In another state-sponsored attack on science, the Trump administration is reportedly banning the use of seven words from documents by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The list of banned words and phrases includes "evidence-based,” "science-based,” "transgender," "fetus," "vulnerable," "diversity," and "entitlement," according to the Washington Post. For example, instead of saying a treatment is "science-based,” the health agency is advised to use the phrase: "CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes."
Specifically, these words are prohibited in documents relating to the health agency’s 2018 budget that is expected to be released in February next year. The announcement was made at a CDC meeting between policy experts in Atlanta on Thursday.
Needless to say, the experts attending the meeting couldn’t quite believe their ears: "It was very much, 'Are you serious? Are you kidding?'" one policy expert told the Washington Post.
"In my experience, we've never had any pushback from an ideological standpoint," they added.
The reason behind the censoring of words was not explicitly stated at the meeting, with the speaker merely saying they were just relaying information. However, many are viewing it as an ideologically motivated move, keeping in tune with the Republicans' wider views on LGBTQ+ rights, abortions, and science. Besides anything else, this means that the agency tasked with protecting the nation’s health can’t use the term “science-based” in their budget report.
Tweeting about the news, journalist and writer Laurie Penny said: “This, this right here, is what a real, state-sponsored attack on free speech looks like.”
Many others saw the all-too-obvious similarities to George Orwell’s seminal novel 1984, with numerous people quoting the line: "Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end, we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.”
This is not the first time the Trump administration has looked to control the use of words used within scientific agencies. Most infamously, the word “science” was removed from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) mission statement and the Department of Energy’s (DoE) climate change research office banned the use of the phrase “climate change”.
Updated 18/12/17: Following the backlash from The Washington Post report over the weekend, the CDC Director Dr Brenda Fitzgerald released a statement indicating that there were no prohibited words, merely suggested language changes. She said: “I want to assure you there are no banned words at CDC. We will continue to talk about all our important public health programs. You may be understandably concerned about recent media reports alleging that CDC is banned from using certain words in budget documents. I want to assure you that CDC remains committed to our public health mission as a science- and evidence-based institution.”