chapter  7
34 Pages

Resistance to the Censorship of History

ByAntoon De Baets

Censorship undermines history when it distorts (the distortion effect), hides (the secrecy effect), renders sterile (the sterility effect), deters (the chilling effect), and makes suspicious (the distrust effect). But it can be undermined itself in many ways. It is well known, for example, that censorship often directs the attention to what is forbidden: historical taboos attract. The fact that a work is censored often arouses curiosity, thwarting the censor’s purposes (the backfire effect). Likewise, censorship frequently provokes the creation of substitutes: when historians are persecuted, novelists, poets, and filmmakers may take their place and become the messengers of history instead (the substitution effect). Similarly, the rehabilitation of historians after a repressive regime is toppled constitutes a victory, albeit a belated one, in the struggle against that regime (the survival effect). And, of course, the same could be said when historical heritage in danger of destruction, such as archives and monuments, is saved or restored before, during, or after a transition is taking place (the rescue effect). 1 All these effects that undermine censorship merit separate treatment. The backfire effect in particular was frequently noted in the previous chapters.