Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Terri Ginsberg fights for the right to be critical of Israel's Zionism at NCSU

Dr. Terri Ginsberg holds a Ph.D. in Cinema Studies from NYU and has lectured and published widely on the political aesthetics of Holocaust film, cinema of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, German cinema, and GLBTQ film. She has taught at many colleges and universities including Dartmouth, Rutgers SUNY-Purchase, Brooklyn College, and Ithaca College. She has also been active in Jews Against the Occupation (JATO) and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network. Her current book project concerns censorship and "dumbing down" in the U.S. academy.
-- Committee for Open Discussion of Zionism

What this bio blurb does not say is that Terri Ginsberg, unlike most academics who only research justice, is fighting back and not letting go.

HERE is Ginsberg's web site about her legal battles with North Carolina State University (NCSU).

And HERE is the Appellate Brief that was filed on June 24th on behalf of Ginsberg against the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

The evidence and the legal arguments supporting that evidence are pointed and strong. No judge worthy of the position could reasonably deny the request for a jury trial.

NCSU admitted during deposition hearings that it suppressed Ginsberg's speech critical of Zionism and supportive of the Palestinian liberation struggle while she was under its employ as a visiting professor, and that it chose not to interview or hire Ginsberg for a tenure-track position because of her scholarship focusing on Palestine/Israel, the Middle East, and the “Jewish.”

A jury should therefore be permitted to decide whether NCSU's reason for its sudden change of heart in denying Ginsberg the tenure-track position was because of its hostility to her views on "Jewish/Israel," or because she is "overqualified" and no longer an expert in European film, which NCSU claims are the actual reasons for her non-hire.

In Canada, public opinion has turned against Israel's Zionism; despite the best efforts of the country's at-best-ill-informed politicians. Ginsberg is part of a leading edge of resilient academics turning US public opinion on the Israel problem. Genocidal occupation is not morally acceptable -- pass it on.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Activist Teacher sued for $1 million over blog

Activist Teacher blogger Denis Rancourt on Thursday was served with a $1 million lawsuit for posts on his U of O Watch blog about University of Ottawa law professor Joanne St. Lewis.

Professor St. Lewis filed a detailed Statement of Claim with the Superior Court of Ontario: HERE and HERE.

There were several media reports today about the lawsuit. For example: HERE, HERE and HERE.

[On June 9, 2014, the comments section of this blogpost was closed, as a precaution, pursuant to a COURT ORDER.]

Monday, June 13, 2011

USA academic freedom scholarship as a measure of corporate fascism

By Denis G. Rancourt

A reliable gauge of the present state of academic freedom in the USA is to ascertain what its scholars who purport to be defending academic freedom are actually saying.

In this regard, the present post is a critical review of the 1996 book "The Future of Academic Freedom" edited by Louis Menard [1]. The book contains chapters by Ronald Dworkin, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Thomas L. Haskell, Evelyn Fox Keller, Louis Menard, Richard Rorty, Edward W. Said, Joan W. Scott, and Cass R. Sunstein.

In his introductory chapter Menard gives a broad interpretation of academic freedom as the well known professional independence and collegial governance ideals while excluding adult students:

"It is the key legitimizing concept of the entire enterprise. Virtually every practice of academic life that we take for granted -- from the practice of allowing departments to hire and fire their own members to the practice of not allowing the football coach to influence the quarterback's grade in math class -- derives from it. Any internal account of what goes on in the academic world must at the same time be a convincing rational for maintaining the space defined by academic freedom. The alternative is a political free-for-all, in which decisions about curricula, funding, employment, classroom practice, and scholarly merit are arrived at through a process of negotiation among competing interests. The power in such negotiations will not be wielded by the professors."

Despite this lofty definition, Menard and the other authors (excluding Said) go on to never again mention professional independence or collegial governance as central concerns but instead myopically confine themselves to the questions of freedom of expression in and outside the classroom and of debated curricular choices given the advent of postmodernism...

Amazingly, none of these expert authors ever touch on the historical fact that the "process of negotiation among competing interests" was already had and lost in the early twentieth century when academic freedom was being defined and refined as an instrument of academic workforce (self-) confinement. Their blind-spot is a testament to the strength of academic freedom as a device for ideological control. It is as though none of these authors have read Ellen W. Schrecker's seminal 1986 book "No Ivory Tower" [2]. The "Future" of Menard's title is blind to the past.

