When the Trump administration reportedly banned officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from using seven words in budget documents, social media exploded with talk of an Orwellian society. The #CDC7Words ban causes an Orwell 1984 trend in social media. In fact, since the announcement, the terms Orwell, Orwellian or 1984 have been mentioned more than 13,600 times, according to international social media analysis firm Talkwalker.
As to the words themselves, the following statistics from Talkwalker show how many mentions have been made among the more than 300,000 social posts since the news broke.
• diversity (157,463)
• fetus (148,655)
• transgender (146,104)
• evidence-based (132,228)
• science-based (129,307)
• vulnerable (124,780)
• entitlement (102,936)
The top hashtag is #CDC7Words, with 175,482 mentions, while some hashtags descriptive of the overall social media mood have begun to trend, such as #wordmatter (12,256), #resist (11,587), ImpeachTrump (4,755), and #ScienceNotSilence (2,577).
Among the top Tweets are these two, which managed to use all the banned words in expressing opinions. The first one from @cclymer totaled more than 60,000 reactions, while @krassenstein’s Tweet had nearly 30,000.
With over 47 thousand likes and 13 thousand retweets, @cclyer tweeted:
As a proud transgender American and military veteran, I don’t believe there’s an evidence-based justification for the entitlement expressed by Trump’s vulnerable ego any more than I believe his fetus-sized brain is capable of a diversity of science-based thought. #CDC7words
Also, with thousands of likes and retweets, @krassenstein tweeted:
There was once an orange #fetus who grew into an oversized ego-#vulnerable man-child. This fool believed conspiracy theories rather than #evidence-based, #science-based facts. He was a bigot who spoke against #diversity and #transgenders. This is called #entitlement #CDC7words
George Orwell has now died, therefore, no one can ask his exact intention when writing the novel “1984.” However, a common view is that he intended the book to be a warning after the second world war. It is his way of describing a way of life and a society that he thought may happen he the future but that he would never want to live to see. The image he creates of this dystopian society appears to be very similar to a realistic description of Germany or of the Soviet Union at the time.
Both of these places had had a lot of feature and power in the world at that time so it was not uncommon for people to know of the conditions, government, and freedoms there. It is thought that Orwell was trying to warn people that one day we might end up as restricted as these people had been. Orwell got many of his ideas from newspeak while working for the British Broadcasting Company.
In response to reports of a new Trump administration mandate for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Drew Courtney, People for the American Way’s vice president for communications and research, released the following statement:
This weekend’s story about censorship attempts by the Trump administration shows the extreme lengths Donald Trump and his allies are willing to go to twist and distort the federal government to reflect their own ideology instead of the reality of Americans’ lives.
Whether it’s discouraging scientists from using words like ‘transgender’ and ‘diversity’ in their research, or brushing aside analysis that shows how the Republicans’ tax scheme will harm the economy, Trump and his allies are living in a bubble that barely resembles the real world—and they are trying to drag the rest of us in along with them. That is profoundly dangerous, and repeatedly we see that the consequences will come down on the most vulnerable people in our communities.
No one should accept these Orwellian attempts to enshrine the wishful thinking of the far-right above the government’s obligation to work to make life better for all people—not just the wealthy and powerful.
After learning of the Trump ban against the #CDC7Words, Fenway Health Interim, CEO Jane Powers, offered the following statement in response:
These reports of restrictions on the use of language by public health officials at the CDC are deeply troubling. It does not matter whether there is an outright ban based on ideology, or whether the list originated as a strategy to gain support for the CDC budget among Republican conservatives. Telling public health officials working to prevent Zika, HIV and other diseases what words they can use is Orwellian. It is not what we expect to see in a democracy, and such policies—whether they are formal or informal—harm public health.
Disease treatment and prevention must be driven by science and evidence. That includes the proper use of terminology, such as ‘transgender,’ which describes a population that bears a disproportionate burden of sexually-transmitted infections, including HIV, and which also experiences barriers to accessing competent and affirming health care. Accommodating intolerance of people who are transgender by discouraging the use of accurate language is extremely dangerous.
Reportedly, the guidance on words to avoid appears, per the CDC, to extend only to budget documentation. At this time, it is unclear what, if any, effect such a limit on language might have on the issues these words represent. However, the #CDC7Words cause an Orwell 1984 trend in social media.
By Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Macleoh: Why did George Orwell write 1984?
Fenway Health Interim: Jane Powers
TalkWalker: Carrie Butler
All Images Courtesy of Raed Mansour’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License