The exotic and sinister world of Iowa

You’ve got to read Mollie Hemingway’s take down of that article in The Atlantic, in which University of Iowa journalism professor Stephen Bloom ridicules the state that pays his salary for being religious, for having so many farmers, for eating casseroles, and other rather normal qualities that he finds shocking.

I’ll just quote Mollie’s introduction, with its great story from her father, but you’ll want to read the whole thing:

My dad used to tell me a story about a man getting off of a train and asking the station manager for information about the town he’d just arrived in. “What’s the town you’re from like?” the station manager asks. The man explains that it’s not very nice. The people aren’t that smart or nice and the food isn’t that great and you can’t keep a job and the ladies are all uppity. “Well, I imagine you’ll find this town’s a lot like that, too,” the station manager responds. When the next train stops, another man gets off and asks the station manager the same question. “What’s the town you’re from like?” the station manager asks. The second man explains that he was blessed to come from a beautiful town with nice people full of interesting conversation and fun hobbies. People work hard, the kids are generally fun and he misses it terribly. “Well, I imagine you’ll find this town’s a lot like that, too,” the station manager responds.

You get the point. Well, I thought of that story when I read this absolutely hilarious (unintentionally, I should mention) piece in The Atlantic about how much University of Iowa journalism professor Stephen G. Bloom loathes his state.

via Iowa’s ‘uneducated Jesus freaks’ » GetReligion.

Be sure to follow her links to this  parody of Bloom’s article and to the reaction of Iowans.

But what conclusions can we draw from this?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Tom Hering

    “But what conclusions can we draw from this?”

    The word “casserole” is like the Name of God. The latter is not to be used in Catholic masses (anymore), and the former is not to be used in articles about Iowa – lest the wrath of a multitude be unleashed.

  • Tom Hering

    “But what conclusions can we draw from this?”

    The word “casserole” is like the Name of God. The latter is not to be used in Catholic masses (anymore), and the former is not to be used in articles about Iowa – lest the wrath of a multitude be unleashed.

  • SKPeterson

    I’m an Iowan by birth (born in Des Moines) and spent my early childhood in Sioux City, where my parents are from. (LCMS insider note: Matt Harrison is a graduate of the same college my father graduated from – Sioux City’s very own Morningside College. It’s even a Methodist school, natch!)

    I read the article and I thought Bloom characterized the state quite well in many respects, at least in his first part, the “mythic” Iowa. That he is actually dismissive of the people he writes about and their oh so pedestrian ways is the real shocker. Why, I wonder, would he have accepted a job at the University of Iowa in the first place? If it’s such a terrible place, why stay?

    Now, I would say that jobs and people have been leaving Iowa for longer than 25 years. Sioux City once had about 120,000 people, several factories and meat packing plants (the Sioux City Stockyards were once the #2 behind those of Chicago), and other assorted businesses. Yet, the factories started closing and moving to Mexico or elsewhere in the early 70′s. Meat packers left for greener pastures about the same time and Sioux City’s population collapsed close to its current population (a decline of almost 33%) in 20 years or so. I cannot think of a single childhood friend that grew up on my block on Paxton St. or that I knew at our local social club, er… church, that still lives in state. Besides corn and beans and hogs, Iowa’s greatest export is not ethanol, it’s people.

    I love Sioux City, or at least my memories of it. We could leave our mothers at 8 am and return at 5 or so for dinner without our parents going into a tizzy. We rode our bikes or walked all over from the muddy banks of the Floyd River to the bluffs and ravines that led down to the confluence with the Missouri, to the college where I learned to swim. There was never a time in which I felt threatened, endangered or frightened by my surroundings. You watched out for traffic when crossing the busy streets and, if needed, you could always walk down to the intersection by the edge of campus and Peters Park and have the nice police officer stop traffic for you to cross over to the library. And downtown was the Orpheum Theater where about once per week in the summer all of us would be piled into a collection of cars by our mothers and sent to see the afternoon matinee – usually a Walt Disney feature with some cartoons. I will also note that western Iowa lays claim not only to the Eskimo pie, but just to the north of Sioux City is Le Mars, home of Wells Blue Bunny ice cream.

    As to Rep. Steve King and his “outlandish” ideas; western Iowa, or at least Sioux City, was represented for several years by Fred Grandy, most famous as “Gopher” from The Love Boat.

    In many respects, the parochialism derided by Bloom is a large part of Iowa’s charm. Everything may be up to date in Kansas City, but River City is doing just fine as it is, thank you very much. In fact, this parochialism is quite similar to that lovingly espoused by a far better writer than Bloom, J.R.R. Tolkien, who used the parochial farmers and communities of the English Midlands as his model for the Shire – the place everyone wants to visit who reads The Hobbit and everything worth fighting for in The Lord of the Rings. Who cares about Minas Tirith (Chicago or the Twin Cities for me as a kid)? Give me Hobbiton (Sioux City)!

  • SKPeterson

    I’m an Iowan by birth (born in Des Moines) and spent my early childhood in Sioux City, where my parents are from. (LCMS insider note: Matt Harrison is a graduate of the same college my father graduated from – Sioux City’s very own Morningside College. It’s even a Methodist school, natch!)

    I read the article and I thought Bloom characterized the state quite well in many respects, at least in his first part, the “mythic” Iowa. That he is actually dismissive of the people he writes about and their oh so pedestrian ways is the real shocker. Why, I wonder, would he have accepted a job at the University of Iowa in the first place? If it’s such a terrible place, why stay?

    Now, I would say that jobs and people have been leaving Iowa for longer than 25 years. Sioux City once had about 120,000 people, several factories and meat packing plants (the Sioux City Stockyards were once the #2 behind those of Chicago), and other assorted businesses. Yet, the factories started closing and moving to Mexico or elsewhere in the early 70′s. Meat packers left for greener pastures about the same time and Sioux City’s population collapsed close to its current population (a decline of almost 33%) in 20 years or so. I cannot think of a single childhood friend that grew up on my block on Paxton St. or that I knew at our local social club, er… church, that still lives in state. Besides corn and beans and hogs, Iowa’s greatest export is not ethanol, it’s people.

    I love Sioux City, or at least my memories of it. We could leave our mothers at 8 am and return at 5 or so for dinner without our parents going into a tizzy. We rode our bikes or walked all over from the muddy banks of the Floyd River to the bluffs and ravines that led down to the confluence with the Missouri, to the college where I learned to swim. There was never a time in which I felt threatened, endangered or frightened by my surroundings. You watched out for traffic when crossing the busy streets and, if needed, you could always walk down to the intersection by the edge of campus and Peters Park and have the nice police officer stop traffic for you to cross over to the library. And downtown was the Orpheum Theater where about once per week in the summer all of us would be piled into a collection of cars by our mothers and sent to see the afternoon matinee – usually a Walt Disney feature with some cartoons. I will also note that western Iowa lays claim not only to the Eskimo pie, but just to the north of Sioux City is Le Mars, home of Wells Blue Bunny ice cream.

    As to Rep. Steve King and his “outlandish” ideas; western Iowa, or at least Sioux City, was represented for several years by Fred Grandy, most famous as “Gopher” from The Love Boat.

    In many respects, the parochialism derided by Bloom is a large part of Iowa’s charm. Everything may be up to date in Kansas City, but River City is doing just fine as it is, thank you very much. In fact, this parochialism is quite similar to that lovingly espoused by a far better writer than Bloom, J.R.R. Tolkien, who used the parochial farmers and communities of the English Midlands as his model for the Shire – the place everyone wants to visit who reads The Hobbit and everything worth fighting for in The Lord of the Rings. Who cares about Minas Tirith (Chicago or the Twin Cities for me as a kid)? Give me Hobbiton (Sioux City)!

