Thursday, December 26, 2013

Alan Turing does not need forgiveness...

...the government does.

Via The Atlantic

The “royal prerogative of mercy,” the formal title for a King or Queen’s pardon, is one of the central affordances of English royalty. Its language is old and pleonastic, comfortable in its somber power.

That makes it all the more stomach-turning to read. “Now Know Ye,” it reads, “that We, in consideration of circumstances humbly represented unto Us, are Graciously pleased to extend Our Grace and Mercy unto the said Alan Mathison Turing and to grant him Our Free Pardon posthumously in respect of the said convictions.”

Perhaps this is standard language, but being “pleased to extend Our Grace and Mercy” feels inadequate in any register. Turing should be forgiven for nothing; he did nothing we’d consider criminal. If any entity requires pardoning, it’s the government. And yet the same government, in the body of its messenger, is pleased to excuse itself.

The pardon continues, becoming more and more magically legal. There is that recursion again: “And to pardon and remit unto him the sentence imposed upon him as aforesaid; And for so doing this shall be a sufficient Warrant.” The document only has to say the pardon exists, and it becomes real.

While I am happy that Turing was pardoned, I'm still saddened that so much damage can't be undone.

1 comment:

designing wally said...

He was treated miserably and you're right, if anything the crown owes him a huge apology along with their eternal gratitude.

(Hope you are having a great holiday season!)