The Harm of Words: The Escalation of Discrimination & Hate Speech

“Together with all its material supports, authoritatively saying someone is inferior is largely how structures of status and differential treatment are demarcated and actualized. Words and images are how people are placed in hierarchies, how said stratification is made to seem inevitable and right, how feelings of inferiority and superiority are engendered, and how indifference to violence against those on the bottom is rationalized and normalized.”

Catherine Mackinnon (1993: 31)

On July, 26, Trump made the following three tweets stating that transgender individuals would not be allowed to serve in the US military.

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This prompted Breitbart News to write the following article:

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The article was brief, stating that former Defense Secretary Ash Carter had issued an order that allowed transgender troops to serve openly and undergo gender reassignment surgery and formally change their gender in Pentagon systems. It continued by stating that new Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had decided to delay that decision, giving the military service chiefs another six months to review whether allowing transgender people to enlist would affect the “readiness and lethality” of the force.  The article goes on to state:

“After consulting with the service chiefs and secretaries, I have determined that it is necessary to defer the start of accessions for six months,” he said in a memo obtained by The Associated Press. “We will use this additional time to evaluate more carefully the impact of such accessions on readiness and lethality.”

Trump’s decision also comes after Mattis issued a series of other memos directing that decisions be based on whether it makes the military more lethal and is a good use of Pentagon funds.

This led to almost 14,000 comments made by Breitbart News readers, many of them expressed prejudiced ideology which could be labelled as hate speech.

I don’t wish to expose the identity of the writers, but here are some examples:

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I could go on, but these three examples demonstrate how the quote at the beginning of the article is applicable in this situation. Trump, as President of the US, makes a statement to exclude a minority group, and by doing so, constructs them as inferior and places them on a lower level of a social hierarchy. When a person in such an position of authority makes such a statement, it encourages others, in this case many Breitbart News readers, to post texts on a mainstream news media source, which escalate and intensify the prejudice and hatred against the minority group.

By making the tweets concerning transgender people, Trump has given the green light to prejudiced individuals to write texts of hatred toward this group of people, which may in turn influence readers of such texts to create more division and prejudice in society.

 

MacKinnon, Catherine. 1993. Only Words. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press

Do Americans use bad language the most? … It appears so!!

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I’m interested in looking at taboo language usage in different Englishes from around the world.

For this analysis, I’m going to use the GloWbE corpus, which can be found at:

http://corpus.byu.edu/coca/

The corpus of Global Web-based English contains about 1.9 billion words from texts from twenty different English-speaking countries. The corpus allows you to carry out comparisons between different varieties of English from around the world.

Taboo language refers to words or phrases that are generally considered inappropriate in certain contexts.  In every society, there are things which are believed to be inappropriate if spoken or written in public domains. I want to look at a variety of taboo language in differing cultural settings from around the world. People from different cultural backgrounds use language in unique ways.

Taboo language can be divided into various categories, but at the moment, I’ll look at three:

  1. Words that are concerned with sex and excretion, such as fuck, shit and bugger.
  2. Words that are related to religion, such as Christ and Jesus.
  3. Words that are related to animals such as bitch and cow.

Firstly, I want to look at the word fuck. This word can be used in many forms and functions, but for now I’ll just focus on the single word fuck.  I’ll use the GloWbE data to look at frequencies of this usage in different countries.

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The chart shows the frequency of usage, but as each corpus is of a different size, it’s also important to look at the words per million figure. From the chart it can be seen that the United States, Great Britain and Jamaica have the greatest frequency and Ghana, Bangladesh and Pakistan the least.

Next, I’ll look at taboo words related to religion. Of the many possible words and phrases, I’ll look at the phrase Oh, Christ!

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This is quite interesting. The United States, which had the highest usage of fuck, has a much lower usage of this blasphemous taboo phrase in comparison to Great Britain, Ireland and Australia. Quite a few countries have no examples of this phrase, the majority of which are countries without a strong Christian culture, so this may be expected.

Next I’ll show the data of bitch:

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So again, the United States appears to use this phrase the most frequently. What’s interesting is that Singapore and the Philippines have a high frequency usage of this word. Again, Ghana, Bangladesh and Pakistan have the lowest levels of frequency/million usage.

The last word I’ll look at to try to show a pattern in taboo word usage is shit.

