Red faces and rough justice

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					THE CANBERRA TIMES SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER, 26, 2009                                                                                                                                        FORUM 17

Life & times

Red faces and rough justice
                                                                                                                                                          ing to the navy and army, as well as
Craig Gamble                                                                                                                                              those belonging to NASA and the
FAST LIVING                                                                                                                                               Pentagon. His obsession ruined his
                                                                                                                                                          daily life, causing him to lose his job
                                                                                                                                                          and his girlfriend, before he was
                                                                                                                                                          finally caught after brazenly leaving

                                                                                                                                                          messages inside the machines he
               ou might have read last                                                                                                                    hacked. McKinnon has since been
               week about British                                                                                                                         diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome
               Prime Minister Gordon                                                                                                                      and his obsession could have easily
               Brown issuing a formal                                                                                                                     been a symptom of that, along with
               apology to Alan Turing.                                                                                                                    his inability to judge realistically the
               Turing was probably                                                                                                                        consequences of his actions.
               one of the greatest                                                                                                                           The case has raised the hackles of
mathematicians of the century. He                                                                                                                         campaigners in Britain, who see it as
carried out vital work during World                                                                                                                       a heavy-handed action by the US
War II to help break German codes                                                                                                                         Government, trying to lord it over
made by the Enigma machine, thus                                                                                                                          Britain, and who see McKinnon as
giving the Allies crucial information                                                                                                                     someone who needs help rather than
to use against the Germans. After the                                                                                                                     imprisonment. McKinnon and his
war he was heavily involved in the                                                                                                                        mother, who has campaigned
creation of modern computers and                                                                                                                          fiercely on his behalf against extra-
artificial intelligence, working                                                                                                                          dition, admit he acted stupidly, but
among other things on the                                                                                                                                 she and medical experts are con-
Manchester Mark 1 at Manchester                                                                                                                           cerned imprisonment in a high-
University, considered by many to be                                                                                                                      security facility in the US will do
the forerunner of all modern                                                                                                                              irreparable harm to his mental
computers. The tragedy of Turing’s                                                                                                                        health, and that he should be tried –
life was he was persecuted for his                                                                                                                        and serve whatever sentence is
homosexuality, after admitting to a                                                                                                                       decided upon – in Britain.
sexual relationship with a man in                                                                                                                            But it seems the US Government
1952. Only two years after being                                                                                                                          has decided to pursue this case as
given an experimental sentence of                                                                                                                         hard as it can, in effect making
chemical castration – the choice                                                                                                                          McKinnon a scapegoat, when it
being between that or prison –                                                                                                                            seems more likely he is, in his own
Turing killed himself; he was only 41.                                                                                                                    words, more ‘‘a bumbling computer
   There is no doubt Turing was                                                                                                                           nerd’’ than a threat to national
treated, in the words of the prime                                                                                                                        security. One of the government
minister’s apology, in a ‘‘horrifying’’                                                                                                                   arguments for doing so is the cost, in
and ‘‘utterly unfair’’ way, along with                                                                                                                    time and money, to fix the problems
thousands of other gay men of the                                                                                                                         McKinnon caused, but the $700,000
time. Because of that persecution,                                                                                                                        figure mentioned by government
the contributions Turing might have                                                                                                                       lawyers seems hardly enough to
made to mathematics and science                                                                                                                           justify the venom of this pursuit.
were lost, and some of the truly          the crime is hacking into US govern-        McKinnon is more than likely telling                                   The US Government fails to see the
revolutionary ideas he fostered were      ment computers, and US officials            the truth when he says he did it                                    bigger picture. They have been
not nearly well enough applauded          have some legitimate concerns over                                                                              caught asleep in the digital world,
                                                                                      without malicious intent, and in an
during his short life.                                                                                                                                    deeply negligent in their security
                                          the security of government files. But       attempt to satisfy his obsession with
   The apology resonated for me with                                                                                                                      around their own classified infor-
                                          the government heavy-handedness             UFOs and extraterrestrials. He
another British case I’ve followed,                                                                                                                       mation, and they’ve been shown up
that of the ongoing attempts by the       in both cases shows a surprising            convinced himself the US Govern-
                                                                                                                                                          by a man working alone in his flat in
United States Government to extra-        inability to see the bigger picture.        ment was withholding information
                                                                                                                                                          Britain on a cheap PC.
dite British hacker Gary McKinnon         Gary McKinnon lost his latest appeal        about these things, and decided to
                                                                                                                                                             That’s the connection with Turing.
for trial. I’m not drawing any com-       against extradition to the US early         use his computer skills to hack their       Doggedly pursued: The   In both cases the government
parison between the two ‘‘crimes’’ in     this month, so he will face trial for       computers in to uncover it. Possibly        US wants to extradite   actions are reactions to red-faced
question. In Turing’s case there was      hacking into several government             more scary than any government              Gary McKinnon for       embarrassment on their part.
no crime – except the discrimination      computers, including some in the            alien-hiding conspiracy is the ease         accessing US
then enshrined in law against             Pentagon, an act to which he readily        with which he was able to do it. He         government computers.
homosexuals. In McKinnon’s case           admits. However, it’s emerging that         accessed military computers belong-         Photo: REUTERS

