In George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, the Ministry of Truth constricted the vocabulary used by the population in an attempt to narrow the individual’s range of thought. And it would appear that the Trump administration is copying this move from Minitrue’s playbook: In an apparent attempt to influence specific avenues of research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Trump administration has issued a directive banning specific words from appearing in future budget proposals issued by the agency. This directive, banning seven key words, was delivered during a December 14 meeting with senior CDC officials that oversee the agency’s budget.
The now-verboten terms on this list include "vulnerable," "entitlement," "diversity," "transgender," "fetus," "evidence-based" and "science-based." In a few instances, such as in the case of "science-based" or "evidence-based," officials suggested that the CDC instead use phrase, "CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes." No replacement suggestions were offered for most of the remaining terms.
Although the reasoning behind the barring of these seven words was not given in the meeting, it is apparent that restricting the language used by CDC personnel will hamper their ability to address important issues related to the list of banned words, including sexual orientation, gender identity and abortion rights. Specific examples of work that will likely be affected include efforts by the CDC’s The National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention to prevent the spread of HIV among transgender people; and research into the Zika virus includes studying the effects of birth defects on developing fetuses.
There has been a strong backlash from advocates for public health: In an earlier tweet, epidemiologist and dean of the Boston University School of Public Health, Sandro Galea, said, "This is astonishing. It would be a parody of a flailing effort to limit the effectiveness of #publichealth if it did not suggest a real problem. #7words."
Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, stated that "Among the words forbidden to be used in CDC budget documents are ‘evidence-based’ and ‘science-based.’ I suppose one must not think those things either. Here’s a word that’s still allowed: ridiculous."
This isn’t the Trump administration’s first attempt at dismissing important, real world issues, having erased references to climate change, health care, civil rights and LGBTQ issues from the White House website, and freezing grants within the Environmental Protection Agency, just to name two instances.
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