Franco-Turkish protesters demonstrate against the bill
Franco-Turkish protesters demonstrate against genocide denial bill Reuters

Now that the French Parliament has passed a bill that will make denying the Armenian genocide a crime punishable by a one year prison sentence and a five figure fine, what other historical events is the nation of liberty, equality and fraternity going to outlaw denying?

Will those who publicly doubt the moon landings have to watch what they say in future? Will Charlie Sheen be required to be more discreet about his views on 9/11 and should we abandon altogether the debate on who discovered America first?

It's lucky that there is such a thing as diplomatic immunity, as presumably the first person to be arrested under this law would be the Turkish ambassador to France, given that he represents a government that refuses to accept that "genocide" is an appropriate description of what happened to Armenians in the early 20th century.

Indeed one wonders what the point of this law is if it is not to annoy Turkey. Is France currently being overrun by wild revisionist historians? Is Marine le Pen making rabid anti-Armenian speeches? Not noticeably in either instance.

No it seems the only prominent organisation to deny or at least downplay the Armenian genocide is the Turkish government itself, which at present does not have to take orders, but is free to take offense from, the French Parliament. So again what is the point of the law, other than to make some vain politicians feel smug about their own goodness, if it is not to wind up Turkey?

Rather than using the law to penalise cranks, some of them sinister, why not bring the power of truth crashing down on those who would attempt to resist it?

Britain's very own Nick Griffin is a case in point. The leader of the British National Party for a long period appeared to be a denier of the Holocaust, he now tries to avoid the subject while occasionally trying to downplay the numbers (which incidentally is what the Turkish government does with the Armenians).

Although he once claimed that the reason he does not talk about his views on the Holocaust is that European law forbids him to do so, more likely the real reason is that he knows if he did air David Irving type views he would be treated with even more contempt than he already is, as most people accept the Holocaust happened.

Why is that? Is it because people are legally required to believe in the Holocaust? No, quite obviously it is because the evidence is so overwhelming that to deny it would be to fly in the face of reason.

If then the French Parliament feels so strongly about the Armenian genocide instead of trying to ban dissenting viewpoints why don't they push to get this particular episode of history, the details of which are not particularly well-known in much of Europe, more widely taught in French schools? This would surely lead to a reduction in the apparently serious problem of Armenian genocide denial.

That would certainly be better than passing laws against denying historical atrocities, which could be a time consuming process. After all why don't they go the full hog and ban denial of the Mai Lai massacre, Stalin's Purges, the French Revolutionary Terror, transatlantic slavery, the Roman occupation of Gaul and the slaughter of the Amalekites? Come to think of it why not outlaw claims that Alexander Graham Bell did not invent the first telephone?

Surely French politicians have something better to do? Perhaps one thing they could do is work on re-building the Franco-Turkish alliance which so scandalised Christian Europe in the 16th century. But then their recent behaviour would suggest they would rather forget about that connection even if they would not dream of denying it.