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So again, American appear to have the greatest frequency of this taboo word followed by Australia and Great Britain. The countries with the smallest frequencies of this are Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The data appears to be quite clear. Taboo language usage is much more prevalent in the United States, and much less so in countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh. What’s the significance of this? Does is mean that American’s are the rudest people on the planet and Bangladeshis and Pakistanis the most polite? Well, probably not! I would argue that it is more related to notions of politeness / impoliteness and possibly the value has towards face and the preservation of face for oneself and others.

I did find it interesting though that Americans have the highest usage of all taboo words that I looked at until blasphemous taboo words were search, which demonstrates how culture is very closely related to politeness / impoliteness.

Trump: Undocumented Immigrants are Animals who Deserved to be Roughed Up

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In a speech to law enforcement officials, Trump made a clear statement that unauthorized immigrants are subhumans, and that they should be treated accordingly.

The villains of Trump’s speech were the transnational criminal gang MS-13, which started in California but has taken root in El Salvador. Trump described MS-13 members as “animals” who “have transformed peaceful parks and beautiful, quiet neighborhoods into bloodstained killing fields.”

However, the speech then moved on to immigrants throughout the US, blurring the lines of how has been labelled ‘an animal’.

He then went on to state:

One by one, we’re liberating our American towns.  Can you believe that I’m saying that?  I’m talking about liberating our towns.  This is like I’d see in a movie:  They’re liberating the town, like in the old Wild West, right?  We’re liberating our towns.  I never thought I’d be standing up here talking about liberating the towns on Long Island where I grew up, but that’s what you’re doing.”

He talks of liberating towns, as if the country was under siege or occupation. In the COCA it can be seen that liberating collocates with war and violence.

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Thus, America is under a state of war, a continuous war that he likens to the Wild West.

And then, the President of the United States used his platform to incite violence, and encouraged law enforcement official to ‘rough up’ undocumented immigrants who had been detained.

“Now, we’re getting them out anyway, but we’d like to get them out a lot faster.  And when you see these towns and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon — you just see them thrown in, rough — I said, please don’t be too nice.  Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over?  Like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody — don’t hit their head.  I said, you can take the hand away, okay? ”

Trump rambles and rarely keeps to a script. At times he refers to gang members then switches to undocumented immigrants. However, he blurs the lines and his rhetoric is inflammatory. Some of his listeners will focus on aspects of his speech which refers to non-whites as animals, as violent and dangerous, of the need to liberate towns and cities of these people.

By quickly looking at the collocates of ‘they’, is can be seen how Trump constructs the out-group.

they

Collocates of ‘they’ include:

stab, kidnap, machete, butcher, knives, rob, beat, trafficking,  fight, fought, stomp, knives, exhort, slash, clubs.

 

Words have consequences.

 

The Absence of Global Warming in Trump’s Rhetoric

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Today the British government announced that they plan to stop the sale of petrol and diesel cars in the UK by the the year 2040. That’s great news for the environment! This got me thinking about how trump responds to the notion of global warming, and what is his response. I used a small corpus of speeches by Trump in which he focused on energy.

My first concordance search was global warming. Start with the obvious!

Zero! In a corpus of 9,000 words, global warming isn’t mentioned once. It doesn’t exist, or at least, he’s not talking about it.

Then I thought I could look at clean,  perhaps he had discussed the issue of clean energy in his speeches. I found that the word clean appears 8 times, 5 of them collocate with coal; he discusses clean coal, but never clean energy.

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So, as far as he is concerned, clean energy is not an issue, although he does appear to support clean coal, clean, beautiful coal, if such a thing exists!

As a next step, I thought I would search for renewable , perhaps he would discuss renewable energy, wind, solar, hydro power etc. There were two examples:

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In the first example, he appears to be arguing that if renewable energy is used as an energy source then a direct consequence would be the lose of jobs and a lowering in the quality of life if the US. In the second example, he is promoting nuclear power as clean, renewable and emission-free. I believe that history tells us differently in that instance.

The fact is that when Trump discusses energy, there is no mention of global warming, renewable energy sources of climate change. He is fully focused on increasing the extraction of coal oil and gas, which will be disastrous for the environment. Just by looking at some of his tweets, this is clearly seen:

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And so I’ll end this with a collocational network of goal, gas & oil. And id Trump gets his way, we’ll be seeing a lot more of those in the coming years, and less clean renewable energy.

 

coal gas oil

 

Reactions to the London Bridge Attack

men women white fat

I’m starting a new project looking at the response to the London Bridge attack on Stormfront, the white supremacist online forum.

