Were Words Really Banned at the CDC?

I first noticed the story about the CDC having seven words banned from use in preparation for the upcoming budget on page 3 of the second section of my local newspaper.    I thought this was a bit odd, but a relatively minor story (confirmed by it's placement in the newspaper).   Less than an hour later I connected to a couple of social feeds, and it had already been shared 5 times.   I thought this might be worthy of the Daily Headline here at One Headline A Day. 

I was still a bit suspicious, and decided to wait to find out more about it.  By December 17 (two days after the original story was posted in the Washington Post), Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald took to Twitter to say, "I want to assure you there are no banned words at the CDC".   Later in the week, Snopes.com put together a time-line along with statements from the CDC that this was the result of mis-communication at the CDC.    Listed below is the original story from the Washington Post along with a well written piece in Slate that even though the Trump administration did not ban these words, its attitude towards science remains clear.

Editorial Note:  The speed at at which Social Media spread dis-information on this story is one of the primary reasons that our tag line at OneHeadlineADay.com is "Read, Think, Share" - in that order.  #ReadThinkShare

CDC gets list of forbidden words: Fetus, transgender, diversity

By Lena H. Sun and Juliet Eilperin

The Trump administration is prohibiting officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases — including “fetus” and “transgender” — in official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.

Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden words at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden words are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

In some instances, the analysts were given alternative phrases. Instead of “science-based” or ­“evidence-based,” the suggested phrase is “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes,” the person said. In other cases, no replacement words were immediately offered.
The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC, “will continue to use the best scientific evidence available to improve the health of all Americans,” HHS spokesman Matt Lloyd told The Washington Post. “HHS also strongly encourages the use of outcome and evidence data in program evaluations and budget decisions.” <more>

There Is No Ban on Words at the CDC

By Daniel Engber

On Friday, the Washington Post reported that the Trump administration had banned  certain scientific words from use at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to an unnamed, outraged CDC source, higher-ups instructed staffers to avoid seven phrases in budget documents: vulnerable, entitlement, diversity, transgender, fetus, evidence-based, and science-based. In the days since, editorials have likened this to censorship in China, Cuba, and Belarus; to Polish laws prohibiting certain language to describe the Holocaust; and to the totalitarian regime described in 1984.* Follow-up reports said the “irrational and very dangerous” policy on budget language might put “millions of lives in danger” with its “an astonishing attack on reality-based medical treatment.
But if reality is indeed in danger here, it’s not because of Donald Trump. The story of the language rules at CDC has quickly broken free of underlying facts. Despite what you may have heard, the alleged “ban” of seven words does not reveal a secret “War on Science” carried out by thought police in Washington; nor is it some evil plot to “enforce a political and ideological agenda,” as the Washington Post editorial board suggested. A more sober measure of this soggy crumb of news—one that’s, well, evidence-based rather than reflexive—suggests it should be understood as a byproduct of the Trump administration’s much-less-secret war on science funding. It appears that the ban is an attempt by bureaucrats to save their favorite projects from unforgiving budget cuts. <more>

1 comment:

  1. Those should be the first three steps for opinion in a civilized world. One might add a fourth: Act. But let's stick three for the time being. One other thought: it's too bad the #hashtag conflates or needs to concatenate separate steps, thus accelerating the need to skip through to the "share" step. #readthinkshare !