Opinion | Sebastian Gorka’s New Show Proves that Propaganda Makes Lousy TV


Almost nobody tuned into the first episode of Dr. Sebastian Gorka’s new talk show on Newsmax, The Gorka Reality Check, with high expectations.

Since Donald Trump’s defeat, there’s been a TV land rush to capture as much of the Trump base as possible, turn their Trumpian grievances and nostalgia for the past four years into a reliable viewership. In December, Newsmax executed the formula so well that it temporarily displaced the dominant Fox News Channel as the center of the Trump media universe, inspiring producers at Newsmax, OAN and eventually Fox to pander to the nationalist right, Trump uber alles audience. Fox, feeling the Newsmax heat, even demoted a “newsy” show, The Story With Martha MacCallum, from 7 p.m. to 3 p.m. to make way for more overt opinion in prime time.

This right-wing gold rush bestowed a show on Gorka, who is both handicapped and blessed by the limited range he brings to the microphone when singing his right-wing hymns. He flattens Trumpism, which is pretty flat to begin with, into an even simpler set of pro-Trump, anti-“Democrat Party” homilies. In other words, he’s the Trump administration’s eternal flame, doggedly burning to illuminate the path to Trump’s restoration for the faithful.

If the one-time Trump administration aide, current radio host, and occasional book author possessed much in the way of broadcast potential, wouldn’t his ideological comrades at Fox have given him a show or, at the very least, let him enter the try-outs the network has been holding to select a host for its currently open 7 p.m. slot? None of the candidates who have appeared so far, Trey Gowdy, Maria Bartiromo, Mark Steyn and Brian Kilmeade, has secured the permanent host position at the prestigious—or at least, better-watched—Fox News. But Gorka has a history at Fox. He worked there as a contributor from November 2017 to March 2019, when he was pushed out. His version of his Fox departure was that he wanted to spend more time on his syndicated radio show and his commitment to the Sinclair Broadcast Group. But according to a 2018 Daily Beast piece, the doctor earned a “soft ban” from producers on the news side (as opposed to the talk side), with one anonymous producer telling the Beast it avoided Gorka because he was essentially “useless” to shows, unable to produce anything but routinized songs of praise for President Donald Trump. When Fox news producers dismiss you as a mere Trump propagandist, it makes sense to move your act to a lesser network like Newsmax where that’s an asset.

Routinized Songs of Praise for President Donald Trump would be a good title for the Gorka TV hour-long show, which debuted on Sunday at 7 p.m. The program, shot cheaply on a no-budget set in front of a Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument screen, consumed its first quarter-hour extolling Trump and Trumpism in the grandest and blandest terms possible as he set the stage for his three guests: Brexit activist and Trump pal Nigel Farage; Hoover Institution scholar Victor Davis Hanson, author of The Case for Trump; and Conrad Black, the newspaper publisher, who won a 2019 pardon from Trump after publishing a laudatory biography of him. “Life changed” when Trump ran, Gorka said, setting up the interviews, using his voice that has always sounded both mechanical and desynchronized. Trump was important, Gorka said, because he interrupted the age of the professional politician and was a threat to the establishment because nobody owned him.

Farage, Hanson and Black followed Gorka’s lead in their segments, mouthing soft platitudes about Trump as the host pitched them balloon-sized whiffle balls for his guests to swing at. “What is Donald Trump really like,” Gorka asked Farage. “He’s a great, fun president to be with,” Farage said. Hanson spoke of the “radical—what’s the word?—recalibration” of Wall Street, the military, sports and entertainment in the Biden era. “Can this radicalism in the left be challenged robustly or must we just wait for it to burn itself out? What is your prediction?” Gorka asked. Challenged, of course, responded Hanson, as if passive resistance was really an option. Black, who is ordinarily no doofus, wandered into a magical world of his own imagination when he embraced Gorka’s advice that Republicans carry on as “happy warriors,” a term usually applied to liberals like Franklin D. Roosevelt. Black responded, citing something he just wrote in the National Review: “If Roosevelt was alive today, he would be for Trump, and not for Biden. He wouldn’t sign on to any of this woken nonsense.” FDR as a Trumpist? If not for the pardon, one would say that Black deserves to complete his jail term for that lunacy. As for Trump’s post-presidency performances, Black effused that Trump was doing everything right.