I’ve collected all the posts written by group members on three posts which were centered on the theme of the attacks. Combined, this amounted to over 1,000 posts, and over 50,000 words. Collectively, the threads have so far been views over 50,000 times, which gives an impression of the amount of  traffic this site receives.

Firstly, a quick look at the frequency of non-function words.

The most frequent were as follows:

white / people / woman / men / London / man / women / police / Jews / whites / Muslims / Muslim / attack / British / Bridge / attacks / race / terrorist / Islam / children / life / problem / country / Jew / family / media / control / Trump / Jewish / Islamic

What I found most surprising when I looked at the data was that there appeared to be a a large amount of discussion related to the notion of gender, especially when it was taken into consideration that the theme of the three threads was the London Bridge attacks.

I also wanted to have a look at saliency; the follow is a list of keywords with the highest levels of keyness:

white / men / Jews / women / fat / whites / Muslims / woman / Muslim / London / Islam / Bridge / Jew / Jewish / man / terrorist / mgtow / porn / kids / Allah / attacks / immigration / terrorists / incident / males / police / child  / male / females / race

Some of the words present were really quite surprising, such as fat, mgtow (men who go their own way) and porn.

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I will study this further, but after a preliminary glance, these threads appear to be a site in which gender identities are constructed and contested.

Trump Digs Coal! An analysis of Five of Trump’s Speeches Focused on Energy.

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I collected five of Trump’s most recent speeches focusing on the environment. These are publicly available and can be downloaded from the White House website: https://www.whitehouse.gov/

For this analysis, I used two software tools. The first, Antconc, a freeware corpus analysis toolkit for concordancing and text analysis. http://www.laurenceanthony.net/software/antconc/

I also used a visualization tool LancsBox, again a freeware developed at Lancaster University, UK. http://corpora.lancs.ac.uk/lancsbox/

The corpus consisted of 5 speeches which produced just over 9,000 words in total. Firstly, I wanted to look at word frequencies. The most frequent non-function words are as follows:

energy (70), American (56), America (46), people (45), jobs (44), great (40), right (34), states (34), country (33), united (33), coal (25), world (25), Paris (24), job (21), countries (18), years (18), economic (17), wealth (17)

If I calculated the keywords, words which are salient when the corpus is compared with a corpus of general English, the following keywords are produced:

energy, jobs, American, America, coal, great, Paris, agreement, job, countries, accord, workers, gas, wealth, miners, pipeline, administration, thousands, billions

As energy is both the most frequent and most salient word, it may be insightful to look at the concordances:

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There does appear to be a focus on American energy:

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Collocates of the word energy include:

restrictions, production, new, jobs, country, job, era, world, wealth, vast, policy, offshore, independence, exports, coal, blessed, America, shale

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There appears to be a focus on American energy and the supposed restrictions the current administration faces in allowing those energy resources to be mined. According to Trump, by removing those restrictions, large amounts of wealth and jobs will be created.

Trump’s description of coal are quite interesting; he talks of clean coal, new coal, and beautiful coal:

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Throughout the five speeches, there is no focus on renewable energy or environmental protection.

It’s all about carbon energy and money.

Is this really want the world needs right now?

Fear & Hyperbole in Breitbart News

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I want to highlight some aspects of journalistic writing found on Breitbart News which uses hyperbole to create a discourse of fear, in this particular instance, fear of refugees. In the title of the article, Italy is described as being overwhelmed and in a state of collapse due to the arrival of immigrants. The picture which accompanies the article is a stock image of young men, packed into a crowd, which in itself could be deemed by some to be threatening.

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The journalist uses the phrase authentic immigrant invasion to describe the refugees arrival on the shores of the Italian coast. Obviously, invasion has many negative connotations. If you ask yourself, what things invade, the answer could be an army. An army invades and causes mass devastation to a country, as the following concordance lines show from COCA:

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Further in the article, the refugees journey from North Africa to Southern Europe is described as an exodus. The movement of a large number of people.

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Exodus: The Biblical book of Exodus describes the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, so it’s no surprise that the word has come to refer more generally to any mass departure. The word itself was adopted into English (via Latin) from Greek Exodos, which literally means “the road out.”

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The article, as is commonly the case, offers little or no sympathy for the plight of the refugees. Of the many comments which the article garnered, I will shoe just one:

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The poster offers no sympathy for the individuals involved in the crisis, but instead articulates a conspiracy theory related to a world government.