3

Do you know why people like violence, Hugh?
It's because it feels good.
Sometimes we can't do what feels good.
We have to do what is logical.
- What's logical?
Hardest time to lie to somebody is when they're expecting to be lied to.
- Oh, God.
- What?
If someone's waiting for a lie, you can't just, er, give them one.

Video of the scene (relevant part starts at 1:12):

Though I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, I'm a bit puzzled by this dialogue. I'm trying to figure out how the references to lying are connected with allowing the sinking of the passenger convoy, though it supposedly could have been stopped. Maybe someone else out there spent some time trying to make some sense of this exchange.

3
  • Thanks. I need to put more thought into asking this question and also research if this was a dialog actually carried on by Turing and his team after they had broken the enigma code.
    – ed huff
    May 21, 2023 at 1:09
  • 1
    Related: movies.stackexchange.com/questions/104667/…
    – GendoIkari
    May 21, 2023 at 14:46
  • @edhuff The team and dialog were made up. Most of what they show Turing doing at Bletchley was really done by others (who were good at their jobs, not the buffoons the movie portrayed them as), if it happened at all. Turing designed the bombes, but didn't engineer, build, or operate them. He had no power over the decryption process, and presumably wouldn't have betrayed his country by concealing the results even if he'd been able. (This isn't even the only traitorous act the movie invented – the subplot where he passes secrets to a spy was also fiction.)
    – benrg
    May 29, 2023 at 3:29

1 Answer 1

4

It's all said in Alan's remark while he's on the floor wiping off the blood on his nose: "What would the Germans think?"

In wartime, enemies are expected to lie. They know they're spied on, so they allow false information to leak in the middle of true (but unimportant) information. The goal is to mislead the enemy. You must not only know what the enemy knows, but you must have him think you know less or don't even know. And you try to control what information he gets.

In this scene, if they help the ships by saving them, then the Germans' first thought will be: "How did the English know?". Their second thought will be: "They know because they broke our code". Period. There's no maybe in wartime. You know or you don't.

In this case, Alan's logic just says that. Don't tell them the truth ("we broke Enigma"), but lie to them. But lie with cleverness. Lie and lie again. Use the information from Enigma wisely. Once in a while, use the information like if you were lucky, but not more. When he was younger, Alan said:

When people talk to each other, they never say what they mean. They say something else, and you’re expected to just know what they mean.

I think he wants to do exactly that, but with the Germans wrongly understanding.

It is said that Winston Churchill knew about the bombing of Coventry (although he knew about a bombing, it was not about this particular bombing). There's an interesting paragraph (Coventry and ultra, and it's all about "what do we let them know that we (don't) know?

5
  • So very helpful. Thank you!
    – ed huff
    May 21, 2023 at 13:15
  • Glad it helped :)
    – OldPadawan
    May 21, 2023 at 16:19
  • 2
    It is worth noting that the British, in reality (the movie only hints at this) spent a lot of effort concocting a major fake spy network to explain some of the Bletchley intelligence. This also helped use the source without revealing that the codes had been cracked. The movie only hints at the extreme difficulty of using a source when overuse of it alters the enemy.
    – matt_black
    May 22, 2023 at 11:15
  • "Maintain a conspiracy of lies through the highest levels of our government?" I'm wondering how that actually worked. Maybe the book fleshes that out. Thanks Matt.
    – ed huff
    May 29, 2023 at 15:51
  • Matt, have you read The Imitation Game by Hodges? I'm trying to determine if it's worth a read b/c of its size!
    – ed huff
    May 30, 2023 at 12:01

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .