The Washington Post, December 21, 2017
The strongman knows that it starts with words. He uses them early on to test out his plans to expand and personalize executive power on political elites, the press and the public, watching their reactions as they arrange into the timeless categories of allies, enemies and those who help him by remaining silent. Some say the strongman is all bluster, but he takes words seriously, including the issue of which ones should be banned.
That’s why those who study authoritarian regimes or have had the misfortune to live under one may find something deeply familiar about the Trump administration’s decision to bar officials at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) from using certain words (“vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based”). The administration’s refusal to give any rationale for the order, and the pressure it places on CDC employees, have a political meaning that transcends its specific content and context. The decision as a whole links to a larger history of how language is used as a tool of state repression.
Read the entire essay at The Washington Post.