Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Review of Rancourt's book "Fight Against Racism"

"Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism" by Denis G. Rancourt, Stairway Press, 2013, pp. 180.

Book review by Prof. Anatole French [1]

As a legal academic, I have been asked by the author to review his book "Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism". Specifically, I was asked to succinctly describe what is the animal in question. What is this book mainly about?

I struggled with this book because it is densely packed with radical ideas that often sound crazy on first reading. And these ideas often conflicted with my own positions on things. But, in the end, the ideas are explained well enough that I managed to convince myself that I mostly understand what this book is about.

In a nutshell, Rancourt has taken on the dominant paradigm of how a multicultural society can best fight racism. Rancourt's book is a challenge against the policy and legal analysis framework generally known as "critical race theory". Rancourt goes so far as to propose that the legal, policy, and proscriptive instruments which stem from "critical race theory" do more harm than good in fighting racism.

To achieve this, Rancourt places his entire societal analysis within a meta-framework wherein all social interactions, institutions, and struggles are understood to be intercalated within dominance hierarchies. Rancourt explains the biochemical and physiological driving forces which spontaneous create and stabilize societal dominance hierarchies, which in turn determine and are challenged by the individual.

Rancourt shows us that the dominant struggle in society, regarding oppression, is the perpetual struggle between the dominance hierarchy, naturally driven towards fascism, and the individual seeking freedom and meaning. In this struggle, the dominance hierarchy must atomize and destroy the individual, and organizes to do precisely that. Meanwhile some individuals are constantly fighting back. The result is history itself.

Rancourt explains that racism is a most powerful tool in the hierarchy's arsenal, and that to maintain its racist exploitation and domination, the hierarchy needs to select and nurture a class of service intellectuals who play an essential role -- to convince us that things are as good as they can be, or are moving forward, that justice is increasing.

Rancourt dares to advance the blasphemous position that critical race theorists are, for the most part, a facet of the service intellectual class. His argument rests in the nature of the human spirit which must express itself freely or be stifled and die. Rancourt steadfastly argues that absolute freedom of expression always works in favour of more freedom and against dominance; and illustrates the dumbing effect of hierarchy with stunning examples from science and medicine.

The book draws on the ideas of a few key figures, including Malcolm X, Mary Mother Jones, and Paulo Freire. [2]

Enjoy the read!


[1] Guest blogger Professor Anatole French is Professor of Laws, Law Society of Up Canada University, Capital City, Ontario

[2] Although Rancourt never mentions the work of "antiracist essayist" Tim Wise, I felt throughout that if Rancourt met the man in person, they would probably come to blows, or that Rancourt would simply melt into a puddle of depression?

Monday, January 28, 2013

On the theory and practice of free expression

By Denis G. Rancourt

The legal theory of "competing rights" is repugnant. It is a construct born of power's need to hide the true function of the so-called "justice system". Society's dominance hierarchy imposes itself via a self-organizing integration of brute force, coercion, stealth, and "cooling the mark out" [1]. The competing rights paradigm is a self-serving false justification for power to be an arbiter of "rights". Is such a paradigm necessary or unavoidable in a modern society?

The purpose of the present essay is to provide an analytical framework to resolve what one might call "the free expression paradox". The paradox can be explained as follows. If free expression is a human right then, by definition, it must be absolute. Momentarily leaving aside all the "words that wound" nonsense, words are words, and are the instrument of social participation and influence, such that no person can ever legitimately be silenced. However, is not a general's order to commit a war crime an authentic expression? Is not an attendee's "Fire!" cry in a crowded cinema an authentic expression?

The establishment's answer is that "competing rights must be balanced", and that the justice system will do the balancing. This answer drives home two points: (i) rights compete and can be balanced, and (ii) the courts are impartial and are capable of delivering justice. Within this framework, "words that wound" can be accommodated by postulating a "right to not be emotionally hurt" or a "right to not be defamed", and so on into the downward spiral.

The paradox can be solved by what physicists such as Einstein have called "a thought experiment". In a thought experiment, one mind-creates any desired experimental conditions in order to thought-observe the consequences of the imagined conditions. The relevant thought experiment is to imagine a society entirely absent of any dominance hierarchy. In this society, individuals are actually free to associate and to organize as they choose, and to join or leave associations whenever they choose.

In such a society, the right to freedom of expression is absolute because no one has hierarchical power over another. Therefore, expression is an individual's attempt at influence or persuasion, without being amplified by hierarchical dominance. In such a society, the individuals are independent thinkers, and are use to a barrage of differing messages from other individuals, because there are no power structures to align thought or impose rules. 

