University of Iowa journalism professor Stephen Bloom says he’s getting “frightening” emails and phone calls from critics of his Atlantic magazine piece, “Observations from 20 Years of Iowa Life,” and he fears for his family’s safety. Bloom, who is a visiting professor at the the University of Michigan this semester, wrote:
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.’
Des Moines Register columnist Kyle Munson says one of his biggest complaints about the piece is that “if you’re going to skewer the population of an entire state for a publication other than the Onion, please be precise.”
What I think has upset so many Iowans isn’t the notion that Bloom offers a starkly different opinion, but that much of it is a stereotypical one riddled with inaccuracies.
He adds, though:
Any Iowan who would entertain the thought of harming Bloom for his (arguably mean-spirited) prose is stupider than the worst characterizations in his Atlantic article.
I asked Munson for more about the threats. He tells me: “I asked Bloom about the scope of the threats against him but haven’t heard back. But I thought it was fair to cite his concerns even without more details.”
I’ve left a phone message for Bloom at the University of Michigan — a receptionist there tells me that Tuesday was the last day of classes and he may not be around — and for Atlantic editor James Bennet.