Trump Administration’s CDC Bans Certain Words

Below are a couple of articles regarding the recent news.

Words banned at multiple HHS agencies include ‘diversity’ and ‘vulnerable’

The Trump administration has informed multiple divisions within the Department of Health and Human Services that they should avoid using certain words or phrases in official documents being drafted for next year’s budget.

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is part of HHS, were given a list of seven prohibited words or phrases during a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget. The words to avoid: “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

Why Words Matter: What Cognitive Science Says about Prohibiting Certain Terms

How much does it really matter if a government agency avoids certain language in documents sent to Congress, the Office of Management and Budget and other agencies?

Perhaps a great deal. Scientific American spoke with Lera Boroditsky, a cognitive scientist at the University of California, San Diego, about the significance of this recent news, why words matter and how language changes our perceptions of the world.

How to speak without bias, according to the ‘Bias-Free Language Guide’

How does the language we choose affect the way things are perceived? When is it necessary for us to reevaluate the words and phrases we find acceptable as a society? What do the changes mentioned here actually accomplish?

Why would you want to change the word “rich” to the phrase, “people of means”? Does the shift in language more accurately describe a particular situation or reality? Does it simply shift words around without actually adding or accomplishing anything? Does the word “rich” have a negative connotation that you want to avoid?

This video would be funny if it were meant as a joke but this was a serious attempt at discussing the use of language. Looking at it in a TOK context is instructive and gives us a lot to consider.

“After attracting attention from conservative blogs last week, the University of New Hampshire has taken down its ‘Bias-Free Language Guide’ from its website.”


“Just as the Bush administration and the U.S. media re-labelled ‘torture’ with the Orwellian euphemism “enhanced interrogation techniques” to make it more palatable, the governments and media of the Five Eyes surveillance alliance are now attempting to re-brand ‘mass surveillance’ as ‘bulk collection’ in order to make it less menacing (and less illegal). In the past several weeks, this is the clearly coordinated theme that has arisen in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand as the last defense against the Snowden revelations, as those governments seek to further enhance their surveillance and detention powers under the guise of terrorism.”

Book: 1984 by George Orwell

A link to some famous and interesting quotes from the book.

“Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell’s chilling prophecy about the future. And while 1984 has come and gone, Orwell’s narrative is timelier than ever. 1984 presents a startling and haunting vision of the world, so powerful that it is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the power of this novel, its hold on the imaginations of multiple generations of readers, or the resiliency of its admonitions—a legacy that seems only to grow with the passage of time.”

Nothing friendly about it: Orwell’s Ministry of Peace would envy the US military’s use of newspeak

“Should we allow generals and politicians to hide behind phrases such as ‘friendly fire’?”

“As revelations of deaths of coalition troops caused by allies surface in Iraq and Afghanistan, an issue for editors is whether the phrase “friendly fire” should have quote marks around it.

“It is a military term, designed to shield the horrors of death and prevent animosity towards a war mission, argues one camp; so why should we be the agents of the phrase’s recognition? It is as if we accept its premise – that it is just one of those things that happens in war, and we should just, you know, get over it.”

Frank Luntz War on Terror Memo

Here is a link to an amazing document written in the early 2000’s by Republican strategist Frank Luntz to help Republican politicians frame the debate about the War on Terror, the Iraq war, security and other related issues. This document helped communicate and sell to the public ideas that may not have been true. Without actually saying things that were false, they left people with the impression of false information.  Members of the Republican party were amazingly effective at being on the same page as each other and really used a lot of the same language as laid out in this document.

How does language help us communicate? Is it unethical to mislead your audience without ever uttering something untruthful?