Schrecker has outlined how academics were easily trained to police themselves using the carrot-and-stick freedom proxy to become modern "academic freedom". She has explained how the crux of the battle was between inquiry and reform; between neutralized and ineffective inquiry and active participation in political reform; between the segregated realm of ideas and the positive freedom of political activism. [2]

The result was the "academic freedom" that neutralizes the Noam Chomskies [3] and allows the tenured Ward Churchills to be summarily fired using bogus pretexts. Those clinging to the myth of an actual academic freedom of course steer us to a "careful examination of the complex alleged reasons that Churhill was fired".

Said is the only author in the collection to somewhat brush against the unstated underlying political basis of academic freedom by challenging his colleagues to leave the numbing security of their regulated communities of experts and instead "enter a ceaseless quest for knowledge and freedom". Said invites his colleagues to become free-agent travelers who "cross[] over, traverse[] territory, and abandon[] fixed positions, all the time" and to "suspend the claim of customary routine" and not "guard only one place and defend its frontiers". [4]

Gates ably deconstructs critical race theory but without directly affirming the obvious; that "'Words that wound' are an artifice of new-wave law theorists looking to lead a legal analysis sect premised on slave-hood and the law as protective master and paternalistic guardian of society's values" [5]; and without ever addressing the question of academic freedom beyond the usual infantile preoccupations with political correctness constraints on speech. [6]

The other authors in the collection either make useless chatter or actually weave crap justifications for greater and better limits to academic freedom that in Canada, given the texts of collective agreements (union contracts with the university corporate employers) and institutional statements of purpose, would be laughable. [7]

Such is the state of academic freedom in the USA.

A more recent such volume, edited by Beshara Doumani, 2006, is a carbon copy of Menard's 1996 collection in terms of what is strictly taboo and the breadth of the discourse [8]. As Doumani puts it, it's about vigorously defending academic freedom from "the stifling and corrupting forces unleashed in times of war and privatization" in order to preserve the "landscape of intellectual production" [9]. He might as well say "we are and make service intellectuals and we want to negotiate our terms of reference, just so we are all clear in this time of war..."

Both volumes have a stench of the "scholarship of academic freedom" rather than expressing vitality in expanding student and professional intellectual and political independence. These volumes show a weak, spineless and hollow self-management-class professorate asleep in the comfort of its hierarchical privilege. The story of defending academic freedom, on the other hand, is being written by the few who actually practice it.


[1] "The Future of Academic Freedom" edited by Louis Menard, The University of Chicago Press, 1996.

[2] "No Ivory Tower" by Ellen W. Schrecker, Oxford University Press, 1986. See also "Disciplined Minds" by Jeff Schmidt, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2000.

[3] "Against Chomsky" by Denis G. Rancourt, ActivistTeacher blog, 2008.

[4] "Identity, Authority, and Freedom: The Potentate and the Traveler" by Edward W. Said, 1996; Chapter-9 in [1].

[5] "Why is "freedom" so difficult to understand?" by Denis G. Rancourt, ActivistTeacher blog, 2011.

[6] "Critical Race Theory and Freedom of Speech" by Henry Louis Gates Jr., 1996; Chapter-5 in [1].

[7] "On the Legal Status of Academic Freedom in Canada" by Denis G. Rancourt,, 2011. (alternative link)

[8] "Academic Freedom after September 11" edited by Beshara Doumani, Zone Books, NY, 2006.

[9] "Between Coercion and Privatization: Academic Freedom in the Twenty-First Century" by Beshara Doumani, 2006; First chapter in [8].

Denis G. Rancourt is a former tenured and full professor of physics at the University of Ottawa in Canada. He practiced several areas of science (including physics and environmental science) which were funded by a national agency and ran an internationally recognized laboratory. He has published over 100 articles in leading scientific journals and several social commentary essays. He developed popular activism courses and was an outspoken critic of the university administration and a defender of student and Palestinian rights. He was fired for his dissidence in 2009. His dismissal case is in court hearings that will extend into 2012.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Why is "freedom" so difficult to understand?

By Denis G. Rancourt

For the same reason that it is so difficult for a slave to recognize that he/she is a slave! [1]

A first step is for the (wage, economic, or other) slave to recognize -- beyond the master's grip on the mental and emotional environment -- that he/she is a slave. Even this consciousness can only be substantively attained through the process (praxis) itself of liberation; this too the master knows.

There may result a spontaneous impulse to escape from physical oppression but liberation is much more than escape. Mere escape from physical and economic oppression is not the full ontological freedom that is fulfillment and purpose; and that is contagious and exhilarating.