How many ways can you say that Trump is good in all things and Biden is bad? The coming weeks will surely reveal the answer. But the sort of weekly confab of agreement and enthusiastic seconding that is The Gorka Reality Check isn’t a total waste. For Trump fans, Newsmax is a safe place where they go and hear the man’s message, and The Gorka Reality Check seems to aspire to be the very safest show in its line-up. You can’t really disparage a reverend for preaching to the choir. The reason they come to church week after week is to hear the same old gospel. Gorka knows his gospel, all right, chapter and verse, and one suspects he will be unmoved by people who find his ditto-head act so sad and so lacking in debate and discourse.

We know from inspecting the fossil record of Gorka’s career that he can shout hell and damnation and put the pug in pugnacious when in close proximity to his political and media foes. Remember his barking match with Playboy’s Brian Karem in the Rose Garden during Trump’s Social Media Summit? If he can’t bring even a tad of his Morton Downey Jr. energy to his show, how is he going to be of interest even to the most abject Trump supporter? They want blood or at least the threat of it. If, as he insists, the legacy media is “morally bankrupt,” he’ll have to start showing the receipts in his show, and not just spoon with his guests and the memory of Trump.

In Gorka’s mind, the catcalls and jeers from his critics will surely function like an elixir, convincing him of the correctness of his Trumpism and fueling his ego for the next disputation-free episode.

******

I haven’t been on TV since 2011 and have no intention of returning, even if Newsmax gives me my own show. Send your idea for a TV talk show starring my former editor to Shafer.Politico@gmail.com. My email alerts favor OAN. My Twitter feed digs Sinclair. My RSS feed killed its television.

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Almost nobody tuned into the first episode of Dr. Sebastian Gorka’s new talk show on Newsmax, The Gorka Reality Check, with high expectations.

Since Donald Trump’s defeat, there’s been a TV land rush to capture as much of the Trump base as possible, turn their Trumpian grievances and nostalgia for the past four years into a reliable viewership. In December, Newsmax executed the formula so well that it temporarily displaced the dominant Fox News Channel as the center of the Trump media universe, inspiring producers at Newsmax, OAN and eventually Fox to pander to the nationalist right, Trump uber alles audience. Fox, feeling the Newsmax heat, even demoted a “newsy” show, The Story With Martha MacCallum, from 7 p.m. to 3 p.m. to make way for more overt opinion in prime time.

This right-wing gold rush bestowed a show on Gorka, who is both handicapped and blessed by the limited range he brings to the microphone when singing his right-wing hymns. He flattens Trumpism, which is pretty flat to begin with, into an even simpler set of pro-Trump, anti-“Democrat Party” homilies. In other words, he’s the Trump administration’s eternal flame, doggedly burning to illuminate the path to Trump’s restoration for the faithful.

If the one-time Trump administration aide, current radio host, and occasional book author possessed much in the way of broadcast potential, wouldn’t his ideological comrades at Fox have given him a show or, at the very least, let him enter the try-outs the network has been holding to select a host for its currently open 7 p.m. slot? None of the candidates who have appeared so far, Trey Gowdy, Maria Bartiromo, Mark Steyn and Brian Kilmeade, has secured the permanent host position at the prestigious—or at least, better-watched—Fox News. But Gorka has a history at Fox. He worked there as a contributor from November 2017 to March 2019, when he was pushed out. His version of his Fox departure was that he wanted to spend more time on his syndicated radio show and his commitment to the Sinclair Broadcast Group. But according to a 2018 Daily Beast piece, the doctor earned a “soft ban” from producers on the news side (as opposed to the talk side), with one anonymous producer telling the Beast it avoided Gorka because he was essentially “useless” to shows, unable to produce anything but routinized songs of praise for President Donald Trump. When Fox news producers dismiss you as a mere Trump propagandist, it makes sense to move your act to a lesser network like Newsmax where that’s an asset.

