decided to put their names on a poll doesn’t establish a “(clear) benefit” it establishes an interest, to presume to know the motives of the 1,414 is just that – presumptive.

    IMHO petitioning for an apology is in effect saying “this will resolve the matter”, and clearly it won’t – some politicians will feel “brave” for apologising for something others did a long time ago to Alan Turing…

    Has the “Gross Indecency” law been repealed in UK? If not that would be the place to start, since that was the cudgel they beat this poor fellow with – that would be a change for the better, and might make it harder to repeat the sins of the past.

    If I had a single, simple problem with this petition, it would be the scope of it, it is too narrow, and it should be coupled with some additional demand that will cause real change – a posthumous proclimation of apology with pretty calligraphy 50 years after the fact is a bit small…

  55. mgfarrelly says:

    @Cicada:
    The dead want nothing from us.

    This is about history. It’s about a brilliant scientist whose work has, until fairly recently, been sullied by thuggery and ignorance of homophobia. It’s about getting wider recognition for Turing’s work, for it’s importance.

    By addressing that wrong, by repudiating it, the government is not simply apologizing to a dead man, it’s speaking out against a deep and historic wound to GLBTQ people in Britain. Not to mention, making a clear and unambiguous statement about the rights of all people to love freely and without fear.

    It’s worth some paper, a statement and some time from the PM, really.

  56. Moriarty says:

    It might make more sense as a “formal admission of wrongdoing” rather than an “apology,” if you think those things are different.

    Of course, zarkonnen’s comment got me thinking about what actually constitutes the “UK government” and how far back it actually goes. “The government formally apologizes for William the Conquerer’s subjugation of native Englishmen…” Or is it only responsible since it’s been the “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,” c. 1927? Or perhaps just Elizabeth II’s reign?

  57. Flibx says:

    Sadly i have to agree that an ‘apology’ would be quite pointless. What wouldn’t be pointless is an effort to get people to learn about him and his life. Turing was a great man and should be a prominent figure in people’s knowledge of computer history but a pitiful number of people actually learn about him.
    Push for an apology if you want but more importantly push for his life to be included in the history that is taught in schools.

  58. kitcatcher says:

    I’d rather have the government that would make the apology that the one that would refuse to do so.

  59. arkizzle / Moderator says:

    Seems pretty specific to me, it’s all about Alan Turing.

    Jesus Timothy, you’re being a slippery bastard.

    Of course the apology is specifically for him, but I’m trying to relate the fact that many kinds of people will both appreciate the gesture, and benefit from it in some way.

    There are lots of other people in this thread saying similar things, and as of this moment, 1,414 UK citizens have pledged to their government that they would like to see this happen.

    Clearly some see the benefit, so what on Earth could you have a problem with?

    Have you made it your business to start a similar petition, to apologise to all the other gay men and women whom the British government have persecuted over the years? No?

    Is this apology mutually exclusive to any other apology? No?

    What?

  60. Anonymous says:

    @ Moriarty

    It might make more sense as a “formal admission of wrongdoing” rather than an “apology,” if you think those things are different.

    I think those are different , and I think those against an apology (myself included) are for a “formal admission of wrongdoing”. I could understand that others who were similarly persecuted can accept the apology on behalf of Turing, but I could not see how the person(s)/ group not responsible can give an apology.

    Is this like a wife apologizes for her husband misbehavior?

    If the U.S. government decides to apologize for slavery , what would the apology mean if President Obama is to deliver it?

  61. Anonymous says:

    Being forced to make such an apology would make it very much harder for some future government to do the same sort of thing. That’s the purpose of such “apologies.”

  62. shadowfirebird says:

    Whether it is pointless rather depends on what you think the point is. It would recognise a man who should be a national hero, for one thing.

    Personally I think the government should apologise because it’s such an *easy* thing for them to do. No-one in their right mind would hold Gordon Brown responsible, so apologising could only make him look grown-up, as well as honouring Turing.

    Failing to apologise, when it would cost him nothing to do so, will make him look like a dick.

  63. Timothy Hutton says:

    I am absolutely a huge Turing supporter, but like Cicada I also fail to see the good this will really accomplish, beyond, of course, changing a few plaques and a few more mentions for Alan Turing in the history books.

    Alan Turing has not been withering in obscurity, few who study computer science don’t know of him and his achievements, and few outside the field of Computer Science know either Turing or any of his co-workers on cryptography during the war… (Are his heterosexual co-workers widely known outside the Computer Science arena?)

