Wish you were here? (A poem of prejudice inspired by The Mail.)

Wish you were here?

(A poem of prejudice inspired by The Mail.)

Wish you were here?

Asylum-seekers are being taken

on ‘jollies’ paid for by

£100,000 of public money

to zoos, theme parks

and even the beach

to help them ‘integrate’

into British life.


Funded by the National Lottery,

treating dozens of immigrants

to days out at Thorpe Park,

Whipsnade Zoo,

the London Eye and Brighton beach.


Met with dismay

one MP said: ‘Some of my constituents

can’t afford to take their children

to some of these places.’


16 to 21-year-olds

who arrived ‘unaccompanied’

enjoy a week of climbing and canoeing

Photos of asylum-seekers

on other days out

to the Tower of London,

which costs an adult £22 to visit,

and Surrey’s Thorpe Park (up to £49.99).


Steven George-Hilley,

of the Parliament Street think-tank,

said the ‘jollies’ made ‘Britain

look more like Butlins’.

The red carpet has been rolled out

for the refugees

and much money spent on them.


The readers said:

I weep for what the politicians

are doing to western civilization.

Apparently our culture

is not worth preserving.


What a joke

while our own people

are losing jobs

through cut backs for these lot,



Does anyone else here remember

a place that used to be called Great Britain?

It was so long ago,

I can’t even be sure that it actually existed.


Wish you were here?

Visualization of the Far-Right using GraphColl

I want to do a short analysis of a sub-corpora of 90,000 words taken from a corpus of Facebook postings made by supports of the far-right English Defence League (EDL) using a corpus visualisation tool, GraphColl, developed at Lancaster University, UK.

As the EDL focus on Muslims and Islam, I thought that looking at the word Muslim would be a good start. I’m interested in looking at the collocates of Muslims and begin by looking at the collocates with an MI score of 3 or above.

muslims mi3

Although this is a very interesting visualisation, there may be too many collocates to look at at once, and so by raising the MI score to 4 and above may be beneficial.

muslims mi4

And so the picture becomes clearer. Many of the collocates appear to focus on radical forms of Islam with collocates such as extremists, extreme, terrorists and radical. Other are related to violence: rape, kill and hate.

This picture can be expanded by looking at how the collocate white interacts with the other collocates.

muslim white

Therefore, not only can the discourses of extremism be seen, but also discourses of race are present. Collocates of white include words such as girls, pretty and cock, which may indicate a discourse of sexuality.


It is interesting that along with discourses of radicalization found within the posts of EDL supporters, there are also discourses which appear to indicate a patriarchal element as the writers appear to be discussing ‘our white girls’.

This can then be studied further by looking at KWIC.


Thus, in this very brief analysis, I hope I have been able to demonstrate the usefulness of visualizations in data analysis.

How the Far-Right Use Mainstream Media to Fuel Extremist Ideology

Recently, I was looking at the Facebook page of the English Defence League. One of the cyber strategies which they employ to incite and propagate their racist ideology, is to post articles from mainstream media which depict minorities, usually refugees or Muslims negatively, then allow supporters to post comments which not not condone, but more often than not, increase the intensity of discrimination to a level which could be considered a hate crime.

In this post, I will analyse one of the articles from the British media used by the EDL hierarchy. The article is from the British newspaper The Daily Express and was published online on December 3, 2014. The article can be found at:


The headline and sub-heading for the article are as follows:


Already in the headline and sub-title, there are some interesting aspects. The hostel is described as both massive and five-star, depicting the center as both luxurious and vast in size. The out-group are labelled as migrants and they are depicted as looking to sneak into, by sneaking they are constructed as doing something dishonest, and therefore cannot be trusted. The center is described as to be opened within days, thus this is an imminent issue which must be dealt with, and finally, the British are describing as reacting with fury to the French authorities decision to build an enormous, luxuriously furnished hostel for migrants as they wait for an opportunity to enter Britain illegally.

However, a picture of the hostel doesn’t appear to match the description:

hostelHardly five-star!

I wish to focus on how the refugees are depicted by the Daily Express journalist.

They are described as a growing army, thereby being seen as a danger and threat to the people of the UK, and as army are often involved in conflicts and wars, they British population must prepare themselves for an inevitable conflict which will take place on their shores.

The refugees are depicted as having eyes on Britain and its generous benefits. This appears to paint the out-group as not only predatory, but also scroungers ready to take advantage of the British welfare system.

