Jonah Goldberg

Charlie Sheen was clearly the man of the year.

You'll recall that 2011 began with the oafish actor celebrating his own narcotic and sexual crapulence like a victorious gladiator working the crowds. He was egged on by a media with as much decency as the cons on the top tiers of the prison who chant "fresh fish" as the new inmates walk into general pop, their eyes stinging from delousing powder.

Sheen succeeded at turning his own debasement into a national pseudo-event by calling the very definition of losing "winning."

And that's what 2011 was all about: pretending to be winning while really losing. Sheen's Hollywood compatriots played the same game. Kim Kardashian, fresh from the "success" of her sex tape, parlayed her celebrity into a "classy" wedding that netted her millions and 72 days of marital bliss. Poor Lindsay Lohan, meanwhile, merely found victories in reduced jail time.

Speaking of jail time, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich started the year by trying to translate his crimes into a lucrative career as a reality-show star and ended it with a prison sentence.

In January, a deranged madman killed a bunch of people in Arizona and horribly wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. It was a true tragedy, disgustingly exploited by liberals who saw it as the perfect opportunity to demonize political opponents. Against the weight of logic, facts and decency, allegedly serious people claimed that a map on Sarah Palin's Facebook page inspired the shooter.

The Tucson tragedy also let Barack Obama deliver perhaps the best speech of his presidency -- on the need to tone down the extreme rhetoric on both sides. Alas, when liberals lecture "both sides," they mean, "Everyone who disagrees with me should shut up."

By summer, Democratic operatives and liberal New York Times columnists alike (a subtle distinction, I know) were decrying Republicans as "hostage takers" (Obama) and "terrorists" (Joe Biden) and the Tea Party as "the Hezbollah faction" of the GOP (NYT columnist Tom Friedman) with nary a peep of protest from the champions of civility.

Speaking of protest, consider the Occupy Wall Street movement. Not since the Hebrews killed themselves at Masada has there been a group that more obviously won by losing. Of course, the Jews at Masada were freedom fighters battling Roman imperialism. The Occupy Wall Streeters think they're fighting imperialism when they throw a tantrum about having to pay their debts.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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