    Why not a call to honor all that were houded by charges of “gross indecency” by the British Government, instead of confusingly deciding to advocate for the best-known unknown mathematician? (He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.)

  64. nanuq says:

    It’s probably more significant that homosexuality is still a criminal offense in countries around the world. If the UK government really wanted to show proper respect for Alan Turning, it would work towards international protections for sexual minorities and allow for better protection for refugees. A simple apology is a hollow gesture without that.

  65. LuckyLuigi says:

    Unfortunately I can’t sign as I’m not a British citizen, but as a Dutch computer scientist I acknowledge Turing as one of my (tragic) heroes.
    The British government should recognize their mistakes they made and also ensure the survival of Bletchley Park as a monument.

  66. Inconsequentiallogic says:

    Love the sentiment. Too bad he’s not around to appreciate it. Start respecting people in life

  67. adam says:

    British citizens can sign the petition at
    http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/turing/

  68. BookGuy says:

    Yes, Turing isn’t around to accept or reject this apology, and the people issuing the apology weren’t the ones who directly committed the offense, but I still think this is very well worth doing. If we plod on never acknowledging out loud what we’ve done wrong, then why bother to change at all? It’s not revolutionary change, but if someone is willing to say, “That was a bad thing we did,” then maybe that’s a small, first step to making sure it doesn’t happen again.

  69. arkizzle / Moderator says:

    This is important.

  70. Tdawwg says:

    I think the phrase is “never again”?

  71. shadowfirebird says:

    For those that think Turing is not withering in obscurity … well, you’re right, he’s not.

    But trying googling for “father of computing” and see how many hits you get for Charles Babbage. How many people think Babbage built the first computer?

  72. Stickarm says:

    Not publicly stating that what happened to Alan Turing was wrong creates significant potential for future “Deniers of Alan Turing’s Personal Holocaust.”

    The point isn’t just to help things get better, it’s to try to prevent them from getting worse.

  73. Piers W says:

    If the British government had singled out Turing for prosecution, then maybe an apology would be in order.

    He, and lots of others, was prosecuted under the law at the time, which was pretty similar to the laws at the time in the rest of the world. Unjust and barbaric.

    I agree with Timothy Hutton that celebrating everybody similarly mistreated by the British legal system would be a fine idea, and maybe if they focused on trying not to do stuff like that again that’d be even better.

    After all, think of the sheer number of bloody awful things the British government has done, and how many dreadful laws it has enacted. You’d have to have national apology week for a decade.

  74. trippcook says:

    I can’t wait for this to happen — a bunch of people who were not even in the government when this happened apologizing will certainly bring Turing back from the dead. I sincerely hope this effort gets off the ground so Britain’s elected representatives can do this instead of all the other bullshit work their constituents expect.

  75. Timothy Hutton says:

    Arkizzle – This case is specific to Alan Turing, are his parents alive? Siblings? Sibling’s children?

    Were this the blanket apology for all I mentioned all the way back in post #17 at 6:27 AM today:

    Why not a call to honor all that were (hounded) by charges of “gross indecency” by the British Government, instead of confusingly deciding to advocate for the best-known unknown mathematician? [emphasis added, spelling corrected]

    As you can see I have already come out in support of a general apology, but this appeal is not for that…

  76. Piers W says:

    Having thought about it a bit more. I’m for a government apology to Turing, but it should mention the reason they’re apologising, i.e. persecution by the legal system of gay men and women mandated and enforced by laws enacted by parliament.

    Otherwise it’s a bit like saying ‘we made gay sex illegal, which was of course fine, but an unfortunate consequence was that we put someone important in jail.’

  77. demidan says:

    What is wrong with an apology for Turing? I asked what is Wrong with, not reasons why it’s moot. I bet everyone here has apologized for something long after the moment has past, so what is so wrong about one more eh?

  78. Timothy Hutton says:

    dculberson – Exactly my point, glad we agree!

  79. arkizzle / Moderator says:

    Trippcook, yes, because it would take the whole of the UK government to put everything on hold for an extended period, just to utter the apology.

    It will cost nothing, but mean everything.

    I do agree with Piers, above, that Alan Turing could be used as a figurehead, to apologise to all the men and women persecuted by these kind of laws.

  80. Anonymous says:

    Pointless semantics, folks. It’s simply about acknowledging a wrong. No more, no less.

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