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Pardon for Turing?

 
Paul Clapham
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Some of you might have heard that there's a bill going through the British Parliament to posthumously pardon Alan Turing. He was convicted of homosexual activity and apparently committed suicide not long thereafter, and the bill is to pardon him for that conviction.

Do you think he should be pardoned? I don't. Or rather, if he gets a pardon then everybody else convicted under the same law in that period should also get a pardon. Sure, he and his work made a great difference in the war effort but the law should apply equally to everybody.
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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This opens a whole can of worms. I'm sure there were other things that were legal in Britain "a long time ago" that aren't anymore. (The US one that jumps to mind is slavery. Of course it was wrong. But you can't fix everything that ever happened. The best you can hope for is to not continue it along) Laws aren't typically retroactive.

I don't agree that if you pardon one person you have to pardon everyone though. As far as I can recall, a pardon is typically a "unique" act. Not a widespread waiver.
 
Bear Bibeault
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While I would like to see everyone pardoned, if that's not going to happen, pardoning Turing would be better than nothing.

I've seen arguments that he should not be pardoned because homosexuality was "illegal at the time". That's patently ridiculous. It's not like he robbed a bank and that's not illegal anymore. He was gay. They might as well have convicted him of having blue eyes. (Disclaimer: I don't know what color his eyes actually were.)

 
Maneesh Godbole
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I think it would have been better if words like "apology" or "honor" would have been used instead of "pardon"
Pardon indicates, yes we still think you did something wrong, but we are big hearted enough to let is slide.
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Bear Bibeault wrote:I've seen arguments that he should not be pardoned because homosexuality was "illegal at the time".

That was my first reaction when reading the story. I'm not saying it was bad at the time. But it was illegal. By definition.

Hence my comparison to stupid laws. Which I googled. And then found a site that says two gay people having sex was illegal in Texas before 2003. I don't know if that is true or not, but suppose it was. What would "pardoning" people for that mean? Would it be a statement that it was a dumb law as noted in the website name? Or a statement that society changed? Or a statement that the person was somehow wrong at the time? Or a statement that the person was wrong at the time and correct now? None of these sit comfortably as an impact of what pardoning would mean.

And I think with that confusion of interpretation it becomes easy to say not to open the can of worms at all.
 
Bear Bibeault
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:But it was illegal. By definition.

Yes, but my point was that it's unlike "stupid laws" such as not being allowed to wear bowler hats every other Thursday. It was a law that made something intrinsic illegal; like left-handedness, or (again) blue eyes.

So it's not as easy as saying "well it's a stupid law, but you shouldn't have worn the bowler on that Thursday".

"You shouldn't have been born left-handed (or gay) because it's illegal" simply defies all reasonableness.
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Bear Bibeault wrote:So it's not as easy as saying "well it's a stupid law, but you shouldn't have worn the bowler on that Thursday".

"You shouldn't have been born left-handed (or gay) because it's illegal" simply defies all reasonableness.

I think that's a difference in how I see the pardon discussion. I view the statement as "well it's stupid law so you shouldn't worry about having been accused/convicted of wearing the bowler hat". If Turing were alive, I could see it as being different. Like a gesture trying to make right for the stupid law.
 
Bear Bibeault
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I agree it's symbolic. Like apologizing for slavery well after the fact.
 
Darryl Burke
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Bear Bibeault wrote:"You shouldn't have been born left-handed (or gay) because it's illegal" simply defies all reasonableness.


You were also born naked, but public nudity is classified as indecent exposure and an offense in most countries.

Laws often reflect societal norms. And societal norms change. It's easy to consider a scenario where, centuries or even just decades in the future, society may be comfortable with public nudity and any laws against it may be repealed; that doesn't change the fact that it's illegal in the present day and age.

Turing was found guilty of breaking the law. That the law was repealed implicitly condones the 'offense' of anyone who was convicted under that law. I agree with Maneesh that a pardon implies forgiveness for a real offense, and would add that it shouldn't even apply for a conviction under a law that no longer exists.
 
Bear Bibeault
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Apples and oranges: you can choose not to parade around naked.
 
Darryl Burke
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You can choose to be celibate too, and many do.
 
fred rosenberger
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Turning was also chemically castrated, had his security clearance revoked, and was denied permission to visit the U.S. as a "Security risk" because of his conviction.
 
Bear Bibeault
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Darryl Burke wrote:You can choose to be celibate too, and many do.


Just as left-handed people can choose to write (badly) with their right hands. It doesn't make it any more reasonable to make something that is intrinsic and unchangeable illegal, even if it is possible for people to hide the "illegal" attribute.
 
chris webster
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I agree that any "pardon" is purely symbolic, but maybe it still has value even as a symbol. Turing - like many less famous gay men of his time - was abominably treated for the "crime" of being gay, nothing more. And many countries still inflict even more brutal punishments on gay people today. So if this symbolic action encourages people to look again at the dreadful consequences of this kind of blind prejudice, both historically and in the modern world, then that's surely no bad thing.
 
Maneesh Godbole
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It just struck me. How many of the people who condemned him at that time...would have managed to pass the Turing test
 
Jayesh A Lalwani
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IMO, as much as I would like that anyone convicted of homosexuality should have the conviction revoked, doing it just for a well known person is step in the right direction. True lasting change comes through a series of marginal revolutions. Turing's "pardon", even if it's purely symbolic, sets the stage for bigger changes.
 
Pat Farrell
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Darryl Burke wrote:You can choose to be celibate too, and many do.


Many more claim to be celebrate than actually are.
 
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