Since consciousness and liberation are always possible and can lead to a social chain reaction if radical nuclei are not quickly identified, isolated, and destroyed, and since such nucleation is frequent and widespread in slaves left to think for themselves, the hierarchy of dominance that we inhabit must create and maintain an illusion of the danger of freedom.

The establishment's mantra in this regard -- which resonates incessantly in the halls of all law schools and between the walls of all philosophy and ethics classrooms -- is the hollow statement that "freedom is always at the expense of the freedoms of others".

In the language of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms this becomes:

"The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society."

And the courts are the arbitrator of this fantasy. For example, in a recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling about libel law we have:

"The exercise as a whole involves balancing freedom of expression, freedom of the press, the protection of reputation, privacy concerns, and the public interest. Each of these is a complex value protected either directly or indirectly by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Weighing these often competing constitutional interests is a legal determination. It is, therefore, a determination that the judge should undertake [not a jury!?]."
-- (2009, Grant vs TorStarCorp)

Judges are always "balancing". Note how in this ruling a jury cannot decide the weight attributed to "the public interest", that "privacy concerns" usually relate to an employer's "labour relations", to corporate management and to solicitor-client privilege, that those who can afford to sue for libel and slander have money, and that the mainstream press is owned by the same economic masters that determine the rest, including the economic apartheid of the working class and surplus peoples.

"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread."
-- Anatole France

The system's mantra "freedom is always at the expense of the freedoms of others" is hollow because it purposely abstracts away the omnipresent relation of dominance; the asymmetry of power between the individual drawn to freedom and the oppressive system bent on maintaining dominance.

The mantra is often accompanied with the nightmarish fairy tale that humans left to satiate their primal impulses would ravage unprotected humanity. The word "chaos" often comes up. The immediate conclusion of course is that one needs the master's protection; that the slaves themselves are to be feared by other slaves. That more police and prisons are needed, etc.

Everyone has the experience of dominance and its effects on otherwise healthy persons and so everyone can relate to the "need" to be protected...

Let's see. If I use my freedom of expression how does this occur at the expense of the freedoms of others? Does the fact of my expression prevent others from expressing themselves? If I am too loud and persistent won't my audience walk away? If I am speaking loudly in a library is my expression preventing others from speaking loudly in the library? I may be asked to leave and I may be expelled by force but have I impinged on the freedoms of expression of others? It is not my expression that has caused me to be expelled. It is my bad choice of venue and my aggression against community members collectively seeking tranquility.

Similarly, if as the professor in a classroom I choose to express racist views does this act prevent other professors from expressing whatever views they wish? No. Does it oppress the targeted minority students in the classroom? Yes. The oppression comes from the asymmetry of power and influence, not from the expressed views themselves. Black students may express the same views among themselves in an authentic and exploratory discourse without there being any racism of oppression. [2]

My freedom of expression does not mask my oppression-of-dominance of individuals or groups. The expression component remains expression and the oppression is oppression. Let us not confuse the expression with the oppression. Let us hone our ability to recognize and name hierarchical oppression and not become language police. Let us not displace our capacity to sense manipulation and coercion in favor of language and expression purification.

"Words that wound" are an artifice of new-wave law theorists looking to lead a legal analysis sect premised on slave-hood and the law as protective master and paternalistic guardian of society's values. Here Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s deconstruction of critical race theory is a breath of fresh air but does not go far enough regarding hierarchy. [3]

No one and no group has an ontological right to oppress. It's not about balancing freedoms. It's about getting freedom.

"Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you're a man, you take it."
-- Malcolm X

"Taking it" is "positive freedom", not just the "negative" freedom from oppression, but actuation of freedom.

Isaiah Berlin put it this way [4]:

"The ‘positive’ sense of the word ‘liberty’ derives from the wish on the part of the individual to be his own master. I wish my life and decisions to depend on myself, not on external forces of whatever kind. I wish to be the instrument of my own, not of other men’s acts of will. I wish to be a subject, not an object; to be moved by reasons, by conscious purposes which are my own, not by causes which affect me, as it were, from outside. I wish to be somebody, not nobody; a doer – deciding, not being decided for, self-directed and not acted upon by external nature or by other men as if I were a thing, or an animal, or a slave incapable of playing a human role, that is, of conceiving goals and policies of my own and realizing them. This is at least part of what I mean when I say that I am rational, and that it is my reason that distinguishes me as a human being from the rest of the world. I wish, above all, to be conscious of myself as a thinking, willing, active being, bearing responsibility for his choices and able to explain them by reference to his own ideas and purposes. I feel free to the degree that I believe this to be true, and enslaved to the degree that I am made to realize that it is not."

