Tuesday, January 10, 2012

If I Were a Poor Iowa Kid--Oh Wait, I Was

Art of the Rural has a complete and interesting recap of the Stephen Bloom kerfuffle in "The Atlantic." I wasn't really curious about it until I read Matthew Fluharty's blog post. He includes a link to this interview with Bloom, in which Bloom characterizes his article as "satire" and "parody."

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I read the article, and couldn't identify what, specifically, Bloom was parodying or satirizing. What I read was, mostly, an unsympathetic description of rural poverty. Why he (and The Atlantic) thought that another disdainful description of white people at economic and cultural disadvantage would be useful and informative is puzzling. There's been so much of it, ranging from the nineteenth century Hatfield--McCoy feud's national newspaper coverage to Bill O'Reilly ranting that drunken Appalachians should move to Miami and "get a job".

The Iowa article was so mean-spirited and so much in the mood of "white-trash" bashing that it reminded me of the appalling Gene Marks article, If I Were a Poor Black Kid, on the Forbes website. (Originally published as "If I WAS a Poor Black Kid"--I guess Mr. Marks is not quite as well-educated as he thought.)

"If I Were a Poor Black Kid" unleashed a flood of angry and funny responses, including Poorblackkid.com. Similarly, Bloom's Web article is now accompanied by a variety of responses, and helped inspire this much-viewed video:

Because of the vehement response to the Forbes article, several people have suggested that it is actually an Internet troll tactic, and that the outrage has raised Gene Marks' profile and readership. Perhaps that explains why The Atlantic published Bloom's grouchy and tired critique of his adopted home. Willie Geist's NBC interview above notes that Bloom is "in hiding" because he has received harassing phone calls. I certainly hope no harm comes to his family because of his flame-bait. That kind of behavior only reinforces Bloom's clue-less disdain.

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