Update below: Nearly a dozen years later, the shootings at Columbine High School continue to be a go-to reference point whenever mass killings such as Jared Loughner's murderous attack in Arizona take place.
That's especially true in the British press, which frequently portrays American society as increasingly violent and bloody, as seen in two major pieces published since news broke about the deaths of six people and the critical wounding of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Of course, Brits haven't been the only journos to drop the Columbine name in the context of Loughner's horrific actions. Note New York Post columnist John Podhoretz's just published "The Rush to Blame," which begins:
We will know.
This is how the murderous slaughter in Tucson differs from the Virginia Tech and Columbine massacres. The killers in those cases were dead by the time they ended, and their suicides ensured we would never be able to get to the bottom of them -- what combination of their own genes, upbringing and cultural influences led these monsters to such bottomless evil.
But Jared Loughner isn't dead.
Still, there's a different tone to a January 9 piece in London's Daily Mail, which cites the Columbine body count in a section entitled "Was American politics to blame?" The note follows hot on the heels of a typically hot-button paragraph:
A congressional insider said last night: "A lot of people hated Gabrielle. Her misfortune is that she lives in a country where, if you disagree with someone, you can go down to your local supermarket, buy an automatic, kill them and be seen as a hero."
And then there's this more general portrait of Colorado extremism in the wake of Loughner's assault, from Guardian columnist Gary Younge:
Jared Loughner, the suspect in Saturday's shooting spree in Arizona, was not working alone. True, the rampage apparently emerged from his confused, unstable and troubled mind. But it was also the byproduct of a polarised political culture underpinned by increasingly vitriolic, violent and vituperative rhetoric and symbolism.
Fights outside town hall meetings, guns outside rallies, Facebook pages calling for assassinations, discussions about the most propitious moment for armed insurrection. In late October I asked a man in the quaint town of Salida, Colorado, if President Barack Obama had done anything worthwhile. "Well he's increased the guns and ammunitions industry exponentially," he said. "My friends are stockpiling."
Update, 8:42 p.m.: Just published -- a piece on the Beyond Binaries blog about the Jared Loughner shootings by Dave Cullen, author of the book Columbine. Among other things, Cullen comments on mentions of Columbine on ABC's This Week by George Stephanopoulos. To read the post, click here.
More from our News archive: "Kristin & Candice Hermeler: Suicide-pact twins' Columbine fascination deeper than admitted."
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