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.

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  1. Just because I’ve been asked repeatedly about the first amendment: the first amendment protects us from government limiting speech. It does not protect sub-units of governments from restrictions by the administration.

    Strong article. Thank you.

    1. That’s precisely what the author is saying. Because it’s true. Abstinence only education is overwhelmingly ineffective in preventing teens from having sex and catching STIs. It is downright harmful because in the vacuum of knowledge left by not educating them about the subject they often wind up believing dangerously false ideas. That you cannot get pregnant on your first time. That STIs don’t transmit on your first time. That having sexual urges makes you dirty. Etc etc.

    2. It’s not factually based and has pretty much been proven not to be effective, even by some who advocate it, i.e. Bristol Palin.

  2. the day someone tells me I cant speak certain words is the day when they’ve stepped over the cencorship mark. so in words that were not banned. “GO FUCK YOURSELF”

  3. I ran across another summary that included posts from the CDC Director and the head of HHS that indicated there is in fact no ban. Other sources were from a meeting that happened where the 7 words were a suggestion to assist with getting funding from a conservative administration – to which the response was apparently and correctly “are you kidding??”
    I’m no expert though, just sharing what I saw here –

    1. Yes, she said that–but remember she is also a political appointee. No denials were made that the meeting had happened or that staffers were told not to use those words, she just doesn’t like the term “ban.”

  4. I’m surprised they didn’t include “evolution” in the list of banned words, since epi is so front and center in public health. I suppose the community could agree that any genetic changes were just due to chance or maybe angels getting mixed up when they built the new microbial genomes.

    “there is no Ayn Rand novel thick enough to stop you from getting antibiotic resistant TB.” – Cory Doctorow/BB

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