It was the year 3742, and several world wars had decimated the population of earth. Very few historical records from the 20th and 21st centuries had survived, so historians made a good living piecing together these fascinating periods of human history. A particularly fierce debate between rival historians raged over a popular but enigmatic 21st century figure:
Ed: Hi, I'm Ed, and welcome to 'History Tomorrow', where we discuss the latest developments in historical research. This week we look at the enigmatic George W Bush, traditionally thought to have been the president of the United States at the start of the 21st century. The guests on tonight's show are Phonias J Futz, a member of the controversial 'Bush Seminar' - a group of scholars whose latest research and conclusions on George W Bush has created a storm in the scholarly community. We also have Professor Nathan Wright, former head of 21st century at Harvard and staunch defender of the traditional history of George W Bush.
Wright: Good evening.
Ed: So, Mr Futz, who was George W Bush?
Futz: Basically, he was a Charismatic comedian and social commentator, who clearly had a large media following and attracted lots of fans.
Ed: So he wasn't the president of the United States?
Futz: We can be pretty sure he wasn't, in fact the office of 'president' never existed - it's pure legend. The United States were governed mainly by a monarchy.
Ed: Professor Wright, what do you think of this?
Wright: That's just silly. We have plenty of evidence to show that the United States were governed by presidents for many years and that George W Bush was one of them. There is no new evidence to refute this solid historical conclusion.
Ed: OK, Mr Futz, what have been the findings of the latest historical research on George W Bush? And what evidence do you have to back up such controversial conclusions?
Futz: Well, Ed, in my new book 'Meeting Dubya again for the first time', I draw a number of conclusions: firstly, that the traditionally accepted documents written about Bush, which are kind of shortish biographies, are flawed in several ways, being written nearly fifty years after Bush's death, and coloured with urban legend and hidden political agendas. Although they contain key facts and true statements made by Bush, it has been important to weed out some of the untrue material.
Ed: Such as what?
Futz: Well, for example parts where people refer to Bush as 'Mr President' and where Bush shows his 'presidential power' - these are obviously false.
Ed: So how have you decided what is real and unreal? Is this where the 'Z' document comes in?
Futz: Spot on Ed. Z has been ignored for so long, that not a lot of people know about it. Basically, Z is an early, accurate biography of George W Bush that the other four documents drew factual information from, before adding various false material.
Wright: This is ridiculous! Z was written in 2102, over 90 years later, and it's a badly written piece of propaganda that happens to quote the earlier accurate biographies! There is no evidence to show that it was written any time before this - it just fits nicely into you theory, so you are prepared to ignore 75 years of historical research just to make your incoherent argument sound more plausible!
Futz: I'm sorry Mr. Wright, but modern historical and archaeological scholarship has moved on since your day - the methods used to recreate the past are changing all the time, and theories evolve with it. You need to keep up with the latest research!
Ed: Ok, let's go back to your book, Mr Futz, I hear you are particularly dismissive of one of the traditional documents?
Futz: That's right Ed, one of them is written by a guy called John Smith - it is so full of false information and fabricated stories and myths that we have had to label the whole document a fake.
Ed: What sort of stuff does it contain which is particularly bad?
Futz: Well, Bush explicitly claims to be the president of the United States for a start - the document even records him making a presidential address to the nation! Obviously fictitious!
Wright: That's crazy! There is no reason for you to reject these accounts other than for the fact that they disagree with your theory!!!!
Futz: Oh come on, John Smith's biography was the last one to be written of the 4, so it was probably about 60-70 years after Bush's death - it is also the most explicitly presidential document. In Mark Jones' account, Bush was merely a powerful man, with political sway - in Smith's account; he is the most powerful man in the world! You can see the development of Bush's legendary status!
Wright: The biographies are merely telling the story from a different angle!
Futz: Really, Nathan - this is simple historical criticism - and you claim to be an expert on such issues!? Also, how do you explain some of the famous quotes Bush came out with? Sure, he made some stirring speeches, which is why he is still so popular and quotable today, but what about 'It's time for the human race to enter the solar system'? This is one of my favourite ancient jokes, but it's not something a president would say!
Ed: Ok, Professor Wright, in a recent newspaper article you pointed to Bush's death as the best piece of evidence that he was the president of the United States.
Wright: That's right - George W Bush was given one of the greatest send offs in history - it's recorded in Luke Williams' account. Over 10,000 people attended the funeral. He was given a 250-gun salute, and there was a national day of mourning.
Futz: Now there is no real reason to accept this account, it's written in Williams' flawed biography and it's obviously an exaggeration and shows all the signs of being legendary - nobody would be important or be popular enough for this kind of send-off.
Ed: So what do you think happened to George W Bush?
Futz: Well, after using the latest objective scholarly techniques we at the Bush Seminar have come to the conclusion that his body was eaten by dogs.
Ed: What kind of dogs, Phonias?
Futz: Probably a pack of wild ones.
Wright: (laughing) This is quite ridiculous - you haven't bought up a single piece of factual evidence yet - the truth is that we have four historical records saying clearly that George W Bush was the president of the United States, and nothing that contradicts it except a fake account written nearly 90 years later, which vaguely tries to reinvent Bush. There are no reasons to disbelieve any of these accounts unless you presuppose that George W Bush was not president of the United States, and reject any evidence that happens to contradict what you blindly believe. You are slurring the name of George Bush and making a mockery of the history of the United States.
Futz: Please calm down Nathan, I think you misunderstand me - I believe George W Bush was a great man, and we can learn a lot from him, I just think that the Bush of legend and the historical Bush need to be separated, so we can have a George Bush for the 25th century. The danger at the moment is that many people are pointing to Bush's patriotism, politics and faith and using them as an example for today's generation! This traditional image of Bush is then used as an icon by certain out of date politicians who want to turn America back into a democratic free market society!
Wright: That is exactly my point. You are trying to create a politically correct George Bush, rather than letting the historical facts speak for themselves. In your book, you openly admit that a lot of people are uncomfortable with Bush's patriotism, his conservative politics and his religion, and that your version of Bush is more culturally relevant. I mean, why bother having to deal with difficult historical evidence and awkward historical figures, why not just invent your own history?
Futz: Well that's a nice little conspiracy theory you have going but you well know that historical scholarship is just not as simple as that. Facts don't just speak for themselves - they have to be interpreted in a framework. I'd say your arguments are those of a desperate man - the average American no longer believes in the legendary President Bush
Ed: And a recent poll would tend to back up what you say, Phonias. 70% of the general public now believe that George W Bush was never the President of the United States.
Sadly, that's all we've got time for this week, so thanks to Phonias J. Futz and Professor Wright.
[Audience applauds] [END]