They are described as living rough, which may construct them as being anti-social or uncivilized.

The previous center was bulldozed because of rioting. If the refugees rioted to such a degree that the building had to be destroyed, then the individuals are seen as not only uncontrollably violent, but also a threat to the British civilized society.

It is predicted that the out-group will flock to Calais because of the new refugee center, thus it can be seen that hyperbole is being used to exaggerate the situation.

The migrants are said to sleep in disease-ridden tent city. The fact that they are having to live in such dire conditions doesn’t garner any sympathy from the journalist, but appears to imply that the individuals are themselves disease-ridden, which would be a threat to the health of the British, if or when those people were to enter the UK, as the as seen as unhygienic and potential disease-spreaders.

The camp where the migrants are staying is named as Jungle II, which implies a place both uncivilized and of danger.

The out-group is described as migrants flood in from war zones. The flood metaphor depicts an uncontrollable force, but also they are described as coming from places of conflict. But again, the fact that they are escaping from regions of war, does not gain them any sympathy, but rather they are looked upon with suspicion.

Furthermore, the migrants are constructed as hooded gangs prowl, again threat, danger and potential violence.


The far-right are able to select and share such articles as means to legitimize their discriminatory ideology and  position their racist rhetoric as part of mainstream media. Such negative constructions of minorities acts as a source of increased levels of hate, which can be seen and understood, if the comments on the Facebook page are read.

Reading such article as presented here from The Daily Express can only lead to a heightened of racial tension and discrimination among the readership who accept such rhetoric.


The Internet and Virtual Identities: A Corpus Analysis of Reader Responses to Interpersonal Violence

The Internet and Virtual Identities: A Corpus Analysis of Reader Responses to Interpersonal Violence





This paper examines a corpus constructed of online responses to an article in an online edition of a British tabloid newspaper describing an act of interpersonal street violence between two men. Taking a corpus-driven approach, the data was analysed by undertaking concordance analyses of keywords and collocates of those words. The findings indicate that, for certain individuals, interpersonal violence, and responses to acts of violence among men are tools for both the creation of and defense of self-image, and an acceptable avenue to accomplish masculinity. However, the findings also provide data revealing that other respondents reject such actions, clearly demonstrating that multiple constructs of masculine identity exist among the tabloid readership who responded to the article. The paper concludes by discussing the concept of online identity and online communities as well as the hypothesis that masculine identity and specifically hegemonic masculinity is constructed of multiple identities, and rejecting the notion that violence is a response to the destabilizing effects of post-modernism, while arguing that interpersonal violence is a means by which certain men express and validate masculinity.


Keywords: corpus linguistics; virtual identities; masculinities; interpersonal violence

  1. Introduction

The Internet and other Web-derived data have become a vast resource for corpus linguistics and natural language processing. The Web provides an unprecedented quantity of linguistic data from a broad range of registers and text types. In this study, texts of computer-mediated communication (CMC) taken from a message board of an online edition of a British tabloid newspaper, The Sun, are built into a corpus and analysed. The study researches the responses readers posted to an article in the newspaper which detailed an act of interpersonal street violence between two men in which one man was seriously injured and left unconscious in a street. This research utilises a corpus-driven approach in order to discuss the attitudes articulated by the posters towards the act of violence which allegedly took place, which it is argued, reflects upon the virtual identity of the posters.

As a result of the anonymity, freedoms of time and space, and the absence of audio-visual context on the Internet, virtual identity is considered to be more unstable, more performed and more fluid than ‘real’ identity, yet such a definition has similar qualities to postmodern identity which is described as both constructed and discursive (Bauman, 2007). Thus, an analysis of the interaction on an online message board focused on the topic of interpersonal street violence between two men may not only highlight the posters’ attitudes towards such violence, but furthermore, demonstrate traits of identity through discursive accomplishment.

The theme of the discussion board is centred on violence between two men. A great deal of what is bad in the world, from genocide to interpersonal violence, is the product of men and their masculinities (DeKeseredy and Schwartz, 2005). Work by criminologists such as Anderson (1990) have argued that instances of interpersonal violence originate from strongly held values in the construction and defence of personal street status and that violence is a tool for both the formation of and the protection of self-image. Furthermore, Messerschmidt (2004) writes that among certain men violence is a core component of masculinity and a means of proving one’s manhood. However, Winlow (2001) considers that street and pub fights function as a means for working-class men to actualise a masculine identity due to the loss of traditional industrial job opportunities in a postmodern society. Clearly, violence is one means by which certain men live up to the ideals of hegemonic masculinity; such practices may be learned through interactions with particular peer groups, or virtual peer groups.