This is in line with Paulo Freire's liberation [1]:

"Freedom is acquired by conquest, not by gift. It must be pursued constantly and responsibly. Freedom is not an ideal located outside of man; nor is it an idea which becomes myth. It is rather the indispensable condition for the quest for human completion. [...] If people, as historical beings necessarily engaged with other people in a movement of inquiry, did not control that movement, it would be (and is) a violation of their humanity. Any situation in which some individuals prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence. The means used are not important; to alienate human beings from their own decision-making is to change them into objects."

Regarding the legal system's sanitized freedom rights balancing act diversion that conveniently disappears the relation of oppression, Derrick Jensen has this to say [5]:

"It comes down to a basic truism: defensive rights always trump offensive rights. My right to freedom always trumps your right to exploit me, and if you do try to exploit me, I have the right to stop you, even at the expense of you."

Now think who exploits who in our little dominance hierarchy over here where we live... Who is in jail for what? Who kills the most people? Who gets away with selling death to all? Who has a license to print money? Who sues who and who wins at it? Who has a voice? Who decides?


[1] "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" by Paolo Freire, 1970.

[2] "How anti-racism protects class structure and dominance hierarchy" by Denis G. Rancourt, 2011.

[3] "Critical Race Theory and Freedom of Speech" by Henry Louis Gates Jr., 1996. In: "The Future of Academic Freedom", edited by Louis Menard.

[4] "Two Concepts of Liberty" by Isaiah Berlin, 1958.

[5] Preface by Derrick Jensen to the 2007 edition of "Pacifism as Pathology" by Ward Churchill.

Denis G. Rancourt is a former tenured and full professor of physics at the University of Ottawa in Canada. He practiced several areas of science (including physics and environmental science) which were funded by a national agency and ran an internationally recognized laboratory. He has published over 100 articles in leading scientific journals and several social commentary essays. He developed popular activism courses and was an outspoken critic of the university administration and a defender of student and Palestinian rights. He was fired for his dissidence in 2009. His dismissal case is in court hearings that will extend into 2012.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Breaking News::: Blog technology used for transparency at a Canadian university !

Observers know universities to be the most politically sterile of institutions, the indoctrination boot-camps for the military economy's service intellectuals...

That is what makes this such a remarkable news item.

At Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, some professors and some students are using state of the art blog technology to implement direct transparency regarding academic planning.

Who would have imagined that the usual institutional show exercise of periodically dressing the university administration's elite indulgences with vacuous statements about academic integrity, a respectful learning environment, research excellence, and community service could be partly transparent?

Who would have guessed that ass kissing could be steered towards discourse?

We have modern technology and a few brave insiders to thank. Canada is a better place for it.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Student liberation as an intergral part of civil guerrilla warfare - audio lecture, in English and Spanish


February 15, 2011, opening lecture by Denis G. Rancourt (Ottawa, Canada) in the Estudis Crítics des de les Ciències Socials series - Barcelona, Spain.

The series was an academic squatting exercise at the University of Barcelona.

The lecture was given by skype (with large screen) and was translated on the fly into Spanish and sometimes Catalan. It is the first presentation of Rancourt's developing "civil (unarmed) guerrilla warefare" model of social change.

The web site of the project course is:

Denis Rancourt's latest analysis of global warming physics posted to Climate Guy

Last month physicist Denis G. Rancourt embarked on an examination of the radiation physics behind "global warming" and called for peer review of his work: HERE, HERE, HERE.

All this has lead to his most recent report posted on Climate Guy on June 3, 2011:

This is a careful exposé of the basic physics underlying the dominant climate science narrative regarding so-called global warming. It is written in such a way that any student of science can follow the physics without needing to rely on authority or faith for any part of the argument.

The physical model and its predictions show that CO2 fetish warming alarmism is not justified by the relevant radiation physics informed by modern satelite spectroscopic measurements.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Media interview with Denis Rancourt::: Academic freedom battle at U of O, pedagogy, activism...

On June 1, 2011, James Corbett of The Corbett Report interviewed Activist Teacher and former tenured physics professor Denis Rancourt in this wide ranging 60-minute radio discussion:

The Rancourt case as a major Canadian academic freedom battle, Paulo Freire's pedagogy, the societal, health, and psychological impacts of the dominance hierarchy, story of academic squatting and the activism course, anti-racism used to protect the dominance hierarchy and maintain class advantages...

This interview follows the first (May 2011) Corbett Report interview with Rancourt about global warming science: LINK.