The Arizona shootings created ample scope for the media to analyse what it says about the modern United States – something they did, as ever, with relish.
There was much talk about Sarah Palin’s role as apparent provoker for the attacks. In the Guardian, Mike Tomasky launched a vitriolic attack on the American right – “Today’s Republicans and conservative commentators surely understand the fire they’re playing with. But they do it, and a tragedy like Saturday’s won’t stop them, as long as they can maintain a phoney plausible deniability and as long as hate continues to pay dividends at the ballot box.” Similarly, for The Independent: “The shooting of Gabrielle Giffords was an event that seemed to grow out of America’s current climate”. They also drew an interesting link with her recent reelection to Congress, reflecting “Giffords was narrowly re-elected against a Tea Party Republican named Jesse Kelly, who, as a 6ft 8in former sergeant in the US Marine Corps, found it natural to conduct his political campaign in the language of warfare”.
But, as ever, the Daily Mail found much to loathe in the left’s reaction. In keeping with the ‘liberal media’ stereotype that Fox News, talk show hosts and Palin herself so love to propagate, they lamented “How America’s elite hijacked a massacre to take revenge on Sarah Palin”. They were particularly strong on the hypocrisy charge, and “Democrats exploiting the shooting of a nine-year-old girl and five others at the weekend with precisely the sort of foam-flecked over-reaction for which they love to condemn their opponents on the Right.”
The Daily Telegraph needed no encouragement to join in the liberal-bashing either. Toby Harnden lamented “The unseemly rush to blame Sarah Palin, the Tea Party and Republicans for murder in Arizona” and how the media refused to acknowledge one classmate’s desciption of the gunman’s political views as “left wing, quite liberal” because they were “highly inconvenient”. But, defying their reputation as the defender of all things right-wing, they argued “The American political classes would do better to focus on gun-control laws that allow, in Arizona, a 22-year-old with mental health problems to buy a Glock 19 handgun. But with the President (and indeed Miss Gifford) staunch defenders of the individual’s Second Amendment right to bear arms, such a debate is unlikely to get very far.”