  1. Data

   The article which produced the data for this study was published in the online version of The Sun newspaper on January 8th, 2013. The Sun has the highest circulation in the U.K. and the tenth highest in the world with a daily circulation of over 2,400,000 copies[1]. The newspaper is considered a tabloid paper as its format contains features such as sensational crime stories, gossip columns about the lives of celebrities and sports stars, and news stories many would consider sensationalist. Articles are often accompanied with large titles and photographs. The Sun’s target audience are people considered as working class and manual workers[2].

The article for this study, which was found in the News section, was titled, “Thug breaks man’s jaw outside takeaway in unprovoked attack…because he was ginger” below which were two pictures taken from CCTV footage, the first showing a larger man punching a second man. The second photograph shows the smaller individual falling to the floor in the street. After six sentences of the article, a CCTV video clip of the attack is embedded into the page for the readers to watch. Further down, there is another picture which depicts the larger man exiting a store and confronting the smaller man and a fourth photograph which shows the moment in which the smaller man was hit.

The article describes how a man was attacked and left seriously injured in what is described as an unprovoked attacked. The story contains a large proportion of direct quotes as the injured man describes the incident and the long period of physical and psychological recovery afterwards. The injured man described how he went into a pizza takeaway restaurant with his girlfriend and was sworn at and called a ginger pr**ck. He then states that he left the store but was attacked immediately outside. He was left unconscious with a badly broken jaw and needed three months to recover from the attack. In the article he is clearly depicted as the blameless victim, whereas the other man is presented as the guilty aggressor. The article states that the attacker was still being sought by the police at the time of publication.

The article produced 190 responses from readers containing 6,606 words. If a reader wished to comment on the message board, he or she would first have to create an account by either using an existing Twitter or Facebook account, or by creating a new account with the newspaper. The reader would have to submit a user name and if they wished an avatar. Using these two sets of information, 69 posters used male names or provided pictures of males, whereas only 4 posters indicated that they were female. The other poster provided user names and avatars which did not indicate gender.

The texts from the online message board were built into a corpus compatible with Wordsmith Tools software. In modern linguistics, a corpus is defined as a collection of authentic, computer-readable texts that are representative of a particular language or variety of language (McEnery et al. 2006: 5). According to Hunston (2002: 2), a corpus is not only defined by its form, but also by its purpose. A corpus is a planned collection of texts of naturally occurring examples of language which can be stored and retrieved electronically. It is designed for a linguistic purpose; this design determines the selection of texts used to compile the corpus.

Corpus linguistics should be considered as a methodology which can be employed in various areas of linguistic research rather than a linguistic theory (McEnery and Wilson 2001:1). The corpus linguistic analysis employed in this study is a corpus-driven investigation (Tognini-Bonelli 2001: 2). Utilising such an approach, the corpus is regarded as the data and the patterns within the corpus convey regularities in language, thus the analyst is committed to the integrity of the data as a whole (ibid: 84).

      2.1 WordSmith Tools

WordSmith Tools (Version 6) is a suite of concordancing software developed by Mike Scott, distributed via the Internet. The package provides an integrated set of tools for analysing texts. In this study, the three principle tools of the software were utilised, they are as follows: The wordlist tool generates word lists in alphabetical and frequency order enabling texts to be compared lexically. It also provides statistics such as the total number of words. The keywords tool identifies words in a text whose frequency is unusually high in contrast with other texts. This allows a text to be characterised. The concordance tool generates a list of examples of where a particular word has been used in a text. It identifies collocates of the word and recognises common phrases.

  1. Methodology

Once the corpus of reader responses was compiled, the first stage of the analysis consisted of a study of frequency data. A frequency list is simply a list of all the types (words) in a corpus together with the number of occurrences of each type. Frequency is one of the most significant concepts which form the foundation for the examination of corpora. Frequency lists are essential tools for comprehending a corpus and are therefore a useful point to commence the analysis of any type of corpus. Wordsmith allows frequency lists to be compiled for single words and word clusters.

