Late last week, an analyst from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a federal agency with the goal of improving the public’s health using research, released a set of forbidden words that can no longer be used in official documents. The list of banned words includes the following:
In some cases, the Washington Post reported, alternative phrases were suggested. Instead of “science-based,” or “evidence-based,” the Post read, “the suggested phrase is ‘C.D.C. bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.’’’
These words will be prohibited in the official documents for the upcoming budget, which is expected to be released in February of 2018. There wasn’t a stated reason for why the words were going to be banned, but there is a certain, and major, impact on those who work within the CDC, the American people, and other government agencies like the HHS, Department of Health and Human Services. Agencies like the HHS operate under similar verbiage guidelines, so if the CDC decidedly bans specific words, then so will HHS and government departments alike.
The HHS overseas the CDC, so it shouldn’t be of surprise.
Alas, censorship is happening
If you think this is only now just beginning, you’re unfortunately wrong. Already, avoiding certain words and censorship has taken place in government documents: The HHS, Department of Justice, Department of Education and Housing and Urban Development have all changed some of their federal policies and how they collect government information about LBGT, Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender people from it’s website.
The New York Times spoke with a former federal official, who asked not to be named, said, “It’s absurd and Orwellian, it’s stupid and Orwellian, but they are not saying to not use the words in reports or articles or scientific publications or anything else the C.D.C. does,” the former official said. “They’re saying not to use it in your request for money because it will hurt you. It’s not about censoring what C.D.C. can say to the American public. It’s about a budget strategy to get funded.”
The full effect of forbidding words is as yet unclear, as the ‘ban’ was only meant to target the proposed budget. However, many people believe the intent is to throttle all scientific research now and in the future.
If there isn’t a budget for research centered around or included in some of the ‘forbidden’ words, then what about funding projects that have already been started? A budget for a research project must exist in order for the research to continue. The Zika virus’s impact on fetal growth and birth defects and HIV among transgender people are two examples of major impacts on the life and death of some American people, which goes against the CDC’s mission (see below). One cannot talk about the science and evidence if one is unable to use the very words it impacts.
The CDC’s Mission:
“CDC works 24/7 to protect America from health, safety and security threats, both foreign and in the U.S. Whether diseases start at home or abroad, are chronic or acute, curable or preventable, human error or deliberate attack, CDC fights disease and supports communities and citizens to do the same.
CDC increases the health security of our nation. As the nation’s health protection agency, CDC saves lives and protects people from health threats. To accomplish our mission, CDC conducts critical science and provides health information that protects our nation against expensive and dangerous health threats, and responds when these arise.”
Many scientists are understandably very upset by this proposed censorship, and a backlash by the scientists and employees of the CDC will likely occur. Many political figures are coming forth to offer their opinion as well: Dr. Vivek Murthy, a former Surgeon General, said, “…for [the] C.D.C. or any agency to be censored or passively made to feel they have to self-censor to avoid retribution — that’s dangerous and not acceptable. The purpose of science is to search for truth, and when science is censored the truth is censored.”
More on this to come.
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