Updated: Aug 3
This is just fish in a barrel to take apart, and most people will scan over it and say, “Ug, I’m not engaging with that.” A few will become enraged, perhaps point out that technically Turing—the post is about Alan Turing, the father of computer science—did not code (in the modern sense) or wasn’t instrumental in the British efforts to decode Enigma. However, let’s briefly unpack the argument behind this screenshot: “Person with condition Y did good thing X, yet the government hypocritically punished him for Y; therefore, Y is good—if Y were not punished, more good things would happen.” In this case, if Turing had not been marginalised because he was homosexual, everything would be much better today—hence we should celebrate queers today, especially in computer science.
The problem is that if you look around the world you will find that there are men who beat their wives, who snort cocaine, who drink themselves into a stupor, who lose their family home through chronic gambling (and on and on and on through every squalid act you could imagine) and yet these men are sometimes surgeons or inventors or just people who are crucial to the economy—perhaps even people who have helped you out when you were in a fix some time (“He seemed like such a friendly guy, how could he do that to his wife?”).
It is true that there is an idea, connected to the idea of genius, that exceptional people can be a law unto themselves—and this was even acknowledged by the great dictators; for example, Stalin said “leave this cloud-dweller be” as regards Bulgakov because he enjoyed his works, even though Bulgakov’s political pronouncements were outrageous for Stalinist Russia. However, when Stalin said that he never intended to relax his general policy of censorship. Hitler enjoyed a similar relationship with his Jewish psychic Hanussen—until it soured, anyway.
So just because you are a hotdog in a particular field that in no way means your private vices should now become public goods; perhaps, due to Machiavellian necessity (if you’re a scientist) or some romantic notion (if you’re an artist), the state will cut you slack and let you alone to your filth so long as you bring home the bacon—yet they will never condone what you do generally, do not want an individual’s peccadillos extended to the general population.
The same goes for Turing: the man was a genius, the man was instrumental in the creation of the computer I write this on—does this mean I have to condone every act he committed, even if he murdered his parents or mistreated his dog? No, of course not—and people only buy the propaganda meme above because there has been a decades-long campaign in the West that holds homosexuality to be axiomatically high status and “good”.
Indeed, I once flicked up an MIT lecture on first-year computer science and the lecturer began with a little homily about “gay Turing, father of our subject” (“Praise be to Our Father, who art in the mainframe). Two hundred years before, he may have begun a lecture on “computation” with a prayer—it might as well be the same thing. This cult is so pronounced that it makes me wonder, as a layman, how significant figures like Turing and Einstein really were—simply because there is a cult in the West that venerates previously marginal groups (Jews, queers); so for all I know their influence is exaggerated in order to build the cult. “Our Father, who art in…”
Turing is easy to romanticise because he was decent, although he did like to hang out with schoolboys (goes with the territory, frankly)—and Turing also died this almost fairytale death by an apple poisoned with cyanide; and since he was threatened with the chemical cosh to cure his homosexuality there is an added oppressive resonance to the affair. Plus, there is the possibly apocryphal idea that Apple’s “one-bite” apple logo is modelled on poor old Turing’s apple (one bite from an Apple product is fatal??).
However, take a less sympathetic figure, Carlton Gajdusek. Again, a brilliant man—the documentary about his life was called The Genius and the Boys (you’ll find out why in a moment). Gajdusek anticipated prions, discovered the mechanism by which CJD (“mad cow disease”, if you remember that scare) operated—it was ground-breaking because prions are “dead”, there is no viral or bacterial process behind the illness. An entirely novel medical discovery. On the other hand, Gajdusek liked to collect boys; he particularly collected boys from the remote places in which he worked, such as Papua New Guinea (as you may remember from the mad cow scare, CJD is caused through cannibalism—the agri-business complex fed dead cows to their living relatives; Gajdusek identified the same process decades before in PNG because…they still eat ‘um human flesh there—the answer was among the cannibals).
Gajdusek established his harem back home in the States—where, of course, he sexually enjoyed the boys. Well, this is all a bit squalid, no? Not quite as romantic as poor old Turing and his apple. Yet Gajdusek genuinely helped humanity (if you want to put it that way)—without him, when the cows went mad nobody would have known why. So hu-hum. No memes about him, there is no mileage in this particular “queer coder”. Why did people put up with it? I mean it must have aroused suspicions—an old dude with a house full of youngsters from around the world? “Gee, guess he just loves kids. What a charitable guy.” “Yes, dear. I’m sure.”
The answer is that people knew but most people are too tied up in their own affairs to make a fuss—or in some way depended on Gajdusek if they were close to him, or they thought like Stalin “his stuff is so good, we can excuse his vices”. When it all came out it was a bit like the Savile affair, except the participants had Nobel Prizes. Everyone pretended to be shocked, yet they also said that Gajdusek deserved special consideration because he was so smart—abnormal ability, abnormal behaviour, abnormal exceptions. “Those boys got a cracker-jack life and education in the United States—plucked from third world poverty. So he felt them up a bit…that’s not such a price to pay for all that. No real harm done.”
Of course, the LGBT agit-prop brigade knows that there is no mileage in a man like Gajdusek—it is entirely the wrong image to create, some notions are just not saleable to the public no matter how packaged and so must be memory-holed; in a sense, the Gajdusek affair is too close to the ideal lifestyle for a “gay man” for comfort.
Gajdusek himself took an existential position on life; he carried a little vial of poison about with him and every morning he woke up and if he felt life was still, on balance, worth living he put the vial away. People like that tend to risk more, anyway—and perhaps we should all have a vial of cyanide to carry about with us. Bottom line: exceptional ability grants exceptions from social norms—yet that is no argument to make your vices legal, or to claim they are desirable.