Inside the Blue Bubble
Noam Dworman clashes with Washington Post columnist Philip Bump, and the results aren't pretty
Last week Noam Dworman of Comedy Cellar USA, on his Live at the Table podcast, interviewed Washington Post columnist Philip Bump. It was a debate, with Bump invited because he’s “most associated with pouring cold water on the Hunter Biden story,” as Noam put it.
The show went viral as Bump, semi-reprising the performance of Russiagate champion and Guardian reporter Luke Harding walking on an interview with Aaron Mate, left abruptly after conceding Hunter’s line, “unlike pop, I won’t make you give me half your salary” was evidence. To be fair the show had run long, but Bump insisted earlier that there was “no evidence” of wrongdoing on Joe Biden’s part, so it wasn’t a timely exit — not that I’m unfamiliar with interviews that go sideways.
I know Noam and my name got dragged into this somewhat absurdly (Bump said I had “an agenda,” as Noam brought up tapes between Petro Poroshenko and Joe Biden I’d referenced), but didn’t want to say anything. Then a subsequent show also went sideways, for much the same reason. More on that in a moment. Back to Bump v. Dworman:
Many exchanges in the podcast stand out, not in a good way. Bump repeatedly tells Noam his problem is that he’s not accepting his, Bump’s, versions of things. At about the 56-minute mark, Bump chides Noam for bringing up things that have been “debunked.” When Noam asks, “What’s been debunked?” Bump says, “I’ve written about this!” He adds, “It’s been debunked in the sense that I’ve already addressed this, and presented the counter-arguments to it.”
At about 1:05 in the video above, Noam brings up “the issue of the press. The press actually bothers me more than Joe Biden…” To which Bump interjects [emphasis mine]: “But you don’t listen to the press. I’m sitting here and telling you you’re wrong about these things and you don’t listen.” About five minutes later Noam again brings up media, and Bump says, “But again, you’re attacking the press, because you refuse to listen to what we’re saying.”
Nearly an hour into the show Bump began complaining he’d been set up, and I know what he was thinking, having of course also been in the position of being invited to an interview with someone who perhaps wants to make an ass of you. I actually don’t think that’s Noam’s game, but even if it were, the answer isn’t to keep repeating, “How can we talk when you keep insisting I get down from this high horse I’m on?”
Bump acts like he and his paper haven’t gotten all sorts of things wrong in recent years, implicitly rejecting the notion that people like Noam have reason to question anything “already addressed” by papers like the Post. If you need an explanation for declining ratings and circulation of mainstream press outlets, this vibe is it.
The other episode involved professor and frequent media commentator Dan Drezner, who laughs hysterically and at great length the instant it registers that Noam plans on countering a claim that Trump was a bad president. It’s at about the 52-minute mark:
I’m not sure I could classify Donald Trump as a good president. I’d feel extremely confident however in saying, for instance, that George W. Bush was a worse one, not just for the WMD lies and accompanying Iraq disaster (which Drezner supported, by the way), but because of his and Dick Cheney’s ambitious innovations in anti-democratic grotesqueries like state-sponsored kidnapping (i.e. rendition) and mass surveillance. Drezner is doing what Bump did, albeit with more humor: gagging in disbelief when a mainstream piety sent up the flagpole isn’t instantly saluted.
I think a lot of people in the world I once inhabited, in center-left media and academia, don’t realize they’ve slipped into a deeply unattractive habit of substituting checklists of unquestioned assumptions for thought. In the blue bubble Trump’s limitless evil is an idea with such awesome gravitational pull that it makes nuanced discussion about almost anything impossible. It’s why no one in media could suggest even the possibility he hadn’t colluded with Russia. He’s become an anti-God, of a faith that requires constant worship. When do we get to go back to being atheists?