Conservative Politicians Insult All of France: Another Case Where Both Sides Don’t Do It

American conservatives wasted no time last night in using the recent terrorist atrocities as a vehicle for their own political agendas. In today’s partisan climate that was sadly to be expected.

But several prominent conservatives went so far in their posturing on guns that they managed to insult France and its people in such a way that it engendered an immediate and forceful backlash.

First came Newt Gingrich, who curiously for a conservative Republican suggested that some random number of death metal enthusiasts rock concert attendees be armed and packing:

This led to France 24’s Marc Owen public calling out Newt Gingrich on air with the following:

“So he’s using this atrocity to make his point that people should be able to carry guns basically,” Owen said. “It’s funny how people will very distastefully use this kind of situation to express their own particular political [inaudible]. Newt Gingrich, shame on you.”

Also interestingly, an older Donald Trump tweet from this January made after Charlie Hebdo attack to insult France and its gun laws resurfaced tonight after the French ambassador to the United States apparently mistook it for a reaction to tonight’s news:

The French ambassador has since deleted his own outraged tweet, but the fact remains that Trump did tweet this after Charlie Hebdo and has not apologized for it.

Mother Jones has compiled a list of other outrageous and insensitive statements by prominent conservative figures about the attack, from Judith Miller to Congressman Jeff Duncan to former Congressman Joe Walsh.

The Gingrich and Trump comments are reminiscent of former Texas governor Rick Perry’s statement that America needs more guns in dark, crowded movie theaters. Not only is insinuating that gun control policy is responsible for the deaths in Paris outrageously insensitive, it’s also beyond stupid. The notion that in an environment of darkness and chaos at a death metal concert, an assemblage of random citizens with pistols would have created a less deadly environment when faced with trained terrorists with Kalashnikovs and explosive vests is simply ludicrous. Above and beyond that, of course, is the fact that America’s permissive gun policies lead to a staggering gun death toll that is exponentially bigger than even dozens of terrorist attacks like the one we just saw in Paris.

But none of this fazes the Republican frontrunner for the Presidency and the former GOP Speaker of the House. While earlier this year or last night, they evidently believe it’s not only advisable to promote their destructive views on guns, but to do so in direct response to a terrorist tragedy overseas with significant diplomatic consequences.

You just won’t find anything parallel to this on the American left. The worst example from the left might be by Wikileaks, but even then that’s 1) not an American organization, and 2) was roundly called for being asinine by people of all political stripes, including even the Anonymous twitter account.

In this as in so much else, both sides do not in fact do it. The American Right has truly unilaterally gone off the rails, and last night’s response to the massacre in France is just another example of that.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.