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Bush Hid The Facts - Notepad Conspiracy Claim

Summary:
Message claims that the strange result when a Windows Notepad file with the text "Bush hid the facts" is re-opened may represent a deliberate anti-Bush political statement by Microsoft (Full commentary below.)



Status:
False

Example:(Submitted, June 2006)
Subject: political conspiracy?

hey this is really weird!!

open notepad
type "bush hid the facts" without quotation marks
don't press "enter" save the file
close notepad
open the file again

what do you think?



Commentary:
This little Windows Notepad "trick" is often posted to online forums and blogs and also travels via email. When the phrase "Bush hid the facts" is typed into the Windows XP or Windows NT/2000 versions of Notepad as instructed above, the re-opened file displays an unreadable line of squares or Chinese style characters.

The first image below shows the text before closing the Notepad file. The second image shows the text as it is displayed after the file is re-opened:

Bush hid the facts before closing Bush hid the facts after re-opening

Some of the more wide-eyed conspiracy theorists postulate that this result is a form of political commentary directed against US President Bush and was knowingly and deliberately programmed into Notepad by Microsoft.

Alas, the truth is far less compelling. It appears that a lot of other character strings in the pattern 4 letters, 3 letters, 3 letters and 5 letters will give the same result. For example, the phrase "Bill fed the goats" also displays the garbled text as shown below:

Bill fed the goats before closing Bill fed the goats after re-opening

In fact, even a line of text such as "hhhh hhh hhh hhhhh" will elicit the same results.

Since I first published this article, a few readers have pointed out that some character strings that fit the "4,3,3,5" pattern do not generate the error. For example, the phrase "Bush hid the truth" is displayed normally. However, conspiracy theorists should not take this as aiding their argument. "Fred led the brats", "brad ate the trees" and other strings also escape the error.

Thus, any hint of political conspiracy fades into oblivion and is replaced by a rather mundane programming bug. It seems probable that a certain combination and/or frequency of letters in the character string cause Notepad to misinterpret the encoding of the file when it is re-opened. If the file is originally saved as "Unicode" rather than "ANSI" the text displays correctly. Older versions of Notepad such as those that came with Windows 95, 98 or ME do not include Unicode support so the error does not occur.

So, nothing weird here at all...except perhaps for the fact that someone, somewhere had nothing better to do than turn a simple software glitch into another lame conspiracy theory. Smile


Last updated: 2nd November 2009
First published: 19th June 2006

Write-up by Brett M. Christensen