From the word list ordered by frequency, it was possible to gain an understanding of aspects of the corpus which occurred often and therefore had the potential to demonstrate the lexical choices that the tabloid readers who responded to the article made, which could relate to the presentation of particular discourses or attempts to construct identity.

  Once a word list organised by frequency had been analysed, word lists arranged by keyness were observed. Words that are considerably more frequent in one corpus when compared against another (often a much larger reference corpus) are known as ‘keywords’. Wordsmith Tools contains a program which automatically carries out statistical tests on frequencies in two corpora, typically a smaller specialised one and a larger more general one. Comparing a smaller corpus to a larger reference corpus is a valuable means of formulating key concepts within the smaller corpus which makes it distinctive when evaluated against general language. For this study, a corpus of general English was constructed which consisted of newspaper articles from the British newspaper The Guardian.

When the corpora are compared, WordSmith lists the keywords for the specialised corpus. The keyword procedure can therefore be used to identify the significantly different lexis between the specialised corpus and the larger general corpus. A keyword list is to be expected to be more useful in signifying lexical items that possibly will merit additional investigation than a raw frequency list as a keyword list provides a degree of prominence, instead of frequency alone. WordSmith calculates the size of each corpus and the frequencies of the words within them. In this study, the program was set to perform a log likelihood statistical test for each word, which gave a probability value (p value). This value designates the degree of confidence that a word is key due to chance alone, the smaller the p value, the more likely that the word’s presence in one of the corpora is not due to chance but the result of the author’s choice to use the word consciously or subconsciously. Wordsmith uses a default of p<0.000001.

  Once the keywords lists had been studied, to gain a more comprehensive insight into the data, the keywords had to be observed in context by undertaking a concordance analysis. A concordance analysis combines quantitative and qualitative analysis and therefore may be considered as more productive than relying on quantitative analysis alone. Baker (2006: 71) writes, “A concordance analysis is one of the most effective techniques which allow researchers to carry out this sort of close examination.” A concordance is a list of all the occurrences of a particular search term in a corpus presented with words to their left and right as they occur, thus in context. The WordSmith Tools package contains a concordancer which places the selected word, known as the node word, in the centre of the screen with words that come before and after it on the left and right respectively.

A concordance-based study is able to disclose a range of discourses; therefore the notions of semantic preference and semantic prosody are important concepts. Semantic preference is defined by Stubbs (2001: 65) as “the relation between a lemma or word form and a set of semantically related words”, thus it is related to the notion of collocation. Semantic preference is the meaning which arises from the common semantic features of collocates of a given node word (McEnery et al. 2006: 84). For example, in the COCA Corpus[3], the word man co-occurs with words to do with appearance: e.g. distinguished-looking, big-bellied, grey-haired, ruddy-faced, heavyset, bearded etc. It does not necessarily collocate with just a single word, but with various lexical sets of semantic categories. Semantic preference is linked to the notion of semantic prosody (Louw, 1993) where patterns in discourse can be established between a word and a set of related words that indicate a discourse.

To gain further insights into the usage in context of the keywords, a study of collocates[4] of those words was undertaken. Analysing collocation is a means of discerning meanings and associations between words which are otherwise difficult to ascertain from a small-scale analysis of a single text. The context in which words are situated is of paramount importance when the construction of meaning is considered. Words can be found in characteristic collocations, such collocations demonstrate the associations, and connotations they encompass, and as a result the suppositions that they represent. Thus, the analysis of collocates facilitates the semantic comprehension of a word. It contributes to an understanding of both semantic preference and semantic prosody.

A technique known as mutual information (MI) was utilised to calculate the strength of collocation. This method takes into account the extent to which two words occur apart from each other as well as together. Thus, the MI score measures the degree of non-randomness present when two words co-occur. An MI score of 3 or higher can be considered to be significant (Hunston 2002: 71). However, one problematic issue with MI is that high scores may be achieved by relatively low frequency words, therefore this must be taken into consideration as words with a low frequency ought not to be considered as significant in spite of a high MI score.

The following section describes the findings of the analysis using the methodologies described above.

  1. Findings

Frequency is one of the most fundamental concepts in the analysis of a corpus which is able to provide insights which illuminate a range of themes. Table 1 presents the twenty most frequent words in the corpus.

