Are my methods unsound?
March 28, 2017 6:02 PM   Subscribe

Sebastian Gorka is a Trump advisor on terrorism, has ties(?) to Nazi collaborators, and political science PhD from Corvinus University in Hugary. What's his dissertation like? Daniel Nexon reviews: Sebastian Gorka May Be a Far-Right Nativist, but for Sure He’s a Terrible Scholar
It’s possible for relative outsiders to produce important work. Often, those scholars extend their intellectual reach beyond their area of immediate expertise and bring fresh or disruptive perspectives to research communities. But sadly, Gorka’s scholarship is as shaky as his credentials, as I discovered when I went to one of the few available sources: his dissertation. I wanted a better understanding of Gorka’s views and their scholarly foundations. As he has, to my knowledge, published only one article in a peer-reviewed journal — a slim, multi-authored piece cautioning against overthinking “complexity” when it comes to grand strategy — my pickings were slim.
more at Lawyers, Guns and Money
Sebastian Gorka’s Dissertation, Part I
We should exercise caution when evaluating dissertations. Dissertations are not works of scientific perfection. I finished mine in a marathon month, as I was pushing the deadline for retaining my position at Georgetown. Even the substantially revised book that emerged from contains a handful of truly embarrassing historical errors. In other words, I think it would be grossly unfair to reduce Gorka to his dissertation, or to use it as evidence that he is unqualified for his position. Moreover, I concentrated in the study of international security. I know a bit about the intersection between great-power politics and transnational religious movements. Still, I am not a terrorism expert. I am certainly not an expert on Islam. And I am far from an expert on Islamic terrorism.

Nonetheless, I did read the dissertation last night. Members of the Lawyers, Guns and Money community have asked for my opinion. I would not characterize it as a work of scholarship. I am confident that it would not earn him a doctorate at any reputable academic department in the United States. Indeed, it would be unacceptable as an undergraduate thesis for the Department of Government or the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. My guess is that Gorka wanted to call himself “Doctor,” and his PhD-granting institution was happy to oblige.
The Gorka Dissertation, Part II
In my prior post, I tried to make clear that you don’t need to get very far—less than twenty pages, in fact—into Gorka’s dissertation to recognize its academic shoddiness. Something like 7% of it is a cut-and-paste job from an earlier article. In of itself, that’s not a problem. But the article came out 3-4 years before the dissertation, and Gorka couldn’t be bothered to change the text or update the data to reflect that gap. The first twenty pages also reveal a pattern that persists throughout the entire thesis: Gorka is not big on citations, especially scholarly ones. Moreover, the citation practices are, shall we say, lax
The Gorka Dissertation, Part III
I wasn’t that enthusiastic about writing another installment. There’s only so much satisfaction from bashing an obvious vanity dissertation. But now I see that some right-wing media outlets are alleging a conspiracy to ‘take down’ Sebastian Gorka by nefarious Obama supporters. In the classic style of deflection, his defenders say that he’s a “patriot” and “consummate professional.” Indeed, Georgetown PhD Mike Gallagher, now a GOP Representative from Wisconson, says that “The counterterrorism field is highly politicized, and I fear the personal attacks on him are politically motivated.” So, like it or not, welcome to Part III.

I want to stress again that I am simply commenting on the academic merits of Gorka’s dissertation and, inter alia, some of the claims found within it. My assessment has no direct bearing on any of the other controversies surrounding Gorka, except to the extent that he uses his doctorate to buttress his authority. Also, please keep in mind that when I argue that the dissertation is wanting as a piece of scholarship, that does not imply that its claims are groundless. It merely means that his presentation of them in the dissertation is without scholarly merit.
I am So So Very Done with Sebastian v. Gorka’s Dissertation, see FP link above.

