- Originally printed: Vanity Fair, May 1918
- Reprinted: Chips Off the Old Benchley
- Original Byline: Brighton Perry
Written under the pseudonymous Brighton Perry byline, Benchley winces waggishly in the gloved grip of Great Wartime public discourse. The piece opens with a knowing nod toward the three thousand war correspondents whose most insightful writing on the conflict will remain under intellectual quarantine until accessed by future scholars looking to find out what the hell actually happened. Benchley gets in a jab at topical super patriot James M. Beck and teasingly begs Postmaster General Albert S. Burleson not to ban Vanity Fair from the mails just for daring to have a little fun with the concept of soft news during hard times.
The remainder of the essay presents an alternate history of the Revolutionary War in which Paul Revere’s wild midnight ride is replaced by a Sunday section puff piece on picturesque stops for Redcoats on a walking tour of New England and George Washington’s trip across the Delaware is stage managed by military police who function like (21st century) movie location security guards.
Benchley worked as a military aircraft information censor for the U.S. Government in early 1918, so he knew whereof he joked.
“…the great (numerically speaking) American public..”
- Major excisions from topical preamble on World War One Censorship
- Topical reference to jingoistic blowhard James M. Beck removed
- Teasing request not to be banned by the Postmaster General removed
- Favourite moment (above) was a casualty of the excision process and does not appear in Chips Off the Old Benchley – too anti-patriotic for the HUAC era?