# Word Frequency # Word Frequency
1 the 289 11 for 78
2 a 203 12 that 74
3 to 176 13 in 69
4 and 152 14 his 59
5 he 117 15 be 58
6 of 103 16 it 53
7 is 102 17 not 53
8 this 90 18 with 52
9 I 86 19 on 49
10 him 84 20 out 49

Table 1. Twenty most frequent words

It is apparent that the most frequent words in the corpus are grammatical words (function words). Such words belong to a closed grammatical class consisting of high frequency words such as articles, pronouns, conjunctions and prepositions. These groups of words do not necessarily provide insight to the discourses found within the corpus as most forms of language contain a high proportion of functional words. However, by taking into consideration the most frequent lexical words such as nouns, verbs, adjectives and lexical adverbs, a clearer notion of the discourses within the corpus is attained.

# Word Frequency # Word Frequency
1 like 41 11 know 18
2 get 40 12 got 17
3 guy 27 13 think 17
4 victim 25 14 fight 15
5 hope 24 15 man 15
6 someone 24 16 prison 15
7 people 23 17 catch 14
8 thug 22 18 scum 14
9 ginger 19 19 caught 13
10 punch 19 20 coward 13

Table 2. Twenty most frequent lexical words

Table 2 presents a much clearer picture of what the corpus is about. There are words describing an act of violence (victim, punch, fight). Another group of words are used to describe a person negatively (thug, scum, coward). An additional aspect of the list is that catch and caught are both present, therefore the lemma CATCH is significant on the frequency list and thus within the corpus. When this is taken into consideration with prison, it can be seen that another theme is prominent in the corpus. Beside the lemma CATCH and punch, other verbs are also present (like, get, hope, know, got, think). Further analysis of collocational data and concordance lines will be needed to understand the context of these verbs within the corpus, although when the COCA corpus of general English is referenced, it can be seen that such verbs are also of high frequency in a corpus of general English.

It is also possible to consider frequency lists beyond the single word. Table 3 presents the most frequent 3-word clusters.

# 3-word-cluster Frequency
1 is going to 7
2 he is a 6
3 lock him up 6
4 him up and 5
5 on the wrist 5

Table 3. Most frequent 3-word clusters

Although it is not possible due to space restrictions to present the context for each of the word clusters, by observing the concordance lines for the most frequent cluster is going to, certain themes can be seen[5].


1          suspended, you just know He is going to get off lightly

2          moment of madness and this kid is going to pay the ultimate price

3          punching someone. This place is going to the dogs at a rapid rate

4          the lad who threw the punch is going to have to deal with the ‘victim’s friends

5          going to be mugged or someone is going to attack me, so im always ready

6          kick someones head in . Apparently UKIP is going to sort this out….!

7          just a stupid no brain thug who is going to jail. I dont think


The writer of line 1 predicts the assailant is not going to be severely punished, whereas in lines 2 and 7 the opposite prediction is made. Line 4 remains within the theme of punishment, but states that the attacker is going to have to face the victim’s friends. In line 3, the poster describes the decline of society and social behaviour, which is similar to the sentiment found in line 6, which states that a British political party claims to have a solution for such a situation, although the use of the word apparently appears to contest such a claim. The poster of line 5 describes the actions that he or she would take if attacked in similar circumstances, thus claiming to be more prepared to act in the instance of street violence than the victim was. Such examples highlight the diverse responses to the act of violence depicted in the article.

Of the six instances of he is a, five refer to the attacker. He is described as: a self centred thug, a threat to the society and a trained fighter. Although further analysis is necessary, the data demonstrates certain themes within the corpus; the assailant is condemned for his action and his fighting ability is discussed. Two clusters are evident which combine to produce the phrase: lock him up and followed by a phrase such as throw away the key demonstrate the punishment the posters consider the aggressor deserves. Another frequent cluster is part of the phrase: (slap or smack) on the wrist, thereby predicting that he will be dealt with lightly by the law. Thus it can again be seen, there are various reactions and opinions to the violence: the aggressor is condemned for his actions, that society is described as having poor moral standards, and that he will not receive adequate punishment for his actions.

Therefore, it can be observed that by analysing frequency lists, discourses within the corpus may be highlighted. As has been described, the following discourses have emerged: the aggressor is condemned for his actions, society is seen as being in moral decline, the law is inadequate, and the fighting ability of the attacker is commented upon.

In the following section, the keywords of the corpus will be discussed.

