Friday, February 06, 2015

"The Imitation Game": Defaming Alan Turing

From an article in the New York Review of Books (Saving Alan Turing from His Friendsby Christian Caryl):

...The filmmakers see their hero above all as a martyr of a homophobic Establishment, and they are determined to lay emphasis on his victimhood. The Imitation Game ends with the following title: "After a year of government-mandated hormonal therapy, Alan Turing committed suicide in 1954." This is in itself something of a distortion. Turing was convicted on homosexuality charges in 1952, and chose the "therapy" involving female an alternative to jail time. It was barbarous treatment, and Turing complained that the pills gave him breasts. But the whole miserable episode ended in 1953---a full year before his death, something not made clear to the filmgoer.

[B. Jack] Copeland, who has taken a fresh look at the record and spoken with many members of Turing's circle, disputes that the experience sent Turing into downward spiral of depression. By the accounts of those who knew him, he bore the injustice with fortitude, then spent the next year enthusiastically pursuing projects. Copeland cites a number of close friends (and Turning's mother) who saw no evidence that he was depressed in the days before his death, and notes that the coroner who concluded that Turing had died by biting a cyanide-laced apple never examined the fruit. Copeland offers sound evidence that the death might have been accidental, the result of a self-rigged laboratory where Turing was conducting experiments with cyanide. He left no suicide letter...

In perhaps the most bitter irony of all, the filmmakers have managed to transform the real Turing, vivacious and forceful, into just the sort of mythological gay man, whiney and weak, that homophobes love to hate...

The real-life Turing would have sneered at his film counterpart's willingness to blab everything to some police inspector he's just met---a scandalous and improbable security breach that probably does more to dishonor Turing's memory than just about anything else in the movie, which invents the conversation as a cheap narrative device...

See also The Imitation Game: inventing a new slander to insult Alan Turing, by Alex von Tunzelmann, cited by Caryl.



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