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Whatever you do, don’t read this article

The present culture is simply a result of the infinite paradigms created from regime and revolution, oppression and opposition, conservatism and radicalism.

A 1975 study known as “The Effects of Censorship on Attitude Change” examined the attitudes of students from the University of North Carolina before and after the Dean banned a speech that favored coed dorms. The study found that students were more supportive of coed dorms after the speech was banned.

The psychological sobriquet for this innate reaction is appropriately referred to as “reactance.” The study concluded that when “freedom is threatened by censorship and not subsequently restored, reactance effects will overshadow balance attempts because subjects will act to restore their own freedom.”

It is the tendency of censorship to result in a reckless chain reaction of insubordination. When faced with the challenge of censorship, we have two options, like everything else, we can either fight or take flight.

Among those who chose to fight were the writers who radicalized the way people thought about racism and gender roles through books that often ended up on the banned books list. In a satisfying coincidence, these books prove the reactance theory, as they are often some of the most successful books in history (think: 1984, To Kill a Mockingbird and Fahrenheit 451.)

Picture all the successful figures giving their pompous speeches and thanking scores of people in their entourage and at the end, looking directly into the audience, brow furrowed, tears pooling in their eyes, conclude by thanking those who said they “would never make it.” A twisted sense of gratitude is often awarded to oppressors not because success was impossible without them, but because the motivational power of reactance was impossible without them.

Through the 1975 study, we can see the urgency within all of us to defend our positions, thus proving our hard-wired refusal to accept authority that deny our right to simple freedoms. With this invidividaul internal system of checks-and-balances, censorship cannot prevail.

So, in a nutshell—only write what they tell you to write. Don’t think and infer freely. Listen to the man. And definitely don’t be tempted to push the big red button of insurgency every once in awhile. It might just take your and your writing on a one-way trip to the banned books list or better future.