# Keyword Keyness Frequency # Keyword Keyness Frequency
1 him 113.53 84 11 get 46.10 40
2 this 86.86 90 12 he 44.93 117
3 I 69.80 86 13 like 42.27 41
4 guy 66.26 27 14 why 37.08 26
5 someone 58.89 24 15 your 35.69 24
6 hope 58.89 24 16 catch 34.34 14
7 thug 53.98 22 17 scum 34.34 14
8 victim 53.56 25 18 don’t 31.88 13
9 punch 46.61 19 19 coward 31.88 13
10 ginger 46.61 19 20 out 28.41 29

Table 4. Keywords ordered by keyness

Table 4 presents the keywords with the highest levels of keyness. These words could be divided into three separate groups. There are functional words: him, this, I, he, why, your, don’t, out, verbs: hope, get, like, catch, and nouns or adjectives: guy, someone, thug, victim, punch, ginger, scum, coward. It is not possible to present all the findings in this paper due to space restrictions, therefore certain keywords from each will group be selected for further analysis.

If the functional words are taken into consideration, him has the highest level of keyness and the second most frequent among the keywords on the list. As this word is also most likely to be referring to one of the two male actors in this instance of street violence, further analysis may provide further insights as to how the two men are constructed. Therefore, the keyword him was studied in context by considering the concordance lines.

Of the 84 instances of him, 73 are referring to the attacker, of which 36 depict him negatively, 10 reference the victim and one refers to a person in a hypothetical situation, thus the aggressor appears to be the primary focus of the posters. If the collocates of him with the strongest levels of MI scores are calculated, the following list is provided: suspended, teach, catch, example, sentence, years, really, throw, someone, prison. This appears to indicate that within the corpus there is a dominant discourse associated with the attacker being caught and punished for his actions. This is confirmed when the word him is seen in context. A principle discourse focuses on the attacker being caught: Catch him and jail him ASAP. Another concordance line within the same semantic field describes the same notion more strongly: Sum of Britain!!!PLEASE catch him. Another example using a phrase which was found in the most frequent clusters is as follows: Find that punk, lock him up and throw away the key. Therefore it can be seen how the posters react to such acts of violence. Another discourse within the corpus denigrates the attacker, as the last example demonstrates with the term punk. Other examples include: UK is full of scum like him! / No other word for him COWARD., and referring to him as a mug brained idiot. However, not all of the posters refer to the aggressor in such negative terms, nor do all the people who responded to the article believe that he should receive a prison sentence for his actions as the following examples indict: but the other kid does square up to him / I doubt he wudda smacked him like that completely unprovoked / What if the ‘victim’ offered him out to begin with? This appears to indicate that there are some writers who do not accept the opinion of the article and are willing to consider alternative scenarios for the event which took place and this indicates that the response to acts of violence among the message board posters is not uniform or homogenous.

Another keyword which provides insights into the corpus is punch. There are 19 instances of this word, all of which are in the form of a noun. When analysed in context, opposing discourses are evident; 9 of the lines either defend the attacker or are appreciative of his fighting skills, whereas only 5 instances denounce his actions. Another 5 instances of punch were classified as neutral, neither defending nor denouncing the attack. Examples of instances which depict the attack positively are as follows: Boom! What a punch! / great punch, and the kid knows how to throw a punch. Such examples are in contrast to the article which clearly denounced his actions. It can be seen that the writers of these examples value the act of violence regardless of the fact that it left one man seriously injured. As previously stated, the corpus does not contain a single discourse; other examples of punch in context are more condemning: The guy who threw the punch is a bully / it was a dangerous cowardly sucker punch. This brief study of punch demonstrates that both qualitative and quantitative analysis is necessary not only to discover discourses within a corpus, but also to comprehend their statistical significance.

Another keyword of interest is victim. There are 25 instances of this word; they all refer to the man who was left unconscious with a broken jaw. However, when the concordance lines are studied, it can be seen that a number of writers are using this word ironically when labelling this man as a victim of crime or cast doubt on the interpretation of events depicted by the newspaper. Seven of the writers do not consider the injured man to be blameless as the following examples demonstrate: the person who hit the deck was not a victim / Looks like the ‘victim’ called the other guy out of the joint then got punched / I doubt that he’s the complete victim he’s made himself out to be. These writers do not appear to accept the opinions of the newspaper nor the evidence provided by the link to the CCTV footage which clearly illustrates the assault. The writer of the second example writes the word within quotation marks to emphasis the fact that it is doubted whether the person is in fact blameless. Other writers demonstrate a different opinion, as the following examples illustrate: it looks like he had 20lbs over the victim / That victim could have been a brain op patient.

