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Europe

Press review: This is not America

Little is known about the Tucson assassin's motives, but European editors think the shooting spree was clearly fuelled by extreme political rhetoric in the United States.

Man and woman behind yellow police tape

Political opponents have become targets

The shooting of Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords has reignited a debate in the US over the dangers of extremist political rhetoric. The discussion is no less heated in the European press.

Die Presse from Vienna writes that the Republicans did not argue against the despised health reform - they ranted and raved. The Austrian paper writes that people who brand the US president "Hitler" and call his policies "armageddon" und "holocaust" and allow demonstrators to carry posters with crosshairs of a gunsight over his photo contribute to an atmosphere in which others "are not just political opponents but targets."

"Hatred for Barack Obama, his supporters and everything America's first black president stands for is the manure currently fertilizing US soil," writes Italy's La Repubblica. "Words can become bullets in a society where too many people have too many weapons." And so, the Rome newspaper says, the 22-year-old shooter from Arizona is not an alien: he is a child of "planet America."

But the Spanish daily El Mundo cautions that, so far, the only known fact is that a mentally unstable man shot at a politician. "In politics, there is hardly anything worse than attempting to ascribe an assassination to the victim's political opponents," the Spanish paper says, pointing out that the Arizona shooting is widely being associated with the ultra-conservative Tea-Party movement - although there is no evidence that the shooter had anything to do with the organisation. "Maybe the US needs to ask itself once again whether gun control laws shouldn't be tightened after all," the Madrid paper concludes.

A mirror blurred by hatred

America is shocked and, for the time being, stopped in its tracks, comments Germany's left-leaning Tageszeitung. The paper points out that the Tucson assassination puts a spotlight on the extent to which naked hatred has become part of political rhetoric in the US. The Tucson shooting will leave its mark on the conservative camp, the paper writes. The killings narrow Sarah Palin's chances of asserting herself as a presidential candidate while moderate Republicans stand to profit politically. And they, the Berlin paper says, are just the people Obama needs to help him protect a country bogged down in an economic and ideological crisis from such extremely aggressive anti-democrats.

"Gabrielle Giffords' name will go down in US history written in blood," says Die Welt. "There hasn't been an incident like this since the attack on Ronald Reagan 30 years ago." The Berlin-based newspaper feels that pessimism prevails in a country that used to be so upbeat. "In the wake of the attack on Gabrielle Giffords, Americans are peering into a mirror blurred by hatred and fear. That is not America. Americans and others must ask themselves how the country can come to terms with itself."

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung comments that political violence has rocked the US before, and that in the wake of the Arizona shooting, the writing is on the wall again. "Let's hope that conservative political leaders in the US recognize the fatal, deadly power words have," the German paper writes. "It is time for them to stop short. Otherwise, America again threatens to be caught up in a vicious circle of violence."

Compiled by Dagmar Breitenbach
Editor: Ben Knight

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