  • SKPeterson

    And I love cheesy potato and ham casseroles, egg casseroles, noodle casseroles and the egg casseroles, but please leave the carrots out of the jello. That’s as wrong as tapioca or rhubarb, no matter what my mom says.

  • SKPeterson

    And I love cheesy potato and ham casseroles, egg casseroles, noodle casseroles and the egg casseroles, but please leave the carrots out of the jello. That’s as wrong as tapioca or rhubarb, no matter what my mom says.

  • Tom Hering

    “If it’s such a terrible place, why stay?”

    Because he doesn’t feel it’s such a terrible place? But overly sensitive/defensive types, as they read between the lines of Bloom’s article, have no doubt he feels it’s a terrible place. Because, you know, he’s not a flatterer, and he’s not a native Iowan. He’s from a big city! On the Left Coast! And he’s (choke) a professor! At (gag) a university!

  • Tom Hering

    “If it’s such a terrible place, why stay?”

    Because he doesn’t feel it’s such a terrible place? But overly sensitive/defensive types, as they read between the lines of Bloom’s article, have no doubt he feels it’s a terrible place. Because, you know, he’s not a flatterer, and he’s not a native Iowan. He’s from a big city! On the Left Coast! And he’s (choke) a professor! At (gag) a university!

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    Iowa (speaking broadly) embodies those virtues that liberals say they want–community, sharing, raising children in a “village.” But the reality of that way of life appalls them, as it brings with it necessary concommitants–shared values, shared culture, lack of privacy. Small town people dream of cities, where they’ll have some anonymity. City people dream of small towns, where they’ll be part of a community. In general, though, people live where they really want to.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    Iowa (speaking broadly) embodies those virtues that liberals say they want–community, sharing, raising children in a “village.” But the reality of that way of life appalls them, as it brings with it necessary concommitants–shared values, shared culture, lack of privacy. Small town people dream of cities, where they’ll have some anonymity. City people dream of small towns, where they’ll be part of a community. In general, though, people live where they really want to.

  • Tom Hering

    Lars @ 5, city folk know nothing of community, sharing, raising children? Or of the concomitants – shared values, shared culture, lack of privacy? It would, I think, surprise them to hear this.

    This really is a tempest in a crock pot.

  • Tom Hering

    Lars @ 5, city folk know nothing of community, sharing, raising children? Or of the concomitants – shared values, shared culture, lack of privacy? It would, I think, surprise them to hear this.

    This really is a tempest in a crock pot.

  • Kirk

    I’ve never been to Iowa, but I imagine it’s exactly like every Bruce Springsteen song.

    I don’t think that Stephen Bloom’s article was horribly unfair or even deeply critical. His description of Iowa is pretty similar to how I would describe my time in Western PA. It’s rural, poor, isolated and full of people that are very, very different from coastal dwellers. It has its charms, to be sure, but it can be depressing and strange, especially if you are at all different from the majority of the population. I’m from the coast and I found it difficult to build relationships because I’m not a life long hunter, don’t care for trucks and wasn’t pursuing a blue collar career. But I left for greener pastures. I didn’t stay and complain.

    I imagine that a Pennsylvanian or Iowan, were they to move to DC, would have their share of complaints to level about life in the middle Atlantic, and they’d probably be legitimate. But they’d be criticizing what is “normal” life for many millions of Americans.

    Different Americans do lead different lives. This notion that one type of American experience is more normal or legitimate than another is ridiculous. To say that Midwestern agrarianism is indicative of the American experience is flat wrong. Only about 20% of Americans live in the midwest. Only 2% of Americans farm. Casseroles and hunting may be normal to them, but to the millions of people that live in cities along the coasts, it’s not. The point of Bloom’s article is that Iowa is not indicative of the political or social dispositions of most Americans, which is true. Sure, he could have brought up the nice things about Iowa that he likes and the article would have been more balanced, but his description (this, again, from a person that’s not been to Iowa) doesn’t seem grossly unfair.

  • Kirk

    I’ve never been to Iowa, but I imagine it’s exactly like every Bruce Springsteen song.

    I don’t think that Stephen Bloom’s article was horribly unfair or even deeply critical. His description of Iowa is pretty similar to how I would describe my time in Western PA. It’s rural, poor, isolated and full of people that are very, very different from coastal dwellers. It has its charms, to be sure, but it can be depressing and strange, especially if you are at all different from the majority of the population. I’m from the coast and I found it difficult to build relationships because I’m not a life long hunter, don’t care for trucks and wasn’t pursuing a blue collar career. But I left for greener pastures. I didn’t stay and complain.

    I imagine that a Pennsylvanian or Iowan, were they to move to DC, would have their share of complaints to level about life in the middle Atlantic, and they’d probably be legitimate. But they’d be criticizing what is “normal” life for many millions of Americans.

    Different Americans do lead different lives. This notion that one type of American experience is more normal or legitimate than another is ridiculous. To say that Midwestern agrarianism is indicative of the American experience is flat wrong. Only about 20% of Americans live in the midwest. Only 2% of Americans farm. Casseroles and hunting may be normal to them, but to the millions of people that live in cities along the coasts, it’s not. The point of Bloom’s article is that Iowa is not indicative of the political or social dispositions of most Americans, which is true. Sure, he could have brought up the nice things about Iowa that he likes and the article would have been more balanced, but his description (this, again, from a person that’s not been to Iowa) doesn’t seem grossly unfair.

  • Kirk

    @5

    My neighborhood is pretty communal. I know everyone on my half of the block and regularly have social interaction with all of them, beyond simple hellos. To be sure, we don’t have the homogeneity that you’d find in a small down, my neighborhood is diverse, but it doesn’t mean we don’t share values or culture. And as to privacy, I’ve got a single brick wall between where I lay my head and where my neighbor lays his. There’s no privacy in the city.

    If you want anonymity, move to the suburbs.

  • Kirk

    @5

    My neighborhood is pretty communal. I know everyone on my half of the block and regularly have social interaction with all of them, beyond simple hellos. To be sure, we don’t have the homogeneity that you’d find in a small down, my neighborhood is diverse, but it doesn’t mean we don’t share values or culture. And as to privacy, I’ve got a single brick wall between where I lay my head and where my neighbor lays his. There’s no privacy in the city.

    If you want anonymity, move to the suburbs.

  • Mike

    It’s interesting to me how the illuminati in the various universities are often quick to rise to the defense of those whose culture is different from their own with the notable exception of midwesterners. Where’s the fabled open-minded objectivity that they claim to have?

    Midwesterners are calm, smart, capable and resourceful. They are the doers in this country. They grow most of the food and they do it exceedingly well. They don’t brag much because their hard work and ingenuity speaks for itself.

    Who would I rather have with me on the proverbial desert island? Certainly not a whiney $7 dollar latte swilling East Coaster. I have to go with the calm, strong, and can-do Midwesterner with is pen knife every single time.

  • Mike

    It’s interesting to me how the illuminati in the various universities are often quick to rise to the defense of those whose culture is different from their own with the notable exception of midwesterners. Where’s the fabled open-minded objectivity that they claim to have?

    Midwesterners are calm, smart, capable and resourceful. They are the doers in this country. They grow most of the food and they do it exceedingly well. They don’t brag much because their hard work and ingenuity speaks for itself.

    Who would I rather have with me on the proverbial desert island? Certainly not a whiney $7 dollar latte swilling East Coaster. I have to go with the calm, strong, and can-do Midwesterner with is pen knife every single time.