FORWARD: EXCLUSIVE: Nazi-Allied Group Claims Top Trump Aide Sebastian Gorka As Sworn Member

AREA MAN: Why do these fascists keep ending up in my administration?
posted by the man of twists and turns (40 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
I'd go more into the Vitézi Rend / Order of Vitézi, but my Hungarian is ... not great.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:03 PM on March 28

I'm sure this is linked to in one of the linked articles, but Dan Drezner's survival tips for Gorka are great.
I can get why you’re upset. If Google Scholar is any guide, there’s a good reason you never had to deal with criticism from strangers. Until you took a position with the White House, no one had bothered to take your work seriously.
In between Gorka and Viktor Orban, my ancestral homeland of Hungary has not been shining on the cultural export market recently. Chicken paprikas is still good though.
posted by mark k at 6:13 PM on March 28 [8 favorites]

I feel a sudden commonality with Mr. Gorka.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:18 PM on March 28

A friend of mine calls him Lord Haw-Haw.
posted by brujita at 6:57 PM on March 28 [11 favorites]

In between Gorka and Viktor Orban, my ancestral homeland of Hungary has not been shining on the cultural export market recently.

Sad news on the import front.
posted by Artw at 7:15 PM on March 28 [6 favorites]

Full Frontal also discussed the "treasurer of the Stephen Segal fan club".
posted by dannyboybell at 7:19 PM on March 28 [8 favorites]

I guess it's good that the Trump White House is functioning as a jobs program for hideously unqualified right-wing extremists. I mean the reality is that a substantial number of these guys seem utterly incapable of operating in the real world do it's rather nice of Trump and company to develop an alternative world were competency is less important than ideological uniformity.

Fortunately for the rest of us the complete lack of merit based hiring in the Trump administration seems to have left the Republicans with an executive completely incapable of governing which might very well save us from some of the consequences of their completely abhorrent world view.
posted by vuron at 7:42 PM on March 28 [7 favorites]

Why is his head so big?
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:43 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]

It's full of big thoughts.
posted by valkane at 8:09 PM on March 28 [4 favorites]

There's a small personal irony in the whole Gorka business: A week before the election, I was in Budapest, visiting the couple I'd stayed with during study abroad in 2005. Discussing the possible outcomes of a Trump win, the woman said [referring to Fidesz/Orban/Jobbik] something along the lines of "we already have these troubles, but we are a much smaller country than you."

That's Hungary for you, always trying to punch above its weight.
posted by PMdixon at 8:50 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]

Sad news on the import front.


If you had told me 10 years ago that Angela Merkel would be far and away my favorite world leader I would not have believed you for one second.

My favorite exchange in 2016 was:

Orban: Germany will be building a fence too within a decade.
Merkel: I spent enough of my life behind a wall. I will not be building a new one.

Sadly, I now find Google says while I'm right on the substance of their spat the actual exchange wasn't at all pithy. This version will remain my version though.

posted by mark k at 9:08 PM on March 28 [19 favorites]

Academic or not, this guy seriously skeeves me out. Where the hell do they find these people?
posted by Standard Orange at 10:49 PM on March 28

This guy. What a gorka.
posted by Lyme Drop at 11:56 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]

If it wasn’t for the current political situation in Hungary and, you know, the things Gorka says, I wouldn’t necessarily find the Vitézi Rend stuff particularly sinister. It comes with a uniform, a medal and a title! People love that shit.

But it’s like the thing about Nigel Farage singing Hitler Youth songs when he was at school: it was decades ago, he was a stupid teenager. So I’d be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume he’d left it behind him, except that he grew up to become a nationalist politician.

It’s a depressing thought that working in the White House now makes it seem more plausible rather than less that you’re an actual nazi.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 12:52 AM on March 29 [3 favorites]

Chapo has pilloried Gorko sumpin fierce fwiw
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:12 AM on March 29 [2 favorites]

Four thoughts about Sebastian Gorka:

1) "Sebastian Gorka" sounds like the name of an under-villain in either a 1960s Marvel comic or one of the early James Bond stories. Not the main villain, but one of the guys the hero has to deal with in the process of getting to the main villain.

2) Alternatively, "Gorka" could be the name of a monster in one those pre-superhero Marvel titles, when Tales of Suspense or Journey Into Mystery featured sci-fi/horror stories like "Gorka, Mad Ruler of the Prison Planet!" instead of Iron Man or Thor.

3) I thought Samantha Bee's crack about Gorka having the facial hair of a cruise ship magician was spot on.

4) Sam Seder has been goofing on Gorka's accent and manner of speech quite a bit in recent days of "The Majority Report," including one especially choice moment last week when he, sidekick Michael Brooks, and the caller of the moment were all doing their own ridiculous versions of "Gorka" simultaneously. OK, it was juvenile, but still funny.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 1:38 AM on March 29 [6 favorites]

I clicked on the link to Gorka's response and made the mistake of scrolling donw to the comments and reading some of them.

