Boy, I Sure Wonder Why The CDC Has Banned Staff From Using A Bunch Of Words Like 'Science-Based'

Do you remember a time when life did not consist entirely of having your brain bludgeoned to mush with copies of The Art of the Deal? Nope? Didn't think so. Anyhow, our rapidly decaying consensus reality took another neuron-devastating blow this week with news that scientists at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention must now grapple with a list of banned words.

Photo: AP

Per the Washington Post, staff at the CDC working on the agency's budget are now prohibited from using a laundry list of seven terms elderly bigots might grumble about: "vulnerable", "entitlement", "diversity", "transgender," "fetus", "evidence-based" and "science-based" Obviously, avoiding using these words is going to directly impact the agency's work:

At the CDC, several offices have responsibility for work that uses some of these words. The National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention is working on ways to prevent HIV among transgender people and reduce health disparities. The CDC's work on birth defects caused by the Zika virus includes research on the developing foetus.

According to the Post, CDC officials in charge of the agency's finances did not relay why the words were now prohibited, but they did provide some alternative phrasing that would pass muster. For example, instead of "evidence-based" or "science-based", staff could use the "suggested" wording that the "CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes."

In other words, the agency charged with protecting Americans from epidemics and safeguarding the health of the public must now formally avoid saying anything even slightly politically inconvenient to Republicans if it wants funding. As the Post noted, the list of banned words is likely in use at other agencies managed by the Health and Human Services administration, though according to Stat News, the Food and Drug Administration has denied it is in effect there.

HHS spokesman Matt Lloyd told the Post that the department "will continue to use the best scientific evidence available to improve the health of all Americans. HHS also strongly encourages the use of outcome and evidence data in program evaluations and budget decisions."

But as Harvard Global Health Institute director Dr. Ashish Jha told Stat News, the decision to censor the seven words will likely force staff to self-censor their work.

"... Of course the administration and its defenders are going to argue that this is only about what goes into the budget," Jha said. "But we know that the signal to the agency is much stronger than that. And it's going to change behaviour of people who work there. And that's much more damaging than any direct censorship."

Anyone paying attention to the current administration's stance on science will recall similar instances in which federal researchers worried it was going to kill off reports on climate change, or it put climate change deniers and chemical lobbyists in charge at the Environmental Protection Agency, or it tried to make the FDA's chief scientist a guy whose previous experience mostly included blogging about "race traitors."

So, yeah, no word on whether the White House has requested the CDC get back into phrenology, but don't worry. There's plenty of fresh hell waiting for us in 2018.

[Washington Post]

WATCH MORE: Science & Health News


    The US is screwed unless it gets rid of Trump and his nutjob ignorant cronies. They need to be gone in the next few months or the damage may not be reversible for decades, which in this rapidly changing world is too long for the US to survive without serious societal implications.

      As much as they need to get rid of Trump this isn't a Trump issue. This was happening before Trump and it'll keep happening after Trump. If you want proof just look at the Dickey ammendment. It's a bit more complicated but basically it's "none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be used to advocate or promote gun control".
      When Dickey got old and the NRA lost interest in him he flipped. Suddenly it was never their intent to stop the CDC doing gun research.

      Sorry if that's too fine a point to make but I think it's important to recognise that this is a Congress problem not specifically a Trump one. That way we can keep at it even after Trump is gone. As long as Congress, and in turn lobby groups, have the ability to attach strings to the funding of groups like the CDC the US is going to be in trouble. Sadly I don't think it's too likely to change.

      The damage is already done. Look at Net Neutrality and Environmental agency. It will take DECADES to address the changes President Trump is making. The tax code changes will largely favour the very wealthy, so more squeeze of the middle class for the top end. The divide grows. Everything he does seems toxic.

      The one positive is it will force the US to check and re-enforce it's political balances to ensure a Trump like nutter cannot do untold damage. Think of a candidate as aloof and self serving - but with a dangerous megalomaniac "world domination" type streak. That is - Trump but a military mad man flavoured Trump. Imagine that kind of guy gets into power. Before Trump I'd have thought that near impossible. Now I think it is a dangerous possibility that needs to be thought about.

    - Evuhdints
    - syints
    - feetiss
    - Dyvur City
    - In Title Mints

    Problem solved.

      I once knew a girl from Dyvur City. She had issues.

      and throw in a covfefe for good measure.

    We, like the US, get the government we deserve ie. the one that's most like us.

