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In choosing to even suggest censoring certain terms, the federal government only continues its long tradition of wielding the narrative to its pleasure, with dangerous consequences for the rest of us.

Recent media reports cited an alleged directive by the US administration to prohibit the use of seven words in documents related to the 2019 budget at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a prominent US health agency. However, follow-up reporting and statements from HHS officials refuted the claim, referring to initial media reports as a “mischaracterization”. Unnamed officials have also allegedly asserted that the words were an internal guidance meant to aid in securing 2019 budget approval from Congress. Confusing and complex as the news may be however, many remain alarmed regarding the “banned word” list, which includes the words: “entitlement,” “science-based,” “fetus,” “transgender” “vulnerable,” “diversity,” and “evidence-based”. Indeed the case does remain that officials from the Federal Executive at the very least suggested that certain words be avoided in the critical budget process, a move that could have policy implications down the road. Following news reports, analysis actually shows that the 2018 budget documents already show a significant drop in the seven words “banned words”. In truth this perhaps subtle control of the narrative has always been an integral tradition in the country. The United States and its sub-national governments and local agents have a long history in employing censorship or censorship-like policies as staunch defenders and active perpetrators of the oppression of marginalized peoples. For example, direct action was taken to suppress abolitionist pamphlets and literature by local postmasters, an action the federal Postmaster General ruled in 1835 he would not prevent nor condemn. Later on the legal the system would then be weaponized to persecute those who voiced views unsupported by the government, such as radical leftists and communists through the Smith Act and Smith Act Trials of 1949. And the Trump administration has shown itself to be actively committed to continuing this legacy. Even within its own government, the administration has attempted other types of censorship-like policies as well. Earlier this year scientists receiving grants from the Department of Energy reported being asked to remove mentions of “climate change” from their work. Later, analyses found that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had removed dozens of climate-related resources, although the EPA claims they have simply been archived.

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