Now I feel the urgent need to wash my eyes.
posted by sour cream at 1:44 AM on March 29

I wouldn’t necessarily find the Vitézi Rend stuff particularly sinister. It comes with a uniform, a medal and a title!

So does the KKK.

The original Vitézi Rend was inherently antisemitic, because it was a purported order of merit from which Jews were excluded. As a military order it naturally grew to reflect the military hierarchy of Hungary, so its members were predisposed to being antisemites personally, not just by association. That's the history Gorka's invoking. The nonsense about the Vitézi Rend being anti-communist is only true because revanchist Hungarians wanted the good old pre-communist days back. . You know, the period before before the Soviet invasion of 1945, when Hungary was run by members of the Vitézi Rend under the direction Nazi Germany; those days.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:08 AM on March 29 [20 favorites]

I've been living in Hungary for the past eight months and what has happened here really feels like the canary in the mineshaft for what is possible with the new rightwing autocracy movements that we are seeing worldwide. Prime Minister Orban's cronies bought up the media and then raided the media that they couldn't buy with police while simultaneously declaring in their own media thst those targeted outlets merely went bankrupt. Putin and Orban are very close and Russia subsidizes cheap energy in Hungary to keep a short leash. My university, Central European University, is next on the chopping block with Hungary's parliament proposing a law designed to shut it down while the crony media makes discrediting attacks.

Meanwhile, legal asylum seeking immigrants are being rounded up and put in camps which is hauntingly similar to how Hungary's capitulation to the Nazi Holocaust started during WWII. But Orban's government supports the ahistorical notion that Hungarians were purely victims of Nazism...

Before the anti-immigrant vote last Fall, I saw uniformed skinheads celebrating in the streets of Budapest. They're supported by the #2 political party, Jobbik. Jobbik and Orban's party work closely together.

Liberal Hungarians of means just pick up and leave, causing brain drain that further lessens the country's ability to prevent conservatism and corruption.

What is happening here in Hungary is what nationalists on reddit's /r/nationalism, /r/the_donald, 4chan and Voat want to see happen in the US. The Orban government defines itself in its own words as "illiberal." Radicals in the US dream of "the day of the rope." The radical right is now becoming mainstream worldwide and they won't quit until liberalism and its institutions are strangled by any means.
posted by Skwirl at 3:04 AM on March 29 [37 favorites]

What really gets me is how the American right wing largely doesn't care if he is a Nazi or not.

One would think that if there were any serious doubt about whether that were the case, the question would be incredibly important to basically any American with enough interest in politics to form opinions of any kind. The few Teahadists arguing thatVitézi Rend isn't so bad despite being founded by a Nazi collaborator and chartered with unambiguously fascist goals, or arguing that Gorka only believes in the non-Nazi parts of Vitézi Rend, or arguing that the way Gorka has organized his whole identity down to the name he uses around this organization doesn't mean he is a "member" all at least make a sort of sense to me, but they are baffling and seem radically new. One would think that this would be deeply relevant to everyone from literal American Nazis in jackboots to their polar opposites, regardless of who they feel those polar opposites are.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:33 AM on March 29 [10 favorites]

I'd have thought the same about the Russian connection, and the crony capitalism; but to be fair I was also surprised by how willing people were to excuse Obama for failing to prosecute torturers or major financial criminals. I suppose politics has always been partisan, but this apparent eagerness to abandon long-held positions astonishes me.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:49 AM on March 29 [6 favorites]

Re: the Tablet link:

If this putz has no ties to Vitézi Rend, why the fuck does he put the "v." in his name? It's like if an imperial wizard of the KKK put the initials of his title in his name: "Traveller Noteeth i.w. Lee"!!!!
posted by notsnot at 6:17 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]

Dan Drezner's take is genius: "Gorka could be officially designated as the Hand to the Man of Tiny Hands and it wouldn’t change the fact that he’s a crap scholar who keeps saying stupid things and holds fringe views on terrorism in the Middle East."
posted by wingless_angel at 6:24 AM on March 29

This administration reminds me of the Nazis is one big way, the Nazis attracted all the weirdos, perverts and just plain nasty people and these same people are attaching themselves to the orange motherfucker.
posted by zzazazz at 6:25 AM on March 29 [5 favorites]

Re: the Tablet link:

If this putz has no ties to Vitézi Rend, why the fuck does he put the "v." in his name?

