Iowans outraged over article critical of rural state

CHICAGO Thu Dec 15, 2011 6:11pm EST

Related Topics

CHICAGO (Reuters) - An Iowa professor said he stands by an article about the Midwestern state that says rural towns are populated with "waste-toids" and "meth addicts," and has sparked outrage from residents.

University of Iowa Journalism Professor Stephen Bloom's article was published Friday on the website of The Atlantic magazine, some three weeks before Iowa's first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses on January 3.

"Considering the state's enormous political significance, I thought this would be a good time to explain ... what Iowa is," Bloom, who has lived in the state for 20 years, wrote in the 5,600-word piece.

The picture the 60-year-old, New Jersey native painted is not pretty. Iowa's vast rural core, he says, is inhabited by "the elderly waiting to die, those too timid ... 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.'"

And that is just the warm up. Bloom goes on to argue that Wal-Mart has destroyed Iowa's retail-trade sector, that limited economic opportunities sparked an exodus of educated young people and that many powerful businesses in the state use undocumented immigrant workers to drive down labor costs and break the law.

"In a perfect world, no way would Iowa ever be considered representative of America, or even a small part of it," Bloom said.

"Still, thanks to a host of nonsensical political precedents, whoever wins the Iowa caucuses in January will very likely have a 50 percent chance of being elected president 11 months later. Go figure."

The reaction among Iowans, who take pride in the outsize role their state plays in the presidential picking process, has been outrage.

Charles Betts, the executive director of the chamber of commerce in Keokuk, Iowa -- a once bustling city of 11,500 on the Mississippi River that Bloom calls "a depressed, crime-infested slum town," -- said Bloom exaggerated the town's problems.

In an e-mail to Reuters, Bloom said he has received "hundreds of e-mails and phone calls, calling me all sorts of hateful things."

"The easiest response to my article is to condemn me and the issues I raise," he said.

"That's a tried-and-true tactic. Kill the messenger, ignore the message. That's safe and convenient. But it doesn't get at some of the raw, undeniable questions this story poses."

(Editing by Greg McCune)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (5)
HAL.9000 wrote:
Another “professor” that feels he knows it all. Perhaps he should make new friends because he apparently is surrounded by “waste-toids and meth addicts with pale skin and rotted teeth…”

Iowa as a whole is a beautiful and clean state. It’s people are varied as in all places, but it doesn’t have a monopoly on “wast-toids” which can be found everywhere.

I have been here over ten years now and dont regret the move. Oh, and I dont have a drug issue, rotten teeth or pale skin either.

“And that is just the warm up. Bloom goes on to argue that Wal-Mart has destroyed Iowa’s retail-trade sector, that limited economic opportunities sparked an exodus of educated young people and that many powerful businesses in the state use undocumented immigrant workers to drive down labor costs and break the law.
In a perfect world, no way would Iowa ever be considered…’
representative of America, or even a small part of it,’ Bloom said.”

Um…what he just described is happening all throughout America, and Iowa never claimed to be representative of America. In many ways, it’s doing better than some other states. As for Walmart…well I see a lot of people from my community working at the local Walmart, so at least it’s providing JOBS!!!!

Man what a moron. Nothing like a PhD to turn some people stupid.

Dec 15, 2011 7:04pm EST  --  Report as abuse
BartNY wrote:
Not sure how what he describes is any different from the rest of the country. After all, 1 in 2 Americans live in poverty or low-income and WalMart is to blame for that.

Actually it’s not WalMart it’s people like @HAL.9000 who support Walmart for the low-wage jobs it provides. Apparently, if walmart wasn’t around people would be unemployed instead of opening up their own shops to provide a supply for goods in demand that walmart is now monopolizing.

Dec 15, 2011 11:00pm EST  --  Report as abuse
HAL.9000 wrote:
People that work at Walmart do not provide goods. They are providing a service. The company itself provides the goods, and not everyone is an entrepreneur. Low wage is better than no wage and yes, that is what we have been reduced to.

Dec 16, 2011 12:09am EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

Full focus