  • Tom Hering

    You’d prefer a coconut casserole to a coconut latte?

  • Tom Hering

    You’d prefer a coconut casserole to a coconut latte?

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    I think the most telling thing of the Bloom article is that it played up every stereotype of “flyover country” the people on the coasts hold. He is playing to the exact same crowd Obama was when he made his “guns and religion” comment. Bloom is essentially feeding into the coastal superiority complex, while bolstering his perceived notion he is better than others because he doesn’t assume a dog is used for hunting (if he didn’t want hunting comments he shouldn’t have bought a hunting breed).

    I have seen articles like this before, but they usually substitute Texas for Iowa, Brisket for casserole, and add Friday Night Football. Instead of remarking how everybody is fleeing this hellhole of ignorance and backwardness wonder why major businesses are all leaving the bastions of culture and intellectualism of the East and West coast.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    I think the most telling thing of the Bloom article is that it played up every stereotype of “flyover country” the people on the coasts hold. He is playing to the exact same crowd Obama was when he made his “guns and religion” comment. Bloom is essentially feeding into the coastal superiority complex, while bolstering his perceived notion he is better than others because he doesn’t assume a dog is used for hunting (if he didn’t want hunting comments he shouldn’t have bought a hunting breed).

    I have seen articles like this before, but they usually substitute Texas for Iowa, Brisket for casserole, and add Friday Night Football. Instead of remarking how everybody is fleeing this hellhole of ignorance and backwardness wonder why major businesses are all leaving the bastions of culture and intellectualism of the East and West coast.

  • SKPeterson

    The other name for coconut casserole is coconut meringue pie, Tom. And, yes, I’ll take that over the latte.

  • SKPeterson

    The other name for coconut casserole is coconut meringue pie, Tom. And, yes, I’ll take that over the latte.

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    Personally, I think Phil Hartman did this bit better, but then… that was intended to be humorous.

    Seriously, Tom(@4)? One has to read between the lines to get the idea he doesn’t particularly like Iowa? Bloom is being so very subtle that one has to be overly sensitive to pick up on it? That would be the second funniest thing I’ve read today.

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    Personally, I think Phil Hartman did this bit better, but then… that was intended to be humorous.

    Seriously, Tom(@4)? One has to read between the lines to get the idea he doesn’t particularly like Iowa? Bloom is being so very subtle that one has to be overly sensitive to pick up on it? That would be the second funniest thing I’ve read today.

  • Peter S.
  • Peter S.
  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    What I’m getting is an exquisite irony from this ostensibly liberal academic. Who is being parochial here? Who is violating the tenets of multiculturalism? Who is “marginalizing the other”? Who is being “classist” from a position of privilege? [Apply other academic bromides as they occur to you.]

    And the other problem is that he isn’t even being accurate. Not only in the mistakes and misrepresentations he makes in the article (there was no “He is Risen” headline), but in his missing how in many ways Iowans are on his side. The casserole-eaters of Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota have a strong populist tradition, which means they can be extremely liberal. I mean, Iowa is one of the six states (and the only one not in the Northeast) to allow gay marriage!

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    What I’m getting is an exquisite irony from this ostensibly liberal academic. Who is being parochial here? Who is violating the tenets of multiculturalism? Who is “marginalizing the other”? Who is being “classist” from a position of privilege? [Apply other academic bromides as they occur to you.]

    And the other problem is that he isn’t even being accurate. Not only in the mistakes and misrepresentations he makes in the article (there was no “He is Risen” headline), but in his missing how in many ways Iowans are on his side. The casserole-eaters of Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota have a strong populist tradition, which means they can be extremely liberal. I mean, Iowa is one of the six states (and the only one not in the Northeast) to allow gay marriage!

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    That poor man suffering all those years in Iowa.

    He needs a professorship in the Congo so he can recover from the trauma of Iowa.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    That poor man suffering all those years in Iowa.

    He needs a professorship in the Congo so he can recover from the trauma of Iowa.

  • Cincinnatus

    Some Iowan friends/colleagues were passing this around a few weeks back. The galling part is that these friends of mine consider themselves to be enlightened, multicultural progressives, so they agreed with the author!

    This, in fact, is the profound irony that afflicts not only academia but also the “liberal elite” generally. They who rail most loudly against “othering” and the plight of the working/middle/lower classes are they who most loudly “other” them.

    And yes, there is in fact a “liberal elite.”

  • Cincinnatus

    Some Iowan friends/colleagues were passing this around a few weeks back. The galling part is that these friends of mine consider themselves to be enlightened, multicultural progressives, so they agreed with the author!

    This, in fact, is the profound irony that afflicts not only academia but also the “liberal elite” generally. They who rail most loudly against “othering” and the plight of the working/middle/lower classes are they who most loudly “other” them.

    And yes, there is in fact a “liberal elite.”

  • Tom Hering

    There isn’t a conservative elite? That sides with privilege against the common folk? With a history of squashing the common folk’s attempts to organize in their own best interests? Sure, they don’t exhibit the particular hypocrisy of championing some “others” while looking down their noses at other “others.” But they do exhibit the hypocrisy of claiming to be regular guys and gals when the microphones are on and the cameras are rolling. Yeah, millionaires and billionaires are just like the rest of us. Their interests and sympathies couldn’t possibly be antithetical to those of everyone else.

  • Tom Hering

    There isn’t a conservative elite? That sides with privilege against the common folk? With a history of squashing the common folk’s attempts to organize in their own best interests? Sure, they don’t exhibit the particular hypocrisy of championing some “others” while looking down their noses at other “others.” But they do exhibit the hypocrisy of claiming to be regular guys and gals when the microphones are on and the cameras are rolling. Yeah, millionaires and billionaires are just like the rest of us. Their interests and sympathies couldn’t possibly be antithetical to those of everyone else.

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom,

    Don’t get too preachy. I claimed that there is a liberal elite; I didn’t simultaneously deny that there is a conservative elite. There is one, but not the one you identify. You are diagnosing what is better known as the capitalist elite. After all, many (in fact, most) of these billionaires and millionaires are Obama supporters. They vote for whoever promises to protect the sanctity of the marriage of big government and big business. The only sense they can be deemed “conservative” is in the Hamiltonian sense: in favor of “conserving” established economic interests. Even empirical scholarship in political science these days identifies the Democratic party as an odd alliance of the welfare class and minorities, on the one hand, and wealthy coastal “elites,” on the other.

    Of course, Obama himself is “conservative” in that repugnant Hamiltonian sense.

    This is not the sort of thing that paleoconservatives et al. wish to conserve.

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom,

    Don’t get too preachy. I claimed that there is a liberal elite; I didn’t simultaneously deny that there is a conservative elite. There is one, but not the one you identify. You are diagnosing what is better known as the capitalist elite. After all, many (in fact, most) of these billionaires and millionaires are Obama supporters. They vote for whoever promises to protect the sanctity of the marriage of big government and big business. The only sense they can be deemed “conservative” is in the Hamiltonian sense: in favor of “conserving” established economic interests. Even empirical scholarship in political science these days identifies the Democratic party as an odd alliance of the welfare class and minorities, on the one hand, and wealthy coastal “elites,” on the other.

    Of course, Obama himself is “conservative” in that repugnant Hamiltonian sense.

    This is not the sort of thing that paleoconservatives et al. wish to conserve.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Midwesterners: touchy.

    Is Bloom’s article a screed that takes more than a few liberal licenses? Sure. Is it completely inaccurate? I bet not.