In this society, screaming "Fire!" in a crowded cinema will not cause a stampede because the independent thinkers present will ascertain for themselves whether there is an actual danger. Having been raised in a society without dominance hierarchies, the individuals are more secure and less easily subject to irrational fears that stem from exposure to indiscriminate applications of authority. The individuals are use to negotiation and are not subject to frantic "every man for himself" reactions which have no purpose. Such reactions make sense in a society where wars can erupt, but have no evolutionary use in a world without dominance.

In this society, individuals are free to efficiently learn about themselves via dialogue, and therefore quickly come to understand their emotional reactions as useful internal messaging, as physiological reactions to their circumstances, rather than as positive or negative states caused by others. These individuals own and interpret their own emotions rather than blame others for "causing" one's emotions. Sticks and stones, yes, but names can never hurt them. Anyway, the "names" usually speak to hierarchical status and lose their meaning in this society without hierarchy.

Regarding the army general, he is free to give his "order", but these soldiers are free to decide if they want to follow the order. The general becomes constrained to only proposing orders that are likely to be received... Each individual has the same societal power potential. Consequently, the "general" has absolute freedom of expression, as does each "soldier". This army is self-organized and self-run.

In such a society without dominance hierarchies, therefore, the right to free expression is absolute. The problem with free expression arises when society is not free, when society is burdened by dominance hierarchies.

As soon as the general has hierarchical power, then his order constitutes a crime, and cannot be viewed as protected pursuant to the general's right to free expression. Likewise, as soon as individuals are made unnaturally irrational and prone to stampedes or mobbing by long-term oppression from a dominance hierarchy, then screaming "Fire!" is not protected by an absolute and unqualified right to free expression. 

Of course, society could in theory choose to make the general's order and the screamer's "Fire!" protected by an absolute right to free expression, as part of shifting the onus entirely on the soldier's responsibility and entirely on the attendee's irrational and dangerous stampede reaction. And one can reasonably argue that this would be a more correct assignment of responsibility, consistent with personal responsibility for one's own actions, while leaving the right of free expression as a true right. This would push the army to allow a larger degree of soldier dissent, and the individual citizen to make more rational evaluations of danger warnings (which would be more frequent).

But institutional power is such that merely imposing an absolute right to free expression would not resolve the problem of harm done by some expression in a hierarchical society. Thus, "balancing opposing rights" is born.

In this way, once we understand the "balancing opposing rights" paradigm as a mechanism to justify and stabilize society's dominance hierarchy, we are brought to a careful examination of who will do the balancing and how will the balancing be achieved.

It is a fundamental law of hierarchies that a hierarchy will always act to strengthen itself. Likewise, it is a law of nature that individual freedoms threaten hierarchy, and that hierarchies always act to suppress individual freedoms [2].

"How the balancing will be achieved" depends on whether we want to move towards more hierarchical control, towards corporate fascism, or towards more individual freedom. In practice, an absolute right to free expression is not an allowed option in a dominance hierarchy. It is especially not allowed by the hierarchy itself. The only option is the on-going give-and-take battle regarding how the "balancing" is achieved.

We must understand this battle as a battle between increasing fascism, which is the natural tendency of dominance hierarchies [2], and increasing individual freedoms. The two are incompatible end points. Increasing one, diminishes the other. It is society's constant battle between hierarchical control and individual freedom. All the institutions are engaged in this battle.

The above understanding leads us to a clear view of how to fight for individual freedom and against advancing fascism, within the "balancing of rights" battle.

When should the right to free expression trump other rights? I propose the following rule. If the individual's free expression weakens the dominance hierarchy's control (employer, institution, etc.) then this freedom is "up freedom" (up the hierarchy) and trumps the other "rights", including contractual rights, employer control, etc. If, on the other hand, the expression, such as corporate propaganda, illegitimate orders, etc., acts against individual freedom, then this "down freedom" (down the hierarchy) is trumped by the interests of the individuals.

In the language of physics, the presence of hierarchy "breaks the symmetry of the system", such that we must define two kinds of freedom, "up" and "down" freedoms. Freedoms must be allowed differently, depending on whether they act up or down the hierarchy.

As one consequence, whistleblowing becomes absolutely protected.

Of course, the justice system argues that it is already achieving the optimum balance to "protect" individual rights within a strong hierarchical (institutional) framework. And so the battle goes.

On the other hand, if I had the power to do so, I would make free expression an absolute right for all immediately, and let the pieces fall where they may. As a thought experiment, there is no doubt in my mind that an absolute right to free expression would overwhelmingly work in favor of increasing individual freedom and towards pushing back corporate/government fascism. It would make for a happier place.


