“I’m at an undisclosed location,” Stephen Bloom tells me. “I left because I don’t want some of these crazy people who are reading everything they want to read into my story to know where I am.”
The University of Iowa journalism professor — currently a visiting prof at the University of Michigan — is still getting hate mail and threatening calls from critics of his Atlantic magazine piece, “Observations from 20 Years of Iowa Life,” which was posted Dec. 9.
On Tue, 20 Dec 2011 16:06:07 -0500 (EST), firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Happy Hanukkah, Assclown.
Des Moines Register columnist Kyle Munson told readers on Tuesday that “I didn’t plan to write another word about [the Bloom controversy], but so much more fresh content has cropped up online (including the full-blown Twitter parody @StephenBloomIA) that a new list of links seems useful.” He has many.
Bloom arrived at his undisclosed location on Monday.
“I’m pleased that we’re neither in Iowa or Michigan at this point,” he says. “Last night a man called my wife and suggested I be made into a lampshade. A blog refers to me as Jew Stephen Bloom. I have received scores of hate-filled e-mails that have threatened me or my family.”
He won’t be “in hiding” long, though, as the university is back in session on Jan. 4.
“I’m not going to be bullied,” he says. “I will be back in that classroom.”
He’s been invited to appear on “The Colbert Report,” “John King, USA,” “Hardball With Chris Matthews” and “Piers Morgan Tonight,” but has turned them all down. “I believe appearing on those shows would not further discussion of the important issues raised in my Atlantic article and would descend into more vitriol,” he says.
Iowa media continue to criticize his piece. On Sunday, The Ames Tribune said that “Bloom’s choice to mock rather than enjoy the charm and humor in some of Iowa’s less-than-cutting-edge ways reveals more about him than it does about Iowa. Chalk it up to another shoddy piece of parachute journalism.”
On Monday, Des Moines Register columnist Ken Fuson called Bloom’s Atlantic essay “one of the funniest pieces you’ll ever read” and said that “at first glance, his essay reads like your typical cliché-choked, stereotype-stuffed, banal broadside against Iowa. Yawn.”
Instead, he has crafted a brilliant parody of what a loopy liberal professor from San Francisco would write if he tried to explain to his friends at Berkeley and Harvard why he has just wasted 20 years of his life in “Flyover Country.”
Bloom’s response to the guffaws and brickbats from Iowa media and residents:
Many Iowans – perhaps many Americans – today aren’t accustomed to sharp opinions that are at odds with their own views. If it doesn’t echo your own viewpoint, it’s wrong. If it doesn’t echo your own viewpoint, maybe it’s elitist, east coast, liberal media bias. …There’s a financial incentive for the Iowa media not to rock the Caucus boat. Political advertising means revenue for newspapers, TV and radio stations.
He adds that reaction to the article “is not machismo, it’s ‘State-ismo.’ It’s scary. Love it or leave it.”
Does he now regret writing the piece?
“When [the negative feedback] involves my family I feel absolutely horrible, and when my wife had to get that [lampshade] phone call, I felt like vomiting. But I knew as a journalist, stepping into writing this provocative post, that there would be problems. …That’s the nature of the business.”
There is a long, proud American tradition of the kind of journalism I practice. It involves humor, parody, satire, observation, and reporting. It goes back to Findley Peter Dunn (who coined the expression I live by as a journalist, “the duty of a newspaper to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”), Jack London, James Agee, H.L. Menken, Grant Riceland, Marvel Cooke, Jim Murray, cartoonist Paul Conrad, Tom Wolfe, Mike Royko, Hunter S. Thompson, and scores of other courageous journalists.
I’m certainly nowhere even close to any of these titans and I would be the last to profess that I am, but the story I wrote comes from this essential legacy that each of these journalists gave us.
* Earlier: Not everyone hated Bloom’s essay about Iowa