N.Z. Bear wonders about Christopher Hitchens’ latest target:

But what, exactly, is the purpose of even trying to deflate Bob Hope’s reputation as an entertainer; as simply a funny man? Does Hitchens truly think the world will be a better place; that moral justice will have been served in some sense if he can convince large groups of people that, in fact, the enjoyment they gained from seeing Hope perform was some kind of an error of judgment on their part?

The fact is, I’ve never found Hope to be particularly funny myself. But unlike Hitchens, I don’t consider my own personal taste to be the final arbiter of such matters. Millions of people worldwide seem to feel differently than I on this question. And while such a popular landslide against my chosen opinion will rarely make me reconsider a moral or ethical position, it will get me to acknowledge that if millions of people think that an individual was entertaining, well, then he probably was — even if I don’t find him to be to my own liking.

Hitchens has blazed an honorable path as a contrarian who is willing to challenge orthodoxy when it needs it, and he retains my respect as a man with fierce beliefs and an equally fierce intellect to drive them. But sometimes — particularly in matters of popular culture — the orthodoxy is right by definition, and will do just fine without any challenging, thank you very much.

I must agree. My guess is that, like most forms of entertainment popular 60 years ago, Bob Hope’s style of humor didn’t age very well. But he deserved the enormous credit he received for going out to entertain troops who’d been sent to face danger in faraway places. Even if the soldiers if 1991 didn’t find Hope particularly funny, they appreciated the gesture.

FILED UNDER: Race and Politics,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Brad DeLong says:

    It’s a way to build reputation. Attack–in as personal terms as possible–those more famous than you. It gets you noticed. And there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

  2. But Hitchens has always tried to deflate popular people. His most famous target was Mother Theresa. He just can’t help himself.

  3. John Lemon says:

    It’s kind of like going after “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” eh?

  4. Hitchens reminds me of Inherit the Wind’s Hornbeck- the guy who “never pushed a noun except a verb except to blow up something”.

  5. James Joyner says:

    JL: But SLTS is pure crap without the redeeming qualities of Mr. Hope.

    Sean: True. But, as NZB pointed out in the piece, it’s one thing to go after Mother Teresa or Lady Di, who got effusive praise for mistaken views of who they were, there’s nothing comparable for Hope. Nobody was comparing him to Lenny Bruce or even saying that he was a great comedian.

  6. John Lemon says:

    That’s what they said about Bob early in his career. We’ll see how this turns out when Kurt Kobain turns 100.