[1] Goffman, Erving, "On Cooling the Mark Out: Some Aspects of Adaptation to Failure", Psychiatry, 1952.

[2] Rancourt, Denis G., "Hierarchy and free expression in the Fight Against Racism", Stairway Press, 2013.

Other essays by Denis Rancourt are HERE.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Calculated MINIMUM reparation due to slave descendants: $1.5 million to each Black citizen of the USA

It is not difficult to calculate a MINIMUM amount of monetary reparation due to every single Black slave descendant living today in the USA.

If we leave out the reparations for physical violence, genocidal stress, inadmissibility to superior social classes, etc., and only take into account the stolen labor, at the today's equivalent minimum wage, then the calculation for the minimum amount due to the descendants of slaves is a simple one, as follows.

This calculation includes only the money due to ancestors and their descendants, in terms of the stolen actual labor counted in person-hours, based on a minimal economic value of that labour, adjusted at a lowest reasonable rate of interest.

Every step in the following calculation will use the lowest possible evaluators, such as to produce a MINIMUM amount due.

In the 70 year period between 1790 and 1860, there were, on average, 2 million slaves at any time in the USA. In the same period the average US population was 14 million.

Moving forward to 2000, the US population was 309 million, with 40 million slave descendants.

To obtain a minimal (under estimated) annual interest rate, we use the population increase from 14 million to 309 million in the 140 years from 1860 to 2000. This gives a population annual growth rate of 2.2%.

Now capital value increase interest rates in the US have been much greater than the population growth rate. Nonetheless, we adopt the underestimate of 2% for the interest rate to be applied to the stolen income value. We further apply the interest rate starting only in 1860, rather than earlier, thereby making our estimate even more of an under estimate.

The value of the stolen labor, for the period 1790 to 1860, at today's US minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is as follows. (Note that using today's minimum wage automatically corrects for valuing the historic currency to its present value.)

70 years (1790 to 1860 period only)
2 million slaves (average number in the period used)
365 days per year (OK, maybe I should exclude one day off per week?)
10 hours of work per day (again a minimum)
$7.25 per hour
$ 3.7 trillion

Next, I apply the 2% interest rate (compounded annually). This gives a multiplicative factor of (1.02)^140 = 16, for the 140 years from 1860 to 2000. Further compounding could be applied to bring us to the present. (Again, this is a minimum estimate.)

Compounding to 2000, therefore, gives:

$ 3.7 trillion
(1.02)^140 (or 16, if you prefer)
$ 59.2 trillion

The latter one-time payment would be easy for the USA to make, since its annual GDP is $15 trillion. (Think of a wealthy person's annual salary relative to buying a house in a safe neighbourhood.) The USA would not even need to sell any assets to achieve this modest payment.

For the 40 million Black slave descendants in the US today, the calculated reparation means that US white society owes each and every Black slave descendant a MINIMUM payment of $ 1.5 million, which is long overdue.

After the minimum payment is made, it would be appropriate to calculate and pay the addition reparations that are due.

My goal here was to show that these calculations are simple and unambiguous. Understanding the calculated minimum allows one to move forward from that established basis, towards a more realistic reparation number. At the very least, each Black slave descendant can legitimately demand $ 1.5 million payable immediately.

An obvious question that arises from this straightforward calculation is: Why are Black leaders not demanding reparation, as a priority demand?

Denis Rancourt is a former physics professor at the University of Ottawa, and is the author of the book "Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism". More essays by this author are HERE.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Activist Teacher's radical book about racism

Activist Teacher Denis Rancourt has written a radical ("to the root") book about racism, now available in both paperback and Kindle:

Paperback: 180 pages
Publisher: Stairway Press (January 15, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0985994282
ISBN-13: 978-0985994280
Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.4 inches

Recent endorsements include:

Denis Rancourt has turned the entire notion of RACISM on its head and at the same time exposes racist acts committed by others to deflect that characterization from sticking at the highest levels of The Academy.  North American civil rights defenders need this book at this time. Rancourt’s deeply incisive Fight Against Racism brings us back to the reality of the struggle, away from the manoeuvring for class advantage and away from the victim’s desire to create illusions of state-given justice. 

—Cynthia McKinney, First African-American woman elected to represent Georgia in the US Congressional House of Representatives and former US presidential candidate (Green Party)

I disagree with several of the positions that this book makes, but I agree that censorship does nothing to combat racism, and that is a very important point that almost nobody except Rancourt dares to say. 

—Jean Bricmont, Professor of physics at the Catholic University of Leuven and author of Humanitarian Imperialism.

