Whether it be in the EPA, the USDA, or anywhere else in the federal government that relies on scientific study to operate, President Trump has passed a gag order which appears to bar any and all federally-employed scientists from sharing their findings with either the public, or lawmakers.
There is no indication how long this gag will last.
Surely, no one needs to have it explained why this is such a dangerous precedent.
The strange censorship of government employees began just a day after Trump’s inauguration when the National Parks’ Twitter page deleted a group of retweets which featured the images many saw circulating on inauguration day, comparing the turnout of Trump’s Inauguration to that of Obama’s in 2009. Since the tweets were deleted, the agency has not posted on social media.
But this was just the beginning.
Starting on Monday, the entire branch of the EPA has been barred from posting on social media or speaking to the press in any capacity, told to only make corrections, but not to post on any social sites or update their website with any new information.
The EPA was also ordered not to conduct any new business and a freeze was placed on their grant program, bringing all work by EPA scientists to a grinding halt. All “new business activities” have been ordered to stop for an unknown amount of time.
Currently, the EPA is without a head as Trump’s nominee Scott Pruitt has yet to be confirmed by the Senate. It is currently unknown if the department will be able to resume social activity and business once given a head.
Elsewhere in the federal government, the USDA has banned all of its employees – scientist or otherwise – from sharing any of their scientific data and findings with the public.
According to Buzzfeed News:
“[T]he department told staff — including some 2,000 scientists — at the agency’s main in-house research arm, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), to stop communicating with the public about taxpayer-funded work.”
Just like several other agencies, the last time the ARS tweeted was a day before Trump’s inauguration.
It appears that the ARS’s decision was an internal one, and their message to employees made no mention of Trump in their announcement. The agency also is still allowing scientists to publish academic articles and present them in academic settings, but the barrier stands between the scientific community in federal government and the public which funds them.
Just like the CDC’s quiet decision to cancel their climate conference, it appears that the Trump administration is pulling some particularly insidious strings behind the scenes.
These programs and agencies are funded by the U.S. taxpayer, so any extended block between what information our tax money funds and the public that pays the bills will undoubtedly cause significant issues.
In a world where “alternative facts,” are our reality, limiting the connection between scientific study and fact from the public ear is yet another step toward a “double plus ungood” state of Democracy.
Since this article was published, the USDA has responded to stories about their gag order, saying that the email sent to employees was inaccurate and will be amended with updated policy soon.