    Does Bloom himself hate the state he’s lived in for two decades? Touchy Midwestern-defensive types seem to think to, but I’m not so sure. Most people who seem positively up in arms about anyone saying anything bad about casseroles should do two things:

    (1) Read the article. He mentions casseroles all of twice, and never once says anything bad about them. He mentions “potluck dinners (casseroles are the thing to bring)” and this longer passage:

    Comfort food reigns supreme. Meatloaf and pork chops are king. Casseroles (canned tuna or Tatertots) and Jell-O molds (cottage cheese with canned pears or pineapple) are what to bring to wedding receptions and funerals.

    If you see that as an attack on casseroles, I’m sorry, you’re far too defensive about the topic, and you probably are, deep down, maybe a little tired of Durkee’s French fried onions* yourself.

    (2) Read the article. Try to understand why the author wrote what he did, and to whom. He did, after all, spell this out for you:

    Considering the state’s enormous political significance, I thought this would be a good time to explain to the geographically challenged a little about Iowa, including where Iowa is, and perhaps more importantly, in both a real and metaphysical way, what Iowa is.

    That is to say, he’s explicitly talking to non-Iowans. And no, that doesn’t mean he’s talking to Nebraskans or Illinoisans. He’s attempting to explain Iowa to people who, by their nature, likely don’t know much about it, nor are they likely to get its particular culture.

    I mean, if I were to explain Portland and Oregon to you — a state and city I quite enjoy, by the way — I’d almost certainly make references to hipsters and hippies, baristas and fixie-riders, recycling and so on. All of which is ripe for mocking in one way or another.

    Would my fellow Oregonians or Portlanders complain? Likely not. We already have a TV show that makes fun of us, and we love it — almost certainly more than the rest of the nation does.

    But then, we can take it. Oh sure, we live in the (long) shadow of ostensibly larger, better, more significant cultural meccas like San Francisco and Seattle, or even LA and Vancouver. But I guess we’re not as insecure about all that as are Iowans?

    *What? Apparently they haven’t been called Durkee’s brand since 1995? Heresy!

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Midwesterners: touchy.

    Is Bloom’s article a screed that takes more than a few liberal licenses? Sure. Is it completely inaccurate? I bet not.

    Does Bloom himself hate the state he’s lived in for two decades? Touchy Midwestern-defensive types seem to think to, but I’m not so sure. Most people who seem positively up in arms about anyone saying anything bad about casseroles should do two things:

    (1) Read the article. He mentions casseroles all of twice, and never once says anything bad about them. He mentions “potluck dinners (casseroles are the thing to bring)” and this longer passage:

    Comfort food reigns supreme. Meatloaf and pork chops are king. Casseroles (canned tuna or Tatertots) and Jell-O molds (cottage cheese with canned pears or pineapple) are what to bring to wedding receptions and funerals.

    If you see that as an attack on casseroles, I’m sorry, you’re far too defensive about the topic, and you probably are, deep down, maybe a little tired of Durkee’s French fried onions* yourself.

    (2) Read the article. Try to understand why the author wrote what he did, and to whom. He did, after all, spell this out for you:

    Considering the state’s enormous political significance, I thought this would be a good time to explain to the geographically challenged a little about Iowa, including where Iowa is, and perhaps more importantly, in both a real and metaphysical way, what Iowa is.

    That is to say, he’s explicitly talking to non-Iowans. And no, that doesn’t mean he’s talking to Nebraskans or Illinoisans. He’s attempting to explain Iowa to people who, by their nature, likely don’t know much about it, nor are they likely to get its particular culture.

    I mean, if I were to explain Portland and Oregon to you — a state and city I quite enjoy, by the way — I’d almost certainly make references to hipsters and hippies, baristas and fixie-riders, recycling and so on. All of which is ripe for mocking in one way or another.

    Would my fellow Oregonians or Portlanders complain? Likely not. We already have a TV show that makes fun of us, and we love it — almost certainly more than the rest of the nation does.

    But then, we can take it. Oh sure, we live in the (long) shadow of ostensibly larger, better, more significant cultural meccas like San Francisco and Seattle, or even LA and Vancouver. But I guess we’re not as insecure about all that as are Iowans?

    *What? Apparently they haven’t been called Durkee’s brand since 1995? Heresy!

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Also, doesn’t a media criticism site like Get Religion know better than to toss words willy-nilly into quotes — like they did in their headline?

    “Iowa’s ‘uneducated Jesus freaks’” reads the headline to Mollie’s response to Bloom’s article. But did he ever say that phrase? No. Did he even call anyone a “Jesus freak”? No. But the headline certainly makes it seem so, doesn’t it?

    Am I missing something?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Also, doesn’t a media criticism site like Get Religion know better than to toss words willy-nilly into quotes — like they did in their headline?

    “Iowa’s ‘uneducated Jesus freaks’” reads the headline to Mollie’s response to Bloom’s article. But did he ever say that phrase? No. Did he even call anyone a “Jesus freak”? No. But the headline certainly makes it seem so, doesn’t it?

    Am I missing something?

  • SKPeterson

    Todd @ 20 and 21 – Why do you hate casseroles? Your disdain for the goodness therein is dripping in your casual dismissal of this veritable food art form.

    My guess is that the animus towards Bloom has far more to do with the eau d’excrement du porcin remark and some of the other, ah more pungent, comments included in the article.

  • SKPeterson

    Todd @ 20 and 21 – Why do you hate casseroles? Your disdain for the goodness therein is dripping in your casual dismissal of this veritable food art form.

    My guess is that the animus towards Bloom has far more to do with the eau d’excrement du porcin remark and some of the other, ah more pungent, comments included in the article.

  • The Jones

    This man should probably get religion soon, because I think every other Iowan is reaching for their guns.

    Sometimes when writing, it is very difficult to communicate the emotion behind the words that are written. But Stephen Bloom emanates the emotion behind his article perfectly. And it’s 100% disdain.

    A decent question has arisen: Why does he stay? Well, for an answer, let’s quote the article.

    Those who stay in rural Iowa are often the elderly waiting to die, those too timid (or lacking in educated) to peer around the bend for better opportunities, an assortment of waste-toids and meth addicts with pale skin and rotted teeth, or those who quixotically believe, like Little Orphan Annie, that “The sun’ll come out tomorrow.”

    He derides others for being uneducated by using the root word “educate” in an incorrect tense. I truly hope it is a joke, but after reading it several times, I can’t see how it’s a purposeful punchline. Maybe I don’t get it because I’m not from Iowa. But that would be strange, because he also writes about how the K-12 education is good in Iowa. It would seem strange for a blatant grammatical mistake to be a common theme in Iowa.

    Stephen Bloom is the one who is uneducated, not in the funny but superficial grammatical mistake I cited above, but in a moral sense. He does not have the sense to tolerate and appreciate people who are different from him. He moves from San Francisco, is amazed that things are not like San Francisco, never assimilates to Iowa from San Francisco, can’t understand why any of the people not from San Francisco, with whom he has lived for 20 years, do any of the things that they do, and then he writes a 6,000 word essay (which includes two dense correction paragraphs, 7 different corrections by my count, some of them major) talking about how it’s IOWA (not himself) which is hopeless, uneducated, not open to the feelings of others (who don’t hunt), which just doesn’t get it, and which just can’t change.

    How hilariously sad.

  • The Jones

    This man should probably get religion soon, because I think every other Iowan is reaching for their guns.

    Sometimes when writing, it is very difficult to communicate the emotion behind the words that are written. But Stephen Bloom emanates the emotion behind his article perfectly. And it’s 100% disdain.

    A decent question has arisen: Why does he stay? Well, for an answer, let’s quote the article.

