Censored Communication

From the Washington Post: “Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden terms 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 terms 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.”

As a number of commentators have noted, George Orwell couldn’t have done a better job of illustrating the effects of fascism on language. The inanity of censoring these particular words speaks volumes, not only about Rumpism’s blithe disregard of facts but also the cowardice of the Rumpublican Congress, which has to approve the CDC’s budget request. According to Michael Halpern, writing for The Equation Blog / Union of Concerned Scientists, “The directive came from the White House Office of Management and Budget, which coordinates the president’s budget proposal and rule-making agenda.”

“Community standards and wishes?” Oh, please. Why not just come out and say it — “the straight, white, bigoted religious community’s standards and wishes?” What, other than “fetus,” should a fetus be called? “A pre-born person,” I suppose. If that’s the case, they should pay taxes, like everyone else. (Or almost everyone else; the GOP’s new tax scam will provide a windfall to Rump and his billionaire cronies.)


The goal of avoiding the word diversity is obvious enough. So is the point of eliminating transgender from the acceptable vocabulary. But what should the alternative be? “Pretend-men” and “pretend-women?” Or maybe just “those crazy people.”

The wonderful Jennifer Finney Boylan, a New York Times opinion writer who is transgender, had this to say: “In case you were keeping score at home: In Donald Trump’s America, you’re allowed to refuse to make me a cake, because pastry is free speech. But if you’re a researcher studying medicine at the leading national public health institute of the United States, you can’t say ‘science-based’ in a budget request. Because science, apparently, is a less protected form of communication than buttercream frosting.”

Boylan explains, “This is part of Donald J. Trump’s governing philosophy, something I call the ‘Peek-a-boo Baby Doctrine,’ the belief that if you cover your eyes, the things you do not like suddenly disappear. Back in March, for instance, the Trump administration refused to include information on gay and lesbian people as part of the proposed 2020 Census. Because if you don’t count us, we must not be real. We saw it the day of Mr. Trump’s inauguration, when information on climate change was purged from the White House web site. Because if we do not study climate change, clearly it isn’t happening. We saw it when this administration removed any reference to the civil rights movement from that same site. Because if you can’t study the country’s long history of slavery and racism, there must never have been any racial injustice. We saw it on Holocaust Remembrance Day, when somehow the White House’s statement failed to make any mention of Jewish people. Because if there aren’t any Jews, there must not be any anti-Semitism.”

Boylan clearly has a personal stake in this infantile “if you don’t say it, it doesn’t exist” — hmm, what to call it? Worldview? Shitty-diaper fantasy?

“Finally,” she writes, “there’s the ban on transgender people serving in the military. Even though trans people — including the former deputy assistant secretary of defense, Amanda Simpson — have been serving valorously for years, apparently if we erase them from the armed forces, we will stop having to think about them. (A federal judge, meanwhile, has kept the ban from going into place, calling it ‘capricious, arbitrary, and unqualified.’) But trans people are just as real as climate change, or science or fetuses. Or diversity. Or science-based research.”

Boylan concludes, “Transgender people are a part of this country, and will continue to be part of this country whether or not Republicans admit that our lives are real. I’ve always thought that the many attempts to deny trans folks the dignity of using the proper public facilities had nothing to do with bathrooms and everything to do with the simple fact that conservatives just don’t like the fact that there are transgender people in the first place. Making the mere mention of us in the CDC budget process an impossibility is just one more attempt at creating a world in which our lives can be effaced.”

In other news: The Washington Post actually ran a piece called “How to Prepare for a Nuclear Attack.” The Post’s Philip Bump writes, “Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) told the Atlantic magazine in an interview this week that he thinks there may be as much as a 70 percent chance of the United States launching a preemptive military strike against [North Korea] should it conduct another test of a nuclear weapon — ramping up the likelihood that North Korea would retaliate significantly.”

So what should we do to prepare for “Hiroshima 2: The East Strikes Back?”

Bump quotes Suzet McKinney, who ought to know what she’s talking about, being a professor of public health at the University of Illinois at Chicago and former deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Public Health Preparedness and Emergency Response at the Chicago Department of Public Health.

“I would honestly say the duck-and-cover response from the Cold War era is really the best protection that we as individual citizens would have after a nuclear bomb or improvised nuclear device was detonated,” McKinney says, apparently with a straight face. “That really is a method of personal protection against the effects of a nuclear explosion. Quite honestly, it’s inexpensive, and it’s something that’s very easy for every single member of a family or every single member of a community to understand.”

Uh, sure. So listen up, people! In the event of a nuclear war, proceed immediately to the nearest desk or table, stuff yourself under it, protect your head by covering it with your hands and putting it between your knees, and kiss your ass goodbye.

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