Epidemiology is intrinsically at odds with right-wing ideology: the idea that all humans have a shared microbial and viral destiny, one that entwines the poorest and richest among us, which cannot be severed by the highest walls or all the private security in the world is a significant barrier to anyone who dreams of Going Galt and declaring themselves to be responsible only to themselves — there is no Ayn Rand novel thick enough to stop you from getting antibiotic resistant TB.
It's an awfully inconvenient truth. Pathogens have killed more people than wild animals, than mass murderers, than wars, than genocide. Without a functional public health system, the plutocrat and the peasant are both at risk of dying, of watching their children perish from disease.
That's why it's both perfectly predictable and terribly alarming that the Trump regime would prohibit the scientists of the Centers for Disease Control — who stop you from dying of listeria, cholera, and TB every day — from using phrases like "science-based" and "evidence-based" in their communications.
Instead, these scientists — again, who stop you and the people you love from dying horribly of preventable disease — are required to use the phrase "the CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes."
That's because the GOP base has significant bones to pick with reality and evidence. It's not just climate-denial: Hobby Lobby owner David Green went to the Supreme Court to argue that emergency contraception and IUDs are abortifacients. They just aren't. They prevent fertilization and implantation of embryos, and without those steps, there is no abortion. Period. Green's argument amounts to "Up is down because Jesus told me so." Amazingly, the Supreme Court agreed.
Likewise, the anti-abortion extremists have passed state-level laws that require doctors to lie about the scientific understanding of abortion, telling patients that studies show that abortion is linked to breast cancer and a host of other ills, when they show no such thing.
Reality's well-known left-wing bias is a giant problem for the right. The anti-vaccine movement, the pro-fracking movement, the gun lobby can only exist in the midst of ontological chaos, in which sincerely held beliefs are weighed alongside experimentally verified hypotheses and some "balance" of the two is found. "On the one hand, Southern California is on fire and Puerto Rico is under water. On the other hand, you find it hard to believe that God would punish us for burning hydrocarbons. The truth is somewhere in the middle."
It's such a telling phrase: "science in consideration with community standards and wishes." It is literal wishful thinking as public health policy.
The other words that Trump's CDC commissars have prohibited include "vulnerable," "entitlement," "diversity," "transgender," "fetus," "evidence-based" and "science-based."
This, even as CDC is working (for example) to lower HIV infection rates among trans people, which they will now have to attempt to do without using the word "trans." Higher levels of HIV infection in trans people affects you, even if you sadistically suppress any trans expression among your loved ones. We have a shared pathogenic destiny. People have sex with other people, and then with other people, and then with other people, and then with you. The more HIV there is in the population, the more likely you, personally, are to contract a lifelong chronic illness that is gruesomely fatal if untreated.
The right claims to be terrorized by "political correctness" with its emphasis on "policing language." You can learn so much about a person's character by the traits they project onto their opponents. Just as Roy Moore saw a kid-fiddling predator on every mall bench, and Donald Rumsfeld was certain Saddam was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, and Trump is convinced that the press distorts political reality. The obsession with the nonexistent threat of left-wing "political correctness" is a tell: the right knows it can only win arguments through Orwellian language control.
The average American has very little contact with the legislature, very little contact with the judiciary. But the administrative branch, which keeps our highways safe, keeps our food from poisoning us, keeps our networks neutral, keeps our kids educated, and keeps us from having to watch our children die slowly of preventable illness, is central to our lives every day, in every way. Without competent administration, these things are all at risk. There is no place for wishful thinking in administration.
At the CDC, the meeting about the banned words was led by Alison Kelly, a senior leader in the agency's Office of Financial Services, according to the CDC analyst, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly. Kelly did not say why the words are being banned, according to the analyst, and told the group that she was merely relaying the information.
Other CDC officials confirmed the existence of a list of forbidden words.It's likely that other parts of HHS are operating under the same guidelines regarding the use of these words, the analyst said.
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 fetus.
The ban is related to the budget and supporting materials that are to be given to the CDC's partners and to Congress, the analyst said. The president's budget for 2019 is expected to be released in early February. The budget blueprint is generally shaped to reflect an administration's priorities.
CDC gets list of forbidden words: fetus, transgender, diversity [Lena H. Sun and Juliet Eilperin/The Washington Post]
(Image: Dv8stees, CC-BY-SA; Trump's Hair)