The year 2002 had a laser-beam focus on war, terrorism and homeland security, which might explain the liberal media's political exasperation all year long. Try as they might, they just couldn't create a crisis. They suggested the Enron scandal would be "Bush's Whitewater." They scolded Congress for failing to rob the young and poor to lard on prescription-drug subsidies for the old and established. They blamed tiny tax cuts for resurfacing massive deficits.
But our dangerous world drew out their worst tendencies, as a panel of 50 judges found in selecting the Media Research Center's "Best Notable Quotables of 2002." One depressingly persistent tendency is the soft spot for America-hating tyrants. In October, Barbara Walters earned the "Media Hero Award" for suggesting there was nothing she wouldn't do to land an interview with Fidel Castro, including recycling illogic from the Cuban propaganda ministry: "For Castro, freedom starts with education. And if literacy alone were the yardstick, Cuba would rank as one of the freest nations on Earth."
That's not the only example of ABC touting a tyrant's talking points. ABC reporter David Wright won the "Politics of Meaninglessness Award" for the silliest analysis by spouting this nonsense just four days after Barbara lathered up Castro: "Seven years ago, when the last referendum took place, Saddam Hussein won 99.96 percent of the vote. Of course, it is impossible to say whether that's a true measure of the Iraqi people's feelings." What's impossible to say is whether Mr. Wright has a true grasp on political reality. Given that it is illegal to agitate against this thug, it's reasonable to deduce that voting against Saddam is an invitation for imprisonment, torture, and maybe even death. But for this intrepid journalist it's still "impossible" to know if Iraqis are intimidated.
But Wright isn't alone in his inanity. Judges handed the "Good Morning Morons Award" to CNN's Web site for plugging upcoming segments on "American Morning with Paula Zahn" with the sentence: "Iraqi citizens are preparing to go to the polls to decide whether Hussein stays in office." And CNN wonders why its audience is flocking to Fox.
To crystallize the media's growing infatuation with celebrities as geopolitical experts, there is now the "Barbara Streisand Political IQ Award for Celebrity Pontificating." The leader in Hollywood brain damage in 2002 was actress Jessica Lange, who aired these fevered thoughts at a Spanish film festival in September: "The election was stolen by George Bush, and we have been suffering ever since under this man's leadership ... There has to be a movement now to really oppose what he is proposing (for Iraq) because it's unconstitutional, it's immoral, and it's basically illegal ... It is an embarrassing time to be an American."
Judges were asked to select their "Quote of the Year," and the winner was awarded to that master of subsidized sanctimony at PBS, Bill Moyers. Three days after Republicans added House seats and regained the Senate majority, Moyers was still frothing at the taxpayers' expense, still painting the old standard liberal smears with a sloppy, broad brush.
Republicans would be forcing pregnant women to "surrender control" of their wombs, transferring tax money "from working people to the rich," giving corporations a free hand to "eviscerate the environment" and invoking "secrecy on a scale you cannot imagine." In all, it was a "heady time for piety, profits and military power." Piety, profits and secrecy -- that perfectly defines the empire multi-millionaire Bill Moyers has built at PBS with our money.
While liberals everywhere celebrated the end of Strom Thurmond's refusal to retire, conservatives are still wondering about Helen Thomas, the ex-reporter who somehow still hangs on to her front-row seat at the White House with a kung-fu grip. Ms. Thomas seems to be getting crankier every year, and crotchety enough in 2002 to gain her own category, the "Mount St. Helen Award for Helen Thomas Eruptions." The winning quote came from a November speech at MIT where she mysteriously proclaimed "I censored myself for 50 years." (Huh?) But "now I wake up and ask myself, 'who do I hate today?'" The answer, if you're wondering, appears to be President Bush: "I have never covered a president who actually wanted to go to war. Bush's policy of pre-emptive war is immoral. Such a policy would legitimize Pearl Harbor. It's as if they learned none of the lessons from Vietnam ... Where is the outrage?"
Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer responded to one post-election Helen diatribe with the rejoinder, "Helen, you sound like a commercial that didn't work." That rejoinder was applicable to hundreds of others media utterances in 2002.