    Those who stay in rural Iowa are often the elderly waiting to die, those too timid (or lacking in educated) to peer around the bend for better opportunities, an assortment of waste-toids and meth addicts with pale skin and rotted teeth, or those who quixotically believe, like Little Orphan Annie, that “The sun’ll come out tomorrow.”

    He derides others for being uneducated by using the root word “educate” in an incorrect tense. I truly hope it is a joke, but after reading it several times, I can’t see how it’s a purposeful punchline. Maybe I don’t get it because I’m not from Iowa. But that would be strange, because he also writes about how the K-12 education is good in Iowa. It would seem strange for a blatant grammatical mistake to be a common theme in Iowa.

    Stephen Bloom is the one who is uneducated, not in the funny but superficial grammatical mistake I cited above, but in a moral sense. He does not have the sense to tolerate and appreciate people who are different from him. He moves from San Francisco, is amazed that things are not like San Francisco, never assimilates to Iowa from San Francisco, can’t understand why any of the people not from San Francisco, with whom he has lived for 20 years, do any of the things that they do, and then he writes a 6,000 word essay (which includes two dense correction paragraphs, 7 different corrections by my count, some of them major) talking about how it’s IOWA (not himself) which is hopeless, uneducated, not open to the feelings of others (who don’t hunt), which just doesn’t get it, and which just can’t change.

    How hilariously sad.

  • Tom Hering

    I suppose Stephen Bloom should be extremely grateful. Conservative culture warriors have made an unknown journalism professor the equal of Sinclair Lewis and Sherwood Anderson. And his writings, in future, are sure to sell well. “In this new work, the controversial author of Observations From 20 Years of Iowa Life …” Good work guys. :-D

  • Tom Hering

    I suppose Stephen Bloom should be extremely grateful. Conservative culture warriors have made an unknown journalism professor the equal of Sinclair Lewis and Sherwood Anderson. And his writings, in future, are sure to sell well. “In this new work, the controversial author of Observations From 20 Years of Iowa Life …” Good work guys. :-D

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    So, just so we’re all clear, the next time someone from the “heartland” mocks people who live in the Big City and/or the coasts, all you Stephen-Bloom haters will jump all over the intolerant heartlander.

    Every time somebody mocks urbanites for drinking lattes or eating sushi, you will cringe just like you did at Bloom’s screed.

    Every time someone makes a comment about crime in the big city, you will demur. Every time someone suggests that people in rural areas are somehow more moral, nicer, or in any way superior, you will cry “False!”

    And every time someone from New York, LA, or whatever mocks his own city (though he only moved there decades ago), you will not nod your head and say “Yup, New York is terrible,” but you will instead decry the author’s obvious parochialism.

    Is that right?

    Because, frankly, I’m not buying it.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    So, just so we’re all clear, the next time someone from the “heartland” mocks people who live in the Big City and/or the coasts, all you Stephen-Bloom haters will jump all over the intolerant heartlander.

    Every time somebody mocks urbanites for drinking lattes or eating sushi, you will cringe just like you did at Bloom’s screed.

    Every time someone makes a comment about crime in the big city, you will demur. Every time someone suggests that people in rural areas are somehow more moral, nicer, or in any way superior, you will cry “False!”

    And every time someone from New York, LA, or whatever mocks his own city (though he only moved there decades ago), you will not nod your head and say “Yup, New York is terrible,” but you will instead decry the author’s obvious parochialism.

    Is that right?

    Because, frankly, I’m not buying it.

  • Cincinnatus

    Well, actually, tODD, New York is terrible and Iowa is better. Contrary to various assertions in this thread, not all ways of living, not all ways of being-in-the-world are equally valid. I prefer small town and rural life to that of the cosmopolitan metropoles. Nay, I think small town and rural life are, in some objective way, superior to the life of the supercilious, urban sophisticate.

    That, and the Midwesterner hurling potshots at city-dwellers from his farm is qualitatively different, I think, from the San Franciscan who has descended, somewhat uninvited, into the Midwest who delights in mocking the parochialisms of his new neighbors while refusing to integrate himself and drawing a salary from their largesse.

  • Cincinnatus

    Well, actually, tODD, New York is terrible and Iowa is better. Contrary to various assertions in this thread, not all ways of living, not all ways of being-in-the-world are equally valid. I prefer small town and rural life to that of the cosmopolitan metropoles. Nay, I think small town and rural life are, in some objective way, superior to the life of the supercilious, urban sophisticate.

    That, and the Midwesterner hurling potshots at city-dwellers from his farm is qualitatively different, I think, from the San Franciscan who has descended, somewhat uninvited, into the Midwest who delights in mocking the parochialisms of his new neighbors while refusing to integrate himself and drawing a salary from their largesse.

  • Tom Hering

    Did they get largesse from eating too many casseroles?

  • Tom Hering

    Did they get largesse from eating too many casseroles?

  • PinonCoffee

    Casseroles are normal, actually, as are potlucks. They’re just not trendy at the moment. So you find them in societies with more inherent culture and less trendiness. (“Try blue! It’s the new red.” Wall-E) Ha, I just realized I can argue that a casserole is more cultured than Americanized sushi.

    Food does describe a culture remarkably well, so I thought that was an excellent use of specific detail on Bloom’s part.

  • PinonCoffee

    Casseroles are normal, actually, as are potlucks. They’re just not trendy at the moment. So you find them in societies with more inherent culture and less trendiness. (“Try blue! It’s the new red.” Wall-E) Ha, I just realized I can argue that a casserole is more cultured than Americanized sushi.

    Food does describe a culture remarkably well, so I thought that was an excellent use of specific detail on Bloom’s part.

  • moallen

    I have heard of Stephen Bloom before this – am I alone? He was published in “The Atlantic” which, I think, will primarily have readers who agree with his contemptuous tone, so he is playing to his audience. I am not sure an article espousing the virtues of Iowa would play well, or even be published – so it might not be an economically viable option for Professor Bloom. However, with the attention his article is apparently getting, I would not be surprised to see a follow-up or subsequent statement from Professor Bloom on some of the virtues he finds in Iowa for, you know, the unintended audience who have happened upon his article.

  • moallen

    I have heard of Stephen Bloom before this – am I alone? He was published in “The Atlantic” which, I think, will primarily have readers who agree with his contemptuous tone, so he is playing to his audience. I am not sure an article espousing the virtues of Iowa would play well, or even be published – so it might not be an economically viable option for Professor Bloom. However, with the attention his article is apparently getting, I would not be surprised to see a follow-up or subsequent statement from Professor Bloom on some of the virtues he finds in Iowa for, you know, the unintended audience who have happened upon his article.

  • kerner

    As long as we’re strerotyping regions of the country, I have to submit this about our own tODD’s adopted home town.

  • kerner

    As long as we’re strerotyping regions of the country, I have to submit this about our own tODD’s adopted home town.

  • Rose

    The Divine Right of Kings has been rsucceeded by the Divine Right of Professors.
    Bloom doesn’t leave Iowa because he probably couldn’t get a job anywhere else.

  • Rose

    The Divine Right of Kings has been rsucceeded by the Divine Right of Professors.
    Bloom doesn’t leave Iowa because he probably couldn’t get a job anywhere else.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Big noise over nothing. Here in SK we had a TV comedy make fun of us (well, small-town SK, actually, but nevermind). Corner Gas (www.cornergas.com). We loved it. We have numberplates, mugs, etc etc. And yes, it portrays us as intellectually challenged flatlanders. Some of it is actually true, in an over-the-top sort of way. Probably a bit similar to Iowa (ever read Bill Bryson on the subject? Ouch! And nice!)

    Get over youselves….