As action on the field begins, action off the field slows
                                          leisure in our so-called ‘‘new’’ flexible   and parkas are painstakingly colour-                                jumping up and sitting down. The
SLOW LIVING                               economy. The sweaty display of              coded to signify fan loyalty and pride                              mass footy-cheer erupts like a vol-
                                          hyper-masculine competitive speed is        in the exquisitely exciting lead-up to                              cano and, like lava, quickly turns into
                                          a catalyst for the rest of us to stop. As   ‘‘the big game’’. For the live spectator,                           stone-like stillness as fans wait for the
                                          the action on the field commences,          a toilet run, a drink, a pie, or a giant
                                          action off the field ends. Spectator        foam finger require considered
                                                                                                                                  AFL fandom is           opportunity to relive their victorious
                                                                                                                                  a nationally            moment at a more leisurely pace,
Hundreds of thousands of Australian       bums pause for hours at a time on           movement and careful negotiation                                    during the slow-motion replay.
fans practise a weekly winter cel-        stadium seats, bar stools, plastic TAB      through a heaving ocean of bodies.          acceptable
                                                                                                                                                             Post-game, defeated or elated, slow
ebration of slow as they press pause      chairs, armchairs and couches. Grand        Movement for millions more, the             excuse to put           AFL spectators depart in search of
                                          Final Day is the climax of a winter’s       indoor fans, only need be from hand
on busy weekend schedules, and
                                          worth of simmering, slow-cooking            to mouth, from couch to fridge. To
                                                                                                                                  the brakes              exhausted, drunken, corpse-like still-
manic working weeks, to ‘‘watch the
game’’. AFL spectatorship catalyses a     spectatorship. Fans salivate as a long-     venture outside on Grand Final Day          on the                  ness to put their deliciously slow
communal ritual of slow nationalism       awaited sporting banquet is served.         finds an otherworldly, peaceful             accelerating            sporting journey into hibernation for
as bodies from Perth to Hobart sit in     Whole cities, suburbs and states come       silence as major cities transform into      blur between            the summer, and lapse into a blissful
couch-swathed stillness, transfixed       to a standstill as spectators are           ghost towns. Spectator slowness is                                  sleep.
on a sport that the Australian nation     collected like snowballs.                   punctuated by the excitement of the
                                                                                                                                  work and
claims as its own.                           Mobs queue outside local ticket          goal when bums leap off seats, hands        leisure.
  AFL fandom is a nationally accept-      vendors, forming a snake of frozen          fly into the air and voices rise into the                           Dr Rebecca Jane Bennett is a member
able excuse to put the brakes on the      stillness wrapped in downy war-             atmosphere. Passion explodes in                                     of the Centre for Everyday Life at Murdoch
accelerating blur between work and        paint. Sleeping bags, scarves, beanies      simple, repetitive vertical action:                                 University.

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