The left-wing Forward magazine’s latest attempt to smear Dr. Sebastian Gorka — Deputy Assistant to the president and former national security editor for Breitbart News — is encountering stiff resistance from critics who say they mistranslated and deceptively edited a 2007 interview in Hungary to make Gorka look like a supporter of anti-Semitic militia groups.
Writing at The Federalist, David Harsanyi calls the Forward piece “shoddy journalism” and notes the unedited video of Gorka’s interview was only belatedly added to Forward’s website. A cursory glance at the heavily-edited video gave Harsanyi the idea that some very important remarks had been clipped out, so he sent the full interview off for a translation.
He found, in essence, that Gorka was theoretically supporting the concept of citizen militias – the situation in Hungary being chaotic at the time – but he actually denounces the founders of the specific militia group Forward wishes to portray him as supporting. They are also trying to hold him accountable for what they did later, even though the objectionable group in question was not formed until about three weeks after the interview.
The key comment from Gorka is:
There was a growing need among the Hungarians to defend the country’s honor. I believe Jobbik has decided to politically exploit and politically benefit from a popular call for self-defense. And the most important thing is that, I stress, the most important thing is that this is has nothing to do with our party, the UDK, rather it’s Fidesz who is behind the plan.
Jobbik is the objectionable group Forward has been frantically working to link Gorka to. Fidesz is a right-wing party, and the UDK is the “New Democratic Coalition,” the party Gorka helped to create. As Harsanyi points out, there is no honest way to construe the passage above as support for the “Magyar Garda” militia Fidesz and Jobbik were setting up.
Another tactic used against Gorka in the article involves slamming him for saying Magyar Garda was “not worth” banning or portraying as a national security risk. He was uncertain banning the yet-to-exist group would be legal or ethical. Harsanyi finds that a reasonable assessment, given that the militia only picked up about 200 members once it got rolling. Somehow this became mild and irrelevant “ambivalence” in Gorka’s otherwise enthusiastic support for the militia in Forward’s hands.
Harsanyi also catches a nice little bit of goalpost-shifting at the end of the hit piece, as Forward belatedly concedes it cannot actually prove Gorka guilty of anti-Semitism, but suddenly the charge mutates into not battling anti-Semitism as fiercely as he might have.
David Reaboi, who speaks Hungarian, enlisted the aid of two independent translators to post a complete transcript of the Gorka interview at RedState. He notes that the full production is eleven minutes long, while Forward’s clip was only two minutes – and somehow managed a whopping ten cuts in that brief run time.
It is even more clear from Reaboi’s full translation that Gorka was not a proponent of creating the paramilitary group, as he calls Fidesz stupid, opportunistic, and dishonest for their role in giving birth to Magyar Garda. In fact, he calls them “stupid” at least half a dozen times. History would prove him wrong about Fidesz’s “failed leader” Viktor Orban winning his “stupid” bid for re-election.
Gorka strives to make the point that forming such a militia was legal in theory, and it was understandable why many people in Hungary would support the idea given widespread corruption in the military and police forces, but he never comes close to endorsing it himself.
Ironically, there is an exchange in which he denounces the use of anti-Semitism as a political cudgel to silence people, as this very conversation would be used against him, ten years later.
Appearing on Breitbart News Daily Wednesday, Reaboi noted that games were also played with translating context-sensitive Hungarian phrases: “I had to look at it three or four times until I realized that they actually mistranslated him completely in Hungarian because, as an example, in Hungarian grammatically, you support and they support are the same. You have to see the context.”
Reaboi denounced the Forward piece as a “new low” on Breitbart News Daily and said “scumbags would be the nice word” for their efforts to fundraise off the anti-Gorka crusade.
David P. Goldman was perhaps even more outraged at PJ Media, pointedly accusing Forward of adopting the very tactics used by anti-Semites in their zeal to bring Gorka down.
“The Forward may style itself Jewish, but it learned its journalism from classic anti-Semitism,” Goldman charged. “There is a name for this sort of propaganda, and it is The Big Lie: as Hitler’s mouthpiece Joseph Goebbels liked to say, if you tell a lie often enough, people will believe it.”
“The Forward is employing time-tested methods of anti-Semitic propaganda,” he elaborated:
Ben Hecht begins his 1944 book A Guide for the Bedeviled with the remarks of a proper Los Angeles lady who admits that the Nazis wrote mountains of lies about the Jews, but nonetheless insisted that there must be some fire behind all of this smoke: If so many terrible things are said about the Jews, she argued, the Jews must have done something bad to provoke them.
Goldman noted that numerous other outlets ran with Forward’s headline immediately, without challenging the deceptive edits or performing translations of their own. There is little need for fire with a smoke machine that big. Any discussion can be transformed into an outrage with enough ellipses.