You know what’s fun? Coming back to Iowa just in time for a University of Iowa journalism professor to write an article in The Atlantic about how shitty and backwards the state is. The article was written by Stephen G. Bloom, whom I knew as the author of Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America - a book where he pretends Hasidic Judaism ISN’T super fucking weird. The reason for the new article is ostensibly to criticize the influence of Iowa on the 2012 Presidential election (since 1972, the Iowa Caucuses have been the first major electoral event in the nominating process for President. And Bloom says Iowa isn’t representative of America). But mainly the article is a chance for Bloom to bash the state for being rural and then to use the world ‘rural’ as many times as humanly possible.
People are mad about what Bloom wrote. He probably didn’t think his lofty thinkpiece of an article in The Atlantic (Iowans be stoopid!) would trickle all the way down into the greasy mongoloid fingers of actual Iowans. Personally, I’m not mad that some professor is trying to suck the imaginary dick of intelligentsia by throwing his Podunk state under the bus. I just think he did a subpar job of doing it. Not to mention that the Iowa Caucuses don’t really have that big of an influence on the actual Presidential election in the first place, which is something you’d know if you looked up things like ‘results’ and ‘facts’ about them. Bloom seems to think that if you win the Iowa Caucus, you have a 50% chance of winning the general election. Since only two non-incumbents have ever won the Iowa Caucuses and then gone on to win the general election, I’m going to hypothesize that Bloom knows so little about how politics work in Iowa that he can’t actually have an opinion about it. He just wants to make fun of Iowa. Plain and simple. He’s just using the Caucuses to Trojan horse his way in with these hackneyed ‘observations.’
Here’s something I know from comedy - Iowa is not a very easy state to make fun of. I know this because I’ve watched people try and fail to make fun of it several times. This article is no exception. The problem is that Iowa isn’t very pretentious and it isn’t quite hick. It just doesn’t have a lot of people. So when most unoriginal people want to make fun of a state as hick, they throw on a thick Southern accent and accuse the people of being uneducated and fucking their cousins. And embarrassingly, Bloom tries that here too. He uses, “Them’s fightin’ words” as an expression Iowans would use in reaction to being called xenophobic (which is hilarious to me, since Bloom completely missed the irony of assigning such a hillbilly response to a $10 word). In other instances, Bloom has a ‘typical’ Iowan referring to Barack Obama as a “Harvard-educated, black city slicker who wouldn’t know a John Deere tractor from a International Harvester combine.” Cringe-worthy. As if we all use, as Olson Johnson calls it in Blazing Saddles, “Authentic frontier gibberish.” Bloom also uses a whole paragraph to illustrate how Iowans call soda “pop” (how fucking crazy is that shit?) and refer to boys under 16 as “Bud.” Then, he says, “The reason everyone seems related in small-town Iowa is because, if you go back far enough, many are, either by marriage or birth.” Just in case you didn’t think he was also going to call us all cousin-fuckers.
Besides the fact that I have no idea what an International Harvester combine does, I’ve never heard anyone use the term ‘city slicker’ except in reference to a Billy Crystal movie and that whole thing about ‘Bud’ is made-the-fuck-up, the main problems with painting Iowa into the hick state corner is that Iowans don’t have Southern accents (Bloom even comments on how broadcasters covet the Iowa accent), they’re fairly well educated (Bloom talks about high graduation rates) and… I guess I didn’t realize that everyone seems related in small town Iowa. Maybe he just means the Ching Chongs.
Not that facts or consistency matter to the guy. Bloom seemingly wants to have everything both ways. He calls Keokuk, Iowa a “depressed, crime-infested slum town.” But later says that serious crime in Iowa is tee-peeing a high-school senior’s front yard. He also criticizes Iowa for a lack of cultural diversity and then throws a red-faced shitfit when Iowans say, “Merry Christmas” to each other instead of “Happy Holidays”, which would exclude the whopping 6% of Iowans (read: Him) who don’t celebrate Christmas.
It’s like he’s trying to shoehorn 20 years of the worst shit he’d seen in Iowa into generalizations about the state and the people. I lived in Iowa for 24 years. I could do that too, except mine would be better, they’d actually be true and they wouldn’t include moth-eaten terms like ‘flyover country.’ And I would assume that people knew that ‘brat’ was short for bratwurst, and that shortening the term wasn’t some sort of cultural fucking sacrilege.
I think that one sentence sums up Bloom’s attempt at an article. After calling Iowa flyover country he says, “It didn’t rate even a speck in Sol Steinberg’s classic 1967 New Yorker cover.“ Let me get the tuna can casserole barf off of my keyboard. How transparent is that disgusting, pretentious sentence? “It didn’t rate even a speck in Sol Steinberg’s classic 1967 New Yorker cover.“ Well, case fucking dismissed! Iowa is a shithole, officially. Shut it down. Shut it the fuck down! Shut the Caucuses down too. The great Sol Steinberg didn’t notice Iowa in his classic 1967 New Yorker cover!
Sometimes when you try too hard, you can’t even get your own side’s presumed argument right. Bloom means SAUL Steinberg, not SOL. And the cover he’s referring to came out in 1976, not 1967. But Jesus Christ. The incorrect information. The desire to come off as a brilliant cultural giant in the land of Lilliputians. And then getting it all wrong. It took me four seconds to Google some of this shit. I’m guessing that most angry Iowans were too busy pointing out that Bloom said we hunt turkeys with rifles (instead of shotguns) to notice that he even gets his own shit wrong. We didn’t come off looking stupid here, he did. And this Tumblr article wasn’t written by a journalism professor. It was written by someone from one of the “skuzziest cities [Bloom has] ever been to, and that’s saying something.” Fair enough. I’ll take being good at being skuzzy over being bad at being pretentious any day of the week. Merry fucking Christmas, asshole.