Why the CDC’s “7 banned words” is worse than you think

Yesterday, the Washington Post broke a story noting that CDC officials are no longer allowed to use the following seven words: “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based” as part of a larger Orwellian attack on science at large and specific communities and topics more generally.

It’s horrible on its face and not even trying to pretend it’s anything but an attack on science and the most vulnerable among us–forcing out the scientific term “fetus” (clearly to allow for the idea that terms like “baby” should be used instead, in a nod to the anti-choice movement); the poor who receive “entitlements;” minorities and LGBTQIA who are no longer allowed to be referenced by terms like “diversity” and “transgender.” And it attacks the very background of scientific research, taking away “evidence-based” and “science-based” as descriptors for policy recommendations. It’s hard to believe this is real life in the United States and not Soviet-era Lysenkoism.

But what chills me more, even beyond the removal of these words from the CDC’s formal lexicon, is the suggested replacement given for “science” or “evidence-based” is instead: “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.”

Soak that up. This opens the door for official CDC documents to support, say, abstinence-based education in conservative areas as a “recommendation based on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.” In other words, not science-based at all, even though many communities support it *despite* the scientific evidence. Or anti-vaxxers in Oregon who believe vaccines are “toxic” to have that now become a CDC recommendation based “on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.”

If this policy is allowed at the CDC, there’s no reason to think this will stay in that agency, either. Imagine all of HHS, NASA, NOAA, the Department of Education, and many others requiring similar definitions of science/evidence-based. It’s programmatic approval of the idea that facts are anything you want them to be.

It’s literally turning “truthiness” into Federal policy.

“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength” never felt quite so close to home as it has in 2017.