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Big noise over nothing. Here in SK we had a TV comedy make fun of us (well, small-town SK, actually, but nevermind). Corner Gas (www.cornergas.com). We loved it. We have numberplates, mugs, etc etc. And yes, it portrays us as intellectually challenged flatlanders. Some of it is actually true, in an over-the-top sort of way. Probably a bit similar to Iowa (ever read Bill Bryson on the subject? Ouch! And nice!)

    Get over youselves….

  • Cincinnatus

    Klasie K.@32:

    You, Tom, and tODD seem to be missing the point on this one. The point is not that this editorial is full of offensive stereotypes (it is, or could be at least). I’m from southern Appalachia, whose residents have been the subject of unconcealed derision and “othering” since the Whiskey Rebellion at least. Let me fill you in on a little secret: we don’t take offense to this sort of thing any more, and I suspect that the same is true of stalwart Iowans. The West Virginia hill people among whom I was raised were more likely to be cracking hillbilly incest jokes than licking wounds from same. While he’s opining about casseroles, Bloom might as well turn his pen to the indecipherable accents of Appalachia, for instance. The problem here isn’t potentially insulting observations about provincial life.

    The problem with this editorial is that it is an epiphenomenal instance of a posture shared by many cosmopolitan, “progressive” (self-appointed?) elites: that there is something fundamentally backward and problematic with America’s rural and small-town locales. Bloom doesn’t even disguise his concern that these retrograde yokels have such a prominent influence on the public discourse surrounding presidential elections–indeed, such is his very thesis. Witness the prejudices and presuppositions woven throughout his piece: that anyone with promise and intelligence not only can but should leave Iowa for more sophisticated climes; that the only people who remain in Iowa are idiosyncratic and even inferior to their urban observers and, in any case, afflicted by all manner of socioeconomic dysfunctions; that the cosmopolitanism, etc., habituated at Berkeley and elsewhere is superior to the sort of life that occurs in the rural regions; that, in general, the rural life of predominantly white, middle class populations is suspicious.

    I could go on, but surely one can see the problem with such assumptions. Aside from the fact that they may be “offensive,” they are profoundly dangerous, and have contributed to the actual evisceration of America’s countrysides. Indeed, Wendell Berry has written prominently about and against these notions in “The Unsettling of America” and elsewhere.

    In short, this editorial suffers not only from tired (if mildly amusing?) stereotypes but from a wholesale rejection of an entire way-of-being–a way-of-being I might argue is healthier, despite its obvious problems, than the one Bloom implicitly espouses.

  • Cincinnatus

    Klasie K.@32:

    You, Tom, and tODD seem to be missing the point on this one. The point is not that this editorial is full of offensive stereotypes (it is, or could be at least). I’m from southern Appalachia, whose residents have been the subject of unconcealed derision and “othering” since the Whiskey Rebellion at least. Let me fill you in on a little secret: we don’t take offense to this sort of thing any more, and I suspect that the same is true of stalwart Iowans. The West Virginia hill people among whom I was raised were more likely to be cracking hillbilly incest jokes than licking wounds from same. While he’s opining about casseroles, Bloom might as well turn his pen to the indecipherable accents of Appalachia, for instance. The problem here isn’t potentially insulting observations about provincial life.

    The problem with this editorial is that it is an epiphenomenal instance of a posture shared by many cosmopolitan, “progressive” (self-appointed?) elites: that there is something fundamentally backward and problematic with America’s rural and small-town locales. Bloom doesn’t even disguise his concern that these retrograde yokels have such a prominent influence on the public discourse surrounding presidential elections–indeed, such is his very thesis. Witness the prejudices and presuppositions woven throughout his piece: that anyone with promise and intelligence not only can but should leave Iowa for more sophisticated climes; that the only people who remain in Iowa are idiosyncratic and even inferior to their urban observers and, in any case, afflicted by all manner of socioeconomic dysfunctions; that the cosmopolitanism, etc., habituated at Berkeley and elsewhere is superior to the sort of life that occurs in the rural regions; that, in general, the rural life of predominantly white, middle class populations is suspicious.

    I could go on, but surely one can see the problem with such assumptions. Aside from the fact that they may be “offensive,” they are profoundly dangerous, and have contributed to the actual evisceration of America’s countrysides. Indeed, Wendell Berry has written prominently about and against these notions in “The Unsettling of America” and elsewhere.

    In short, this editorial suffers not only from tired (if mildly amusing?) stereotypes but from a wholesale rejection of an entire way-of-being–a way-of-being I might argue is healthier, despite its obvious problems, than the one Bloom implicitly espouses.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@26):

    Well, actually, tODD, New York is terrible and Iowa is better. … I prefer small town and rural life to that of the cosmopolitan metropoles.

    You prefer? Sure, fine. Have at it. I’m not objecting to personal preferences here. It takes all kinds, etc. However, my sympathies are, of course, generally the opposite of yours on this topic.

    Contrary to various assertions in this thread, not all ways of living, not all ways of being-in-the-world are equally valid.

    Not sure who said that they’re all “equally valid”. Pretty sure it wasn’t me. But I do think that there’s no moral superiority to be found in living in rural areas over urban ones (or vice versa), for instance.

    I think small town and rural life are, in some objective way, superior to the life of the supercilious, urban sophisticate.

    Superior … how? As to your preferences? Morally?

    The Midwesterner hurling potshots at city-dwellers from his farm is qualitatively different, I think, from the San Franciscan who has descended, somewhat uninvited, into the Midwest who delights in mocking the parochialisms of his new neighbors while refusing to integrate himself and drawing a salary from their largesse.

    “Somewhat uninvited”? Didn’t he get hired by Iowans? Isn’t he now, himself, an Iowan — and has been for 20 years? By labeling him a “San Franciscan”, aren’t you perpetuating the lack of integration you decry?

    Anyhow, I disagree. Midwesterners and those from otherwise less urban areas delight in mocking all sorts of aspects of city life. Cuts both ways. But city slickers and coastal dwellers are far more likely to laugh off such mockery. Midwesterners? Tizzy.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@26):

    Well, actually, tODD, New York is terrible and Iowa is better. … I prefer small town and rural life to that of the cosmopolitan metropoles.

    You prefer? Sure, fine. Have at it. I’m not objecting to personal preferences here. It takes all kinds, etc. However, my sympathies are, of course, generally the opposite of yours on this topic.

    Contrary to various assertions in this thread, not all ways of living, not all ways of being-in-the-world are equally valid.

    Not sure who said that they’re all “equally valid”. Pretty sure it wasn’t me. But I do think that there’s no moral superiority to be found in living in rural areas over urban ones (or vice versa), for instance.

    I think small town and rural life are, in some objective way, superior to the life of the supercilious, urban sophisticate.

    Superior … how? As to your preferences? Morally?

    The Midwesterner hurling potshots at city-dwellers from his farm is qualitatively different, I think, from the San Franciscan who has descended, somewhat uninvited, into the Midwest who delights in mocking the parochialisms of his new neighbors while refusing to integrate himself and drawing a salary from their largesse.

    “Somewhat uninvited”? Didn’t he get hired by Iowans? Isn’t he now, himself, an Iowan — and has been for 20 years? By labeling him a “San Franciscan”, aren’t you perpetuating the lack of integration you decry?

    Anyhow, I disagree. Midwesterners and those from otherwise less urban areas delight in mocking all sorts of aspects of city life. Cuts both ways. But city slickers and coastal dwellers are far more likely to laugh off such mockery. Midwesterners? Tizzy.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Rose (@31), um…

    Bloom doesn’t leave Iowa because he probably couldn’t get a job anywhere else.