Routinized Songs of Praise for President Donald Trump would be a good title for the Gorka TV hour-long show, which debuted on Sunday at 7 p.m. The program, shot cheaply on a no-budget set in front of a Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument screen, consumed its first quarter-hour extolling Trump and Trumpism in the grandest and blandest terms possible as he set the stage for his three guests: Brexit activist and Trump pal Nigel Farage; Hoover Institution scholar Victor Davis Hanson, author of The Case for Trump; and Conrad Black, the newspaper publisher, who won a 2019 pardon from Trump after publishing a laudatory biography of him. “Life changed” when Trump ran, Gorka said, setting up the interviews, using his voice that has always sounded both mechanical and desynchronized. Trump was important, Gorka said, because he interrupted the age of the professional politician and was a threat to the establishment because nobody owned him.

Farage, Hanson and Black followed Gorka’s lead in their segments, mouthing soft platitudes about Trump as the host pitched them balloon-sized whiffle balls for his guests to swing at. “What is Donald Trump really like,” Gorka asked Farage. “He’s a great, fun president to be with,” Farage said. Hanson spoke of the “radical—what’s the word?—recalibration” of Wall Street, the military, sports and entertainment in the Biden era. “Can this radicalism in the left be challenged robustly or must we just wait for it to burn itself out? What is your prediction?” Gorka asked. Challenged, of course, responded Hanson, as if passive resistance was really an option. Black, who is ordinarily no doofus, wandered into a magical world of his own imagination when he embraced Gorka’s advice that Republicans carry on as “happy warriors,” a term usually applied to liberals like Franklin D. Roosevelt. Black responded, citing something he just wrote in the National Review: “If Roosevelt was alive today, he would be for Trump, and not for Biden. He wouldn’t sign on to any of this woken nonsense.” FDR as a Trumpist? If not for the pardon, one would say that Black deserves to complete his jail term for that lunacy. As for Trump’s post-presidency performances, Black effused that Trump was doing everything right.

How many ways can you say that Trump is good in all things and Biden is bad? The coming weeks will surely reveal the answer. But the sort of weekly confab of agreement and enthusiastic seconding that is The Gorka Reality Check isn’t a total waste. For Trump fans, Newsmax is a safe place where they go and hear the man’s message, and The Gorka Reality Check seems to aspire to be the very safest show in its line-up. You can’t really disparage a reverend for preaching to the choir. The reason they come to church week after week is to hear the same old gospel. Gorka knows his gospel, all right, chapter and verse, and one suspects he will be unmoved by people who find his ditto-head act so sad and so lacking in debate and discourse.

We know from inspecting the fossil record of Gorka’s career that he can shout hell and damnation and put the pug in pugnacious when in close proximity to his political and media foes. Remember his barking match with Playboy’s Brian Karem in the Rose Garden during Trump’s Social Media Summit? If he can’t bring even a tad of his Morton Downey Jr. energy to his show, how is he going to be of interest even to the most abject Trump supporter? They want blood or at least the threat of it. If, as he insists, the legacy media is “morally bankrupt,” he’ll have to start showing the receipts in his show, and not just spoon with his guests and the memory of Trump.

In Gorka’s mind, the catcalls and jeers from his critics will surely function like an elixir, convincing him of the correctness of his Trumpism and fueling his ego for the next disputation-free episode.

******

I haven’t been on TV since 2011 and have no intention of returning, even if Newsmax gives me my own show. Send your idea for a TV talk show starring my former editor to Shafer.Politico@gmail.com. My email alerts favor OAN. My Twitter feed digs Sinclair. My RSS feed killed its television.

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