How the world media covered Gabrielle Giffords shooting


The weekend shooting at point blank range of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a U.S. Congresswoman, continued to lead news bulletins worldwide, from Arizona to Australia, on Sunday.

The sheer scale of coverage indicated a high level of interest in the assassination attempt on the Democratic congresswoman as she met constituents in a shopping center in Tucson, Ariz. By Sunday mid-morning there were more than 11,000 articles devoted to the killings on Google News, compared with other world headline news, including South Sudan's vote for independence (1,800), the discovery of 15 headless bodies in Acapulco (722) and the devastating floods in Queensland, Australia (1,300). The story stayed at the top of Google Trends' list of hot topics in the U.S., and in the top 10 worldwide, for most of the morning.

Much of the focus remained on the medical condition of Giffords, still in critical condition Sunday after being shot in the head by a gunman at a public event, and finer details of the story — including the death of a 9-year-old, among five others.

But emphasis had overnight turned to commentary on what the shooting said about "the volatile, febrile state of American politics," as the BBC's Matthew Davis put it.

"Anger, hatred, bigotry" ran the headline on the The Sydney Morning Herald's lead article, which focused on the "vitriolic political debate that has emerged as the U.S. searches for remedies to the bleakest economic times since the Great Depression."

"Vitriolic political talk could have led to Giffords killing," read the Jerusalem Post article, pointing out criticism of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin after her website showed "problematic" states and politicians with gunsight targets on them (Palin has since removed the map).

The international wing of CNN also adopted the angle, with an article headlined, "Shooting throws spotlight on state of U.S. political rhetoric," which quoted officials voicing dismay over the possibility that "highly polarized rhetoric in the conservative hotbed of Arizona may have played a role in the assassination attempt."

Canada's Globe and Mail followed suit, suggesting that the shooting had sent "political shockwaves across America."

"Nothing links the shooter to Ms. Palin, and the former Alaska governor was quick to voice condolences to the gravely-wounded Ms. Giffords, but the atmosphere of divisiveness and hate that pervades American politics will be closely examined in the wake of the assassination attempt," the article read.

Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times, meanwhile, goes as far as to infer from the shooting of Giffords that the political culture of America and Pakistan are on the same trajectory: "Events in both Pakistan and America suggest what happens when you not only disagree with your political opponents – but when you demonise them as enemies of the faith or the nation. At that point, some may conclude that it is legitimate to end the argument with bullets."