      Nope, we get the Government the Media & the Money put in front of us. We deserve better but we are only provided with narrow choices. If we had citizen owned media and a funding system that didn't favour the super rich, we would have a very different kind of democracy.

        You missed the point completely. I'm in agreement with Ballast. We get the Government we absolutely deserve.

    As we can see, far from "Draining the swamp" Trump has filled it with an even more pervasive and pernicious form of lobbying that now goes deeply into every aspect of Government.

      He seems to want to drain the swamp so he can fill it with toxic waste.

    This kind of bullshit really pisses me off. Controlling language used by scientists and clinicians to suit social or political dogma is absurd. Like:
    CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.
    What the fuck does this even mean? "Community standards and wishes?" That's totally irrelevant to science - it's either true or it isn't, it's either supported by the evidence or it's not. Something as critical as healthcare doesn't need to be corrupted by this kind of bullshit.

      Here, I have the 2017 Trump Dictionary, Sixth Edition (each year has its own set of editions).

      Evidence-based (adj.), see Fake News.

      Fake News. (n.) Any form of idea or knowledge that causes inconvenience to an individual.

    My gosh this is very Big Brother with the whole limiting word usage to control public thinking.

      Has nothing to do with public thinking. Trump just doesn't like hearing fake news, and has now decided to make it harder to publish said fake news.

      The real problem is, it isn't fake if there is evidence and he's only creating ever lauder Streisand Effects.

    Almost every day I read yet another piece of evidence that the US is fighting it's way to the bottom. Sooner or later, something has to give, I just hope we don't follow suit.

      Unfortunately they are large enough that they will take the rest of us with them. Unless it's sufficiently slow that they are replaced by another power like China.

      In case that does eventually happen and this post is being used as evidence in a court discussing my patriotism to the communist peoples party.. GO CHINA!

    Hmmm I don’t see how acceptable terminology in a budget report is in any way going to censor scientists who are writing anything other than budget reports.

    And the English language is very flexible. There’s more than one way to say anything and honestly, terms like “science based” are ambiguous and problematic anyway.

    Evidence based = data driven / empirical

    Science based = scientific (although this is a much narrower definition)

    Transgender = people suffering from gender dysphoria (probably a more appropriate term in a clinical setting anyway)

    Pretty sure the educated people at the CDC can do the rest as they file their reports.

    This is really just a storm in a teacup and I’m sure previous administrations have issued their own linguistic guidelines for reporting etc...

      Internet traffic for the CDC spiked for google searches for "Thesaurus"

      Ayye, I think with a fair amount of confidence, that the majority of transgender people don’t consider their life a condition , nor are they “suffering” it.

      “Gender dysmorphia” is perhaps appropriate in a clinical notes setting, but maybe you could consider the people you’re categorising and their own ways of identifying themselves?

      It’s alsways more than just words when you’re talking about people.

        Well that’s not what the current literature says. But okay, if there’s no harm then the nomenclature doesn’t matter and your point is moot.

        Also, I think most people wouldn’t refer to their reproductive systems as their life (it products maybe). Your life is the all of the things you do and the people you have.

        And when I have the flu, I identify as drippy face man child. But doctors still refer to me as “having the flu”. So ask yourself, what’s more important: that every individual is identified with their chosen categorisation or that those of a certain categorisation have funded research in the aid of preventing harm?

        And words are just words. Most rational people understand that.

      It's about disarming CDC reports that clash with "conservative" views. It doesn't sound like much but bureaucratic organisations take wording seriously. It's much harder to make a point when you have to dodge words. They can get around it with some creative solutions, but they're still reducing the effectiveness of their reports and the CDC aren't fans of rocking the boat. Their funding sucks already they don't need someone calling them out on the difference between science based and scientific.

    Words are and always have been power. That's the warning Orwell have us. If words were "just words", we wouldn't need to worry about language lists like the one in this article.

    Language is a tool, and like every tool it can be easily turned to hurt someone. When you throw labels on things and people Willy-Nilly, you you're throwing (sometimes incorrect or denigrating it even intentionally harmful) meanings into the mix. Ideas and concepts get conflated and people end up attaching connotations that should be invalid. There is a reason things like bathroom bills get passed: because transgender and transvestite are conflated and because anything that deviates from the centre of the bell curve is automatically assigned a deviant label.

      Willy-Nilly is sick of your labels!

Join the discussion!