The data demonstrates that the writers who posted on the newspaper message board in response to the article are clearly of differing opinions. There are those who accept the views presented by the newspaper which condemn the assailant and his actions, clearly articulating how he should be punished as a consequence of his actions. Others use the incident to express an opinion the England has and is still experiencing a decline in social standards and morality, and furthermore that law enforcement is too lenient to effectively respond to such a situation. However, there is another statistically significant discourse within the corpus which is contrary to those which condemn or criticise the violence. In this discourse, violence is seen as something which is appreciated and respected, where the aggressor is not depicted as the guilty party and where the victim is not seen as blameless. It is of interest that such opinions of violence are articulated on a message board which is overwhelmingly populated by writers who claim to be male, thus the data provides insights into how certain individuals construct and respond to identities of masculinity.        

  1. Discussion

The findings have demonstrated a continuum of opinions and stances on the online message board in response to a specific act of violence. Such expressions may be considered to be a reflection of an aspect of identity the writer constructs for himself or herself. Early CMC scholars described how the Internet liberated people from social constrain through there being a supposedly unbiased and non-prejudiced environment. The Internet was also believed to provide a measure of anonymity; however this perception has now appeared to have lessened due to the rise of social media networks in which any form of Internet activity is traceable and where users are aware of a degree of accountability regardless of the spatial distance when interacting on the Internet (Thurlow et al 2004).

As the majority of posters on the message board claimed to be male, masculinity is an important concept in this study which can be defined as the trait of behaving in ways that society considers to be typical and acceptable for males. Masculinity, like gender, is constructed and therefore is something that has to be worked at. Boys and men have to prove their masculinity constantly (Kimmel 2001: 269). Masculinity is often defined in terms of what it is not. Therefore it is often set up in relation to other identity components, particularly femininity.

Hegemonic masculinities (Connell 1995) are characterised as the variety of masculinity capable of marginalising and dominating not only women, but also other men. It is dependent on subordinate masculinities, since it must contradict them. These subordinate masculinities need not be clearly defined; in fact, it may be advantageous for hegemonic masculinity that they are not. However, in the data presented in this paper, in can be seen that subordination is achieved through violence, although this form of action is rejected by certain men.  For certain researchers, such as Whitehead (2002: 93-94), discourse is focused upon as a means to comprehend how men practice hegemonic masculinity and perform identity work.

Masculine identities can therefore be understood as effects of discursive practices; they are fashioned within institutions and are historically constituted. One way that the gender order is maintained is by linking notions of appropriate and inappropriate gendered performances to different types of identities. The notion that masculinity is a singular rather than multiple identities has been viewed as problematic, particularly where gender identities and power relations are contextualised practices. Whitehead (2002: 33-34) writes:

It is no longer tenable, given recognition of the multiplicity, historicity and dynamism of gender representations, to talk of masculinity in the singular. Rather, we can see that masculinities are plural and multiple; they differ over space, time and context, are rooted only in the cultural and social moment, and are, thus, inevitably entwined with the powerful and influential variables such as sexuality, class, age and ethnicity.

In order to comprehend the diversity of masculinities, it is necessary to study the relations, such as subordination and dominance, between the different forms of masculinity. These relationships are constructed through practices that may intimate or exploit others (Kiesling 2006: 118). Masculinity is not a fixed trait, but a social process dependent upon restatement, and which, in various forms, involves language, thereby centrally situating linguistic issues in the theorising of gender. Men who heavily invest in a particular masculinity will attempt to communicate in a manner particular for that specific trait (Moita-Lopes 2006: 294). Masculinities are not displaced from a social context, but embedded and implicated in the lives of men.

A person’s identity is affected by the social interaction made and the stances and opinions expressed both in an offline and online environment. It could be argued that Internet culture has progressed to an extent that online identities reflect offline identities due to the diminished time and space restrictions which allow an individual to locate a group or topic online with which to associate and interact with, consequently allowing the individual to explore and construct an identity with that discussion forum or group. The Internet does not alter the approach by which identity is created; it merely provides another means through which identity construction can occur.