Denis Rancourt is on a journey. In 1810, there was one billion people in the world, today seven billion people, technologically superior but biologically the same, we continue to dehumanize and demonize other people on the road to new wars. Denis Rancourt is asking questions that our youth need to hear.

—Terrance Nelson, Co-Chair, American Indian Movement, Spokesman Okiijida Warrior Society, former five-term Chief of Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation

Recent reader reviews include:

hazel gashoka My Review of “Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism” by Denis G. Rancourt:  As a Black woman who is trained to read text through a critical race perspective, I had difficulties reading this book. It wasn’t the book that was the problem rather it was my theoretical framework. Although I agreed with the tenets in this book, I found the read to be a constant battle as I fought my desire to be part of the status quo. It is an incredible book and I highly recommend it.
Hazel Gashoka
BA (Psychology), graduate student in race studies

Anat-Matar You don’t have to agree with Denis Rancourt’s detailed and thorough arguments in order to learn from this book. Rancourt presents us with a challenge that human rights activists should seriously consider.
Anat Matar
Senior Lecturer, Tel Aviv University

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Monday, January 7, 2013

Rancourt files application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada

In the on-going case of St. Lewis v. Rancourt, Rancourt has done everything possible to have his complaint of reasonable apprehension of bias of Justice Robert Beaudoin heard on its merits, either at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice or at the Ontario Divisional Court.

These efforts were put to a close by the November 29, 2013 decision of Justice Peter Annis to not grant leave to appeal to the Divisional Court.

Since Rancourt's bias complaint was never heard on its merits, and since impartiality of the judiciary is a foundation of the common law, Rancourt believes his Charter rights to be heard and to equality before and under the law were violated.

Since the possibility of appeal was finally barred using rules of court which allow such judicial discretion, Rancourt concludes that the said rules of court are unconstitutional, and he therefore seeks leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

If the Supreme Court of Canada does not grant leave to appeal then it will mean that, in Ontario, litigants can make complaints of bias against judges and the complaints can continue to be finally barred by the court in which the complaints are made, and never heard on their merits. And there is no recourse.

Does that sound like something that should occur in a democratic society?

Rancourt's full application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court was served and filed today, and is posted: HERE.

Friday, January 4, 2013

David W. Scott on self-represented litigants

Here in the capital city Ottawa of the advanced nation that is Canada, a Co-Chair of the national law firm BLG, and an officer of the Order of Canada, Mr. David W. Scott, was quoted in the following way in the city's Ottawa Citizen newspaper, on the topic of self-represented litigants in Canadian courts [1]:

The jaundiced judicial attitude is a holdover from an earlier era, when many of those who appeared in court without a lawyer were mentally disturbed, says David Scott, a prominent Ottawa lawyer.

“That’s changed completely,” says Scott. Now, “the unrepresented litigant is frequently smarter than the represented litigant and his lawyer combined. The idea that all these people are deranged is over.”

Within the legal profession, what to do with self-represented litigants “is now the hottest topic on the street,” says Scott. “This is a huge management job for the courts, and we’re just beginning to deal with it.”

Well there you have it. Is there a cultural bias against self-represented litigants in the legal profession? Do elephants have big ears?

Which "earlier era" is that Dave? Would this be based on a comparative study published in a law journal? Or would this be anecdotal? Did some Ontario judges make findings in their judgements that the self-represented litigants before them were "mentally disturbed", or, well ... what is your source there Dave? And who made the psychiatric evaluations in question Dave? Are lawyers and judges qualified to do that?

Also, Dave, could you specify: When did the "idea that all these people are deranged" become "over"? What year was that in your career? How did judges administer justice before it was "over"?

I ask because, my own research on self-represented litigants of an "earlier era" suggests that they were quite not mentally disturbed, but rather worked with a "mentally disturbed" or at least "disturbed" court. Two famous examples that come to mind are Fidel Castro [2] and Mary Mother Jones [3].

So... Dave is helping in the "huge management job" that "we're just beginning to deal with". I feel better already. These boys are going to "manage" self-represented litigants. Meanwhile, one lone researcher is interviewing the non-lawyered litigants to figure out what is actually going on [1].

Another research method, I would suggest, is to observe in the actual courtroom. That's where a lot of the "managing" is occurring, for anyone who cares to witness it.


[1] Butler, Don, "Self-represented litigants ‘treated with contempt’ by many judges, study finds", Ottawa Citizen, January 1, 2013.

[2] Castro, Fidel, "History Will Absolve Me", 1953.

[3] Foner, Philip S., "Mother Jones Speaks: Collected writings and speeches", Monad Press, 1983.