Bletchley: Home of the Code Breakers. Britain: Home of the Moral Code Breakers?
Why I believe it’s right to celebrate Alan Turing’s Achievements on Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth.
Last month, I stumbled upon a disused Daily Mail on a train to Euston, and what I found inside should be entitled ‘The Daily Hate Mail’. It was a cruel article entitled ‘Why I believe it’s wrong to pardon Bletchley Park code breaker Alan Turing for breaking the anti-gay laws of his time’ (sic!). Was this journalist even aware that without the efforts of timid, homosexual mathematician Alan Turing at Bletchley Park, they would never have the freedom to even make let alone print such a comment? This shocked me, for the centenary year of Turing’s birth, 2012, was marked and celebrated in Wales. Some artists who met at the Blinc Dgital Arts Festival in Conwy in October 2012 have, this year, collaborated and produced a piece of visual art entitled ‘The Nightmare Room’, which looks like a cross between a dream catcher and a mobile above a baby’s cot. The piece takes its name from a room in which Turing conducted chemical experimentation with substances such as cyanide, a room he called ‘The Nightmare Room’. The piece has since been commissioned for exhibition by the Mission Gallery in Swansea.
The Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square is traditionally occupied by no permanently affixed statues but instead by figurines that change periodically. The tradition stems from when funds for a permanent statue there ran out. Some internet research reveals that there are live e-petitions entitled ‘No statue of Alan Turing on the fourth plinth’; one particular petition is for the plinth to be named the ‘Alan Turing Plinth’ and to have the displayed statue change periodically as is the case currently. This ingratitude is infuriating! Granted, Gordon Brown issued to Turing a posthumous apology in 2009, but why are Britons so very reluctant celebrate Alan Turing’s achievements with all guns blazing? I really can’t work it out. Homophobia? Is the issue that he was gay still taboo? Are Robert Harris’ novel ‘Enigma’ and the resulting awful film that inaccurately depicts him as a James Bond-like hero to blame? David Beckham was on the Fourth Plinth during the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup: A, with respect, frivolous choice against Turing’s history-shaping and nation-defending achievements that he accomplished notwithstanding his social awkwardness. Not only did he battle against nervousness on a daily basis in order to crack the secret Nazi codes in the Second World War that secured victory over National Socialism, he was then punished for homosexuality by chemical castration: His role in maintaining our liberation from Nazi clutches was neither here nor there. He was so committed to serving science that he willingly put himself through paces that deserved the title ‘Nightmare’. Also, Alan Turing is hailed as the grandfather of computing as we know it. Why, in the digital age, would we not wish to celebrate a man who laid the foundations of computing, upon which we are now so reliant? It’s things like this that make me want to scream “WAKE UP, BRITAIN!”