    Well if you’d read the actual article, you might have noticed that it pointed out that:

    This year, he is the Howard R. Marsh Visiting Professor of Journalism at the University of Michigan.

    So … huh.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Rose (@31), um…

    Bloom doesn’t leave Iowa because he probably couldn’t get a job anywhere else.

    Well if you’d read the actual article, you might have noticed that it pointed out that:

    This year, he is the Howard R. Marsh Visiting Professor of Journalism at the University of Michigan.

    So … huh.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD@34: I’m too lazy to respond thoroughly, so I think I’ll just refer you to my most recent comment.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD@34: I’m too lazy to respond thoroughly, so I think I’ll just refer you to my most recent comment.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus said (@33):

    Let me fill you in on a little secret: we don’t take offense to this sort of thing any more, and I suspect that the same is true of stalwart Iowans.

    I’m really not sure what you’re trying out here. Of course Iowans take offense at stereotypes — that’s the whole reason we’re discussing this story!

    Perhaps you’re suggesting that Iowans/Appalachians/etc. don’t “take offense” at stereotypes … as long as they’re the ones repeating them? If so, of course. All groups reserve the right to mock themselves. But woe to the outsider who even tries to repeat an insider stereotype verbatim! Because that right there is HATE SPEECH!

    Bloom doesn’t even disguise his concern that these retrograde yokels have such a prominent influence on the public discourse surrounding presidential elections–indeed, such is his very thesis.

    I’m not sure I can wholeheartedly subscribe to the “retrograde yokel” bit, but other than that, sure, I share his concern. Surely you don’t disagree that our nation’s policy history has been shaped by giving such vast media attention to a state with so much corn in it? Ethanol subsidies? Read the ingredients on a box of food lately?

    Aside from the fact that they may be “offensive,” they are profoundly dangerous, and have contributed to the actual evisceration of America’s countrysides.

    So what you’re saying is that The Atlantic magazine is wildly popular across all of Iowa — and, even more so, disproportionately more influential than it appears to be even here in liberal/elite Portland? That, in spite of all the many obvious benefits to living in rural Iowa, all it takes is articles like this to convince Iowans to leave the state?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus said (@33):

    Let me fill you in on a little secret: we don’t take offense to this sort of thing any more, and I suspect that the same is true of stalwart Iowans.

    I’m really not sure what you’re trying out here. Of course Iowans take offense at stereotypes — that’s the whole reason we’re discussing this story!

    Perhaps you’re suggesting that Iowans/Appalachians/etc. don’t “take offense” at stereotypes … as long as they’re the ones repeating them? If so, of course. All groups reserve the right to mock themselves. But woe to the outsider who even tries to repeat an insider stereotype verbatim! Because that right there is HATE SPEECH!

    Bloom doesn’t even disguise his concern that these retrograde yokels have such a prominent influence on the public discourse surrounding presidential elections–indeed, such is his very thesis.

    I’m not sure I can wholeheartedly subscribe to the “retrograde yokel” bit, but other than that, sure, I share his concern. Surely you don’t disagree that our nation’s policy history has been shaped by giving such vast media attention to a state with so much corn in it? Ethanol subsidies? Read the ingredients on a box of food lately?

    Aside from the fact that they may be “offensive,” they are profoundly dangerous, and have contributed to the actual evisceration of America’s countrysides.

    So what you’re saying is that The Atlantic magazine is wildly popular across all of Iowa — and, even more so, disproportionately more influential than it appears to be even here in liberal/elite Portland? That, in spite of all the many obvious benefits to living in rural Iowa, all it takes is articles like this to convince Iowans to leave the state?

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD@37:

    Fail. An uncharacteristic fail to be sure, but fail nonetheless.

    First, I explicitly claimed that the issue is not in fact the “hateful” stereotypes in Bloom’s editorial. Bloom’s editorial is not problematic because he indulges trite preconceptions about casserole and pig farmers. He can indulge such stereotypes all he likes–and get paid for it if his audience wishes; similarly, rural jokes at urban expense are totally innocuous. Bloom’s editorial is problematic not because Iowans are too thin-skinned to laugh at their own expense, but because of its fundamental posture toward rurual/agrarian/small-town/non-cosmopolitan life writ large and its place in American political life, as I noted above.

    Second, no, I don’t give a rip whether or not the Iowa caucus has any sort of influence whatsoever over America’s “policy history.” Ethanol subsidies were recently eliminated, by the way (as of last Sunday, in fact). In any case, I’d much rather that attention be focused on Iowa than cede even more cultural authority to Bloom’s ilk. That wasn’t my point. Bloom isn’t arguing that we should focus attention elsewhere because the American electorate is more diverse than Iowa’s; Bloom is arguing, to my eye, that we should focus attention elsewhere because there is something deeply inferior about Iowans and others like them. Perhaps if there were more atheists, black people, and homosexuals in the bunch, he’d be happier. In the meantime, this smacks of Obama’s infamous “guns and religion” quip: country people are backward, ignorant, dangerous, regressive and repressive, bigoted, uncivilized, better silenced, etc.

    Finally, what I’m saying has nothing to do with The Atlantic and whether or not it is “wildly popular across all of Iowa.” In fact, I myself enjoy The Atlantic from time to time. What I’m saying is that the presuppositions about rural life and rural people that inform Bloom’s writing, along with the paradigms of many of his readers, presumably, are presuppositions that have, in large part, contributed to the literal depopulation and evisceration of American small towns and rural areas, as well as a wider negative stereotype of the same in the popular imagination. Obviously, one editorial isn’t “all it takes” to convince Iowans to leave the state. NAFTA, industrial agriculture (thanks, USDA and FDA!), consumerism, etc., have helped. But you know what sort of rhetoric does conduce to the evacuation of our rural regions? Fifty + years of the same message from Bloom and his likeminded cosmopolitans and sophisticates: that opportunity lies elsewhere, that success is defined by “going somewhere” and “moving up,” that farming and its attendant lifestyle are inferior to that which is afforded by the industrial economy; that land and the small town aren’t worthy of continued investment; that, in Marx’s words, “the idiocy of rural life” is to be escaped.

    In short, my problem with Bloom is that he’s repeating and advancing Marx’s quip that is almost universally shared by the average bourgeois American on both sides of the partisan spectrum: that rural life is, indeed, idiotic. It’s really too bad that we allow such ignoramuses to shape our politics, no? And Bloom is doing this, I might add, while drawing a fat public salary, after a few decades of which he will retire on a fat public pension that no farmer in the state could dream of! Considering the sheer importance of rural life to American life and American development more broadly (and, in my opinion, its superiority to urban/industrial life), Bloom should be ashamed.

    And I repeat, read some Wendell Berry if you haven’t already. It’ll do ya good.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD@37:

    Fail. An uncharacteristic fail to be sure, but fail nonetheless.

    First, I explicitly claimed that the issue is not in fact the “hateful” stereotypes in Bloom’s editorial. Bloom’s editorial is not problematic because he indulges trite preconceptions about casserole and pig farmers. He can indulge such stereotypes all he likes–and get paid for it if his audience wishes; similarly, rural jokes at urban expense are totally innocuous. Bloom’s editorial is problematic not because Iowans are too thin-skinned to laugh at their own expense, but because of its fundamental posture toward rurual/agrarian/small-town/non-cosmopolitan life writ large and its place in American political life, as I noted above.

