Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Queen Pardons Alan Turing

The news:
Nearly 60 years after his death, Alan Turing, the British mathematician regarded as one of the central figures in the development of the computer, received a formal pardon from Queen Elizabeth II on Monday for his conviction in 1952 on charges of homosexuality, at the time a criminal offense in Britain. . . . Mr. Turing committed suicide in 1954, two years after his conviction on charges of gross indecency. He was 41.
This was a response to a petition campaign mounted by Turing's fans. Whenever people do this sort of thing, I have to wonder why they want retroactive pardons for their heroes. It seems to me that in a case like Turing's the injustice of the charge against him and his trial are already apparent to everyone. His conviction therefore stands as an indictment, not of him, but of the society and government that persecuted him. The pardon does nothing for him; he is dead, and his innocence is manifest. It only mitigates the guilt of the state, which damn well is guilty in a way that ought not to be swept under the rug. I say let the verdict against Turing and all similar verdicts stand, as a reminder for future generations of the crimes we commit in the name of justice.

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