Are we inadvertantly lining Stephen Bloom’s pockets?

Stephen Bloom’s article – Observations from 20 years of Iowa life – published in The Atlantic website edition has caused quite the hoo-ha in Iowa and nationwide. When I read Kyle Munson’s article in the Des Moines Register describing the lambasting Bloom lavished on Iowa, my first question was, Why?

Why would someone who has spent 20 years living and working in the state – presumably wanting to continue living and working here – resort to such a rant against the state and its people? I read the article and found in the lead what I thought was the reason – an ‘outsider’s’ commentary on the state as a set up for the upcoming caucuses. A reasonable assignment for one such as Bloom.

He could, however, have met the magazine’s assignment and done it far more credibly with a more reasoned approach. My take away upon reading the essay was that it was exceedingly long, largely based on outdated stereotypes, and riddled with factual errors. The few valid points about the state’s downturn in economy and population were lost in the overriding diatribe.

I was back to looking for Why? The reasons I can come up with are cynical.

  1. He’s promoting his books and subscribes to the theory that ‘any publicity is good publicity as long as they spell his name right.’  This could backfire on him. I expect Iowans have been an avid audience for his books on Postville and Oxford.  They may be less willing to buy them now.
     
  2. He has another job, in another state, on the line. Bloom is on sabbatical in Michigan at the moment. Maybe he hopes to stay. I’d advise Michigan to beware. If the past is a guide to the future, Bloom may again be willing to take with one hand and stab with the other.
     
  3. He gets paid by hits to his article on The Atlantic website.  Until today, I didn’t know this was how contributors to online editions of magazines are often paid.  Each unique hit to Bloom’s article means The Atlantic pays him more.  This last reason is perhaps the most cynical. 

Under this scenario, Bloom may have purposely written the article as he did to generate the exact kind of reaction he’s gotten. To goad so many of us into doing exactly what we did – go read the article. If he did, it’s sad. For me at least. But Stephen Bloom may be laughing all the way to the bank.