    Second, no, I don’t give a rip whether or not the Iowa caucus has any sort of influence whatsoever over America’s “policy history.” Ethanol subsidies were recently eliminated, by the way (as of last Sunday, in fact). In any case, I’d much rather that attention be focused on Iowa than cede even more cultural authority to Bloom’s ilk. That wasn’t my point. Bloom isn’t arguing that we should focus attention elsewhere because the American electorate is more diverse than Iowa’s; Bloom is arguing, to my eye, that we should focus attention elsewhere because there is something deeply inferior about Iowans and others like them. Perhaps if there were more atheists, black people, and homosexuals in the bunch, he’d be happier. In the meantime, this smacks of Obama’s infamous “guns and religion” quip: country people are backward, ignorant, dangerous, regressive and repressive, bigoted, uncivilized, better silenced, etc.

    Finally, what I’m saying has nothing to do with The Atlantic and whether or not it is “wildly popular across all of Iowa.” In fact, I myself enjoy The Atlantic from time to time. What I’m saying is that the presuppositions about rural life and rural people that inform Bloom’s writing, along with the paradigms of many of his readers, presumably, are presuppositions that have, in large part, contributed to the literal depopulation and evisceration of American small towns and rural areas, as well as a wider negative stereotype of the same in the popular imagination. Obviously, one editorial isn’t “all it takes” to convince Iowans to leave the state. NAFTA, industrial agriculture (thanks, USDA and FDA!), consumerism, etc., have helped. But you know what sort of rhetoric does conduce to the evacuation of our rural regions? Fifty + years of the same message from Bloom and his likeminded cosmopolitans and sophisticates: that opportunity lies elsewhere, that success is defined by “going somewhere” and “moving up,” that farming and its attendant lifestyle are inferior to that which is afforded by the industrial economy; that land and the small town aren’t worthy of continued investment; that, in Marx’s words, “the idiocy of rural life” is to be escaped.

    In short, my problem with Bloom is that he’s repeating and advancing Marx’s quip that is almost universally shared by the average bourgeois American on both sides of the partisan spectrum: that rural life is, indeed, idiotic. It’s really too bad that we allow such ignoramuses to shape our politics, no? And Bloom is doing this, I might add, while drawing a fat public salary, after a few decades of which he will retire on a fat public pension that no farmer in the state could dream of! Considering the sheer importance of rural life to American life and American development more broadly (and, in my opinion, its superiority to urban/industrial life), Bloom should be ashamed.

    And I repeat, read some Wendell Berry if you haven’t already. It’ll do ya good.

  • kerner

    tODD @ 35:

    Well yeah, but for a professor at one Big 10 State University to be a visiting professor at another Big 10 State University is not a big step up. It really isn’t even much of a lateral move.

    Cincinnatus @38

    Bloom is arguing, to my eye, that we should focus attention elsewhere because there is something deeply inferior about Iowans and others like them. Perhaps if there were more atheists, black people, and homosexuals in the bunch, he’d be happier.

    You know, I don’t think so. I think Bloom’s loathing for all things Iowa (which you have admirably identified) transcends all boundaries. Notice that Bloom’s take on the non- whites entering (not leaving) Iowa is just as negative. He has no respect for the spoiled rich Chinese (whose major crime appears to be that they want and are willing to pay for an education in fields that Bloom can’t teach) or the poor hispanics (whose major crime appears to be that they are willing to work and prosper at jobs that even idiot white Iowans are too smart to want). And if some of the Asian science nerds become physicians or pharmacists in Dubuque General Hospital or the Cedar Rapids Walgreens, or if the Salvadoran meat cutters lose a couple fingers to an electric knife instead of a corn combine, but still make enough money to buy some of those $40,000.00 Iowa houses and pay taxes, Bloom won’t respect those accomplishments one bit. They will just be part of the problem, which is to like Iowa better than somewhere, anywhere, else.

    I also notice that one of the many errors in this article that the Atlantic had to change was Bloom’s underestimation of the non-white Iowan population, which is about twice as big as Bloom seems to have thought it is.

  • kerner

    tODD @ 35:

    Well yeah, but for a professor at one Big 10 State University to be a visiting professor at another Big 10 State University is not a big step up. It really isn’t even much of a lateral move.

    Cincinnatus @38

    Bloom is arguing, to my eye, that we should focus attention elsewhere because there is something deeply inferior about Iowans and others like them. Perhaps if there were more atheists, black people, and homosexuals in the bunch, he’d be happier.

    You know, I don’t think so. I think Bloom’s loathing for all things Iowa (which you have admirably identified) transcends all boundaries. Notice that Bloom’s take on the non- whites entering (not leaving) Iowa is just as negative. He has no respect for the spoiled rich Chinese (whose major crime appears to be that they want and are willing to pay for an education in fields that Bloom can’t teach) or the poor hispanics (whose major crime appears to be that they are willing to work and prosper at jobs that even idiot white Iowans are too smart to want). And if some of the Asian science nerds become physicians or pharmacists in Dubuque General Hospital or the Cedar Rapids Walgreens, or if the Salvadoran meat cutters lose a couple fingers to an electric knife instead of a corn combine, but still make enough money to buy some of those $40,000.00 Iowa houses and pay taxes, Bloom won’t respect those accomplishments one bit. They will just be part of the problem, which is to like Iowa better than somewhere, anywhere, else.

    I also notice that one of the many errors in this article that the Atlantic had to change was Bloom’s underestimation of the non-white Iowan population, which is about twice as big as Bloom seems to have thought it is.

  • Gene Ambroson

    I look at Bloom’s piece through the lense of an educator..The well documented inaccuracies found by a host of academics, his students and well educated Iowans should give us pause. They believe Bloom invented facts…exaggerated others in order to arrive at his conclusion. A number of respected journalists have called him out for what they see as sloppy work. Even some of his colleagues at the J School at Iowa…have blasted his work. In checking Bloom’s ratings given by students on what they think of his class and teaching…a hint from them tells the story of how he cares more about himself than he does them. It’s worth reading!

    Again, for me this whole episode is about education…is this the way to demonstrate for students how to get at the truth – by pulling something out of thin air to fit a pre-conceived conclusion? Wow!

  • Gene Ambroson

    I look at Bloom’s piece through the lense of an educator..The well documented inaccuracies found by a host of academics, his students and well educated Iowans should give us pause. They believe Bloom invented facts…exaggerated others in order to arrive at his conclusion. A number of respected journalists have called him out for what they see as sloppy work. Even some of his colleagues at the J School at Iowa…have blasted his work. In checking Bloom’s ratings given by students on what they think of his class and teaching…a hint from them tells the story of how he cares more about himself than he does them. It’s worth reading!

    Again, for me this whole episode is about education…is this the way to demonstrate for students how to get at the truth – by pulling something out of thin air to fit a pre-conceived conclusion? Wow!

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Bloom’s job is one of those jobs that doesn’t really have to be done. However, most of the folks he so despises actually do work that does have to be done, if not by them, by someone. If Bloom’s job were eliminated entirely and no one took it up, the world would go right on without it. Deep down he knows he is superfluous and resents those who make real but humble contributions to life. It is the old inferiority complex beneath the surface complemented by a superiority complex on display. I would love to hear Bloom comment on the rural farming Iowan, Norman Borlaug. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Borlaug

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Bloom’s job is one of those jobs that doesn’t really have to be done. However, most of the folks he so despises actually do work that does have to be done, if not by them, by someone. If Bloom’s job were eliminated entirely and no one took it up, the world would go right on without it. Deep down he knows he is superfluous and resents those who make real but humble contributions to life. It is the old inferiority complex beneath the surface complemented by a superiority complex on display. I would love to hear Bloom comment on the rural farming Iowan, Norman Borlaug. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Borlaug

  • kerner

    GGood points (especially about Borlaug), sg.

  • kerner

    GGood points (especially about Borlaug), sg.

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