By Julia Belluz and Umair Irfan
In 1946, George Orwell published the seminal essay “Politics and the English Language,” in which he described how convoluted language can be used to intentionally confuse or mislead people. “A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details,” he wrote. “When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer.”
Language is undoubtedly suffering in the Trump era, particularly the language of health and science. “There have been too many instances and too many suspected instances of words or ideas being set out of bounds,” Rush Holt, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, told Vox.
Some of these changes in language are top-down, and they’re meant to shake up priorities, rebrand old ideas, or obfuscate truths. But other changes are happening from the bottom up, as people working inside scientific agencies try to protect their programs from funding cuts and from their new idealogical leaders.
Of course, massaging language for political ends is nothing new. But some of these new examples are particularly worrisome. The administration appears to be controlling terminology to suppress well-established truths in science and take language about health in a more ideological direction, in ways that could harm Americans. Here, we rounded up four of the most important examples.
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