Those who can control language have power over those who cannot. That has been the most corrosive power exercised by President Donald’s administration. This is especially true in matters relating to science.
The White House has eliminated virtually every mention of climate change from its website and those of other cabinet departments and federal agencies. Employees, especially scientists, at the Environmental Protection Agency and the departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services have been ordered to end any external communication without “consultation” with senior political appointees.
Donald appointed a secretary of Education who has repeatedly supported Republicans with anti-science views who deny the human role in climate disruption. The secretary’s family foundation supports anti-science evangelical and fundamentalist organizations.
His initial budget priorities sought to slash funding for science-based federal agencies such as the EPA and the National Institutes of Health. The goal? Remove federal funding for scientific research from environmental and climate-based investigators.
Each of these, and other, actions control language. By removing science from its long-standing federal role as a principal arbiter for what is fact and what isn’t, the Donald’s administration has uprooted the language of science (and an understanding of the scientific method) from public discourse.
This week, President Donald has limited the ability of the Centers for Disease Control to discuss its important work — which includes protecting the population from epidemics of infectious disease. Policy analysts at the CDC were instructed not to use these seven words: “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based,” and “science-based.”
This is mindful of George Carlin’s treatise on the seven dirty words unspeakable on television.
I want to tell you something about words that I think is important. They’re my work, they’re my play, they’re my passion. Words are all we have really.
We have thoughts, but thoughts are fluid. We assign a word to a thought. And we’re stuck with that word for that thought. So be careful with words. I like to think, yeah, the same words that hurt can heal. It’s a matter of how you pick them.
There are some people that aren’t into all the words. There are some people who would have you not use certain words. [emphasis added, as if Carlin ever needed emphasis]
Carlin foresaw President Donald, because Carlin saw in television executives of his day the same trait — the desire to control the ability of people to talk and argue in certain ways. Donald, who is consumed by his attention to ratings and approval numbers, always seeks to control the show seen by his core base supporters he believes elected him and will do so again. That core is not filled with fans of science and factual evidence.
The imposition of language controls at the CDC is only the latest insult to civic discourse. Undoubtedly, more will follow.