Per the Tablet link:
Gorka himself told me that the allegations are flat-out false.

“I have never been a member of the Vitez Rend. I have never taken an oath of loyalty to the Vitez Rend. Since childhood, I have occasionally worn my father’s medal and used the ‘v.’ initial to honor his struggle against totalitarianism.” It’s a perfectly plausible explanation, and you’d have to be of a very specific mindset to still pursue allegations of Nazi affiliation.
I don't buy it myself*, but that's his explanation.

* -- Wearing a medal as a medal, as he does, rather than as a lapel pin or tie tack or somesuch, is not honoring the recipient of the medal, it's claiming it as your own.
posted by Etrigan at 6:47 AM on March 29 [6 favorites]

No member of the Trump admin has ever been known to just blatantly lie when called on their shit.
posted by Artw at 6:54 AM on March 29 [4 favorites]

Chapo Trap House dragged him with their usual skill. James Adomian does an eerily good impression:
posted by turntraitor at 7:06 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]

Wearing a medal as a medal,

My grandfather was awarded a ww2 victory medal, among others, which I have and I think it's pretty neat but I don't fucking wear it.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:12 AM on March 29 [24 favorites]

Yeah, I don't approve of what my grandfather did in WWI but sometimes I write my name "Benzene 'Scourge of the Hungarian Cowards' Dream". It's a small token to honor his military service.
posted by benzenedream at 8:21 AM on March 29 [7 favorites]

Gorka is the sound my cat makes when he's trying to dislodge a hairball
posted by Existential Dread at 8:38 AM on March 29 [4 favorites]

and you’d have to be of a very specific mindset to still pursue allegations of Nazi affiliation.

I was utterly unaware of The Tablet before this thread, but the failure to ask what, exactly, that mindset would be does not incline me to treat them seriously.
posted by PMdixon at 9:12 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]

> I was utterly unaware of The Tablet before this thread, but the failure to ask what, exactly, that mindset would be does not incline me to treat them seriously.

That is not the name of the magazine. It's either Tablet, Tablet mag, or Tablet magazine.
posted by durandal at 9:24 AM on March 29

Mea culpa.
posted by PMdixon at 9:32 AM on March 29

I assume they're basically a right wing cover up operation.
posted by Artw at 9:54 AM on March 29 [1 favorite]

It comes with a uniform, a medal and a title!

So did Idi Amin.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 3:31 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]

I assume they're basically a right wing cover up operation.

No, Tablet Magazine is pretty diverse. My assessment is that this is a historically unusual level of political involvement for a magazine which is exactly what it purports to be: an online magazine of articles of interest to the Jewish community.

Leibovitz's defense of Gorka is stupid, and he's been too conciliatory about Trump in the past; but he's not the editor and one article doesn't represent an editorial line. Presently the front page has two explicitly anti-Trump articles, and several others that IMO wouldn't appear on a right-wing rag.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:51 PM on March 29

Looking at the author's other articles it looks like they're more just being dumb and easily misled in this one particular case than a sneaky proponent of the antisemitism-is-okay-as-long-as-some-arabs-might-be-hurt line of thinking we've seen in some quarters.
posted by Artw at 5:27 PM on March 29

The thing is, the Nazi association is beside the point (unless it's somehow enough of a smoking gun to get Gorka out--but it really probably isn't). Gorka is a complete fraud and huckster, the sort of not-even-fringe-academic that gets a place in the halls of power for purely ideological reasons, a symptom of an ideology that has literally no purchase in serious academic or educated thought at all and thus has to find guys with Ph.Ds from "Budapest Upstairs Hairdressers' University."

He's not awful because he wears a medal with gross associations. He wears that medal because he's fucking awful and should be openly mocked and derided at every turn for his abject uselessness, ignorance, shamelessness, and vile, self-serving cynicism.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:16 PM on March 29 [5 favorites]

He reminds me a bit of Marc Garlasco. There's the same plausible deniability, the same lack of any reported personal involvement in racist acts, and the same obsessive need to subtly signal their status to other people obsessed with a racist organisation.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:39 PM on March 29

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