Now nearly one week later, nothing needs to be added about Sandy Hook. But for those who haven’t followed, National Review yesterday outrageously editorialized the tragedy by insinuating Sandy Hook was a victim not only of gun violence, but somehow feminist politics as well.
NRO’s Charlotte Allen asserts that men would have stopped at Lanza–lamenting the absence of even one “janitor to heave his bucket at Adam Lanza’s knees”–and was widely mocked on the web, winning Andrew Sullivan’s prestigious Malkin Award. And for good reason: the contention isn’t so much sexist as stupid. Allen’s contention resembles a bad action novel rather than some 50’s-era trip (although I don’t recall men being impervious to military grade weaponry in any decade). Still, what a cunning way to divert attention from one culture war argument by fallaciously aggravating another; as if to say it was their domesticity that killed the 18 children, and not the assault rifle with internet-purchased bullets.
But it turns out NRO’s blaming of a “feminized setting” at Sandy Hook isn’t just outrageous. It’s also inaccurate.
These are screenshots from the Sandy Hook staff page. True, the overwhelming majority of staff are women. But there is a male fourth grade teacher. And true to form for NRO’s archetypal vacuity, sure enough at the top of the page is the male Head Custodian. He’s also the only janitor listed on staff that I can see.
The point isn’t to NRO’s politics—they’re insensitive beyond measure. It’s NRO’s journalistic credibility (if it still values that sort of thing). I don’t expect any website—including this one—to account for every single fact in a guest post. But there is obvious mendacity going on in Charlotte Allen’s writing. Look at the usage of “seems” in her claim that there was no janitor, and the obvious implication of a 100% female staff. And to NRO’s putative responsibility, here’s a helpful checklist: if it’s after a national tragedy, unnecessarily interpolates the culture wars into the mourning, and is sure to inflame average readers, maybe do a basic fact check? It’s not like this information was hard to retrieve, a la recent debates about the ethics of interviewing children. It was just a quick trip to the Sandy Hook website, up and running. I mean, come on.