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In Arizona shooting, Europe sees an America gripped by doubt, pessimism

The Arizona shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has gotten extensive coverage in London, Berlin, and Paris. A German paper stated that the motto 'Yes, we can' has been pushed aside by the financial crisis and two wars.

By Staff Writer / January 10, 2011

Well-wishers gather for a candlelight vigil outside the offices US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in Tucson, Ariz., Sunday, Jan. 9.

Chris Carlson/AP

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Paris

European reaction to the Gabrielle Giffords Arizona shooting is seen strongly through the lens of the tea party rhetoric and as symptomatic of a superpower in decline and at the mercy of “radical” politics.

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With significant play in London, Berlin, and Paris, the actions of alleged shooter Jared Lee Loughner are seen as typically American and not surprising in Arizona, where citizens can carry concealed handguns without a permit, something considered unthinkable here.

The Giffords story in Europe today mirrored questions in US media about the degree to which anger, conspiracy theories, and intemperate talk show rhetoric is to blame for the context of the shooting.

France's daily Le Monde asked if Ms. Giffords’ shooting “is the tea party’s fault?” and Le Figaro’s Washington correspondent opined that “The political climate in the US is sick.” The London-based Economist asked today “Are Words to Blame?” Agence France-Presse described “Hate rhetoric is in target sights,” in the US.

Much of the German editorial position on Giffords was strongly accusatory of the political climate in the US in recent years.

The conservative Die Welt stated today that: “This murderous attack came from an atmosphere of discord and self-doubt, because America is experiencing the limits of its power on a daily basis, whether it be on distant fronts or with dissatisfaction at home. It has never been like this. There always was the motto: ‘Yes, we can.’ Today, widespread pessimism prevails, because of the financial crisis, and because of Iraq and Afghanistan, lost battles ..."

Resonance in rise of anti-immigration, anti-Islamic rhetoric

If there is a “resonance point” with Europe in the Giffords shooting, it may be in the rise of anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic rhetoric and right-wing sentiment on the Continent and fears that have been steadily raised about them. However, much of the overall style and direction of those new European anti-immigration politics has been to “mainstream” them in ways considered reasonable for centrist and middle-class voters.

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