Responses to acts of violence may be considered by certain individuals to be a tool for both the creation of and defence of self-image. Using corpus linguistic methods, the data has highlighted discourses which demonstrate that a wide range of stances exist, which in turn signifies the plurality of masculinity, assuming that the message board analysed in this study was overwhelmingly populated by men. Social action is the framework of social structure; it is in the course of the performance of gendered behaviour that gendered social structure is reproduced. This entails that gender is relevant to all actions and activities. Among the texts analysed in the data, it has been shown that there exists a discourse, and therefore a subculture of violence, whereby acts of aggression are respected and esteemed, and therefore a means to construct a masculine identity.

Researchers such as Messerschmidt (2004) argue that with the loss of traditional industrial job opportunities and the shift towards a service-based economy, certain working class men have found new means of establishing masculinity; violence and street fights are one means of doing so. Such a form of masculinity emphasises toughness and a willingness to fight and defend oneself in the face of perceived threats or challenges by other males. The findings have shown that all men will not respond to violence in the same way. This will reflect upon an understanding of what men are and the consequences of acts such as the one focused upon in this study. However, this study has shown that for certain men, violence is considered a technique for validifying masculinity through peer support which encourages and legitimises acts of aggression. Hegemonic masculine discourses and practices, such as violence, may be learned through interactions, both virtual and face to face, which justify the relevance of studying online communication.

Although researchers such as Winlow (2001) consider violence amongst males to be a consequence of the destabilising effects of postmodernism, others such have Pinker (2011) describe how violence has been a constant trait throughout human history. It may be argued therefore that violence and aggression by men is more closely linked to aspects of patriarchal and hegemonic masculinity (Connell 1995) than it does with social responses to the effects of postmodernism.

  1. Conclusion

The Internet is a location where individuals may construct their identity by expressing stances and through interactions with other Internet users. Whenever an individual interacts in a social environment, an aspect of their identity is revealed, and as identity construction and maintenance is a continual process, further construction takes place; this also applies for an online environment. The identities that individuals construct and the interactions they make on locations such as message boards may not necessarily be totally reliable or accurate. However, Wiszniewski and Coyne (2002) argue that regardless of the reliability of the interaction or identity construction, a reflection of the authentic identity is formed which will reveal an aspect of the user’s identity.

This paper has demonstrated that by employing a corpus linguistic approach, multiple expressions of identity and identity construction on the Internet may be studied. Discourses of violence and masculinities have been discussed, and the continuum of responses to violence observed and analysed. The results indicate that for certain individuals violence and aggression is an esteemed character trait, while for others it is rejected and condemned, thus confirming the notion of multiple masculine identity traits rather than a singular stereotypical construction.



Baker, P. (2006). Using Corpora in Discourse Analysis. London: Continuum.

Bauman, Z. (2007). Liquid Times. Cambridge: Polity.

Connell, R. W. (1995). Masculinities. Cambridge, Polity.

DeKeseredy, W.S. & Schwartz, M.D. (2005) Masculinities and Interpersonal Violence. In M.S. Kimmel, J. Hearn, R.W. Connell (Eds.) Handbook of Studies on Men & Masculinities: SAGE Publications: London. (pp. 353-366).

Firth, J.R. (1957). Papers in Linguistics 1934-1951. London: University Press.

Hunston, S. (2002). Corpora in Applied Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kiesling, S. F. (2006). Playing The Straight Man. In D. Cameron & D. Kulick (eds.) The Language and Sexuality Reader. Oxford: Routledge. pp. 118-131.

Kimmel, M. S. (2001). Masculinity as Homophobia: Fear, Shame and Silence in the construction of Gender Identity. In S. M. Whitehead & F. J. Barrett (eds.) The Masculinities Reader. Cambridge: Polity. pp. 266-287.

Louw, B. (1993). Irony in the text or insincerity in the writer? The diagnostic potential of semantic prosodies. In Baker, M., Francis, G. & Tognini-Bonelli, E. (eds.) Text and Technology: In honour of John Sinclair. Philadelphia and Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 157-176.

McEnery, T. and Wilson, A. (2001). Corpus Linguistics. An Introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

McEnery, T., Xiao, R. and Tono, Y. (2006). Corpus-Based Language Studies: An advanced resource book. London and New York: Routledge. Messerschmidt, J. (2004) Flesh and Blood: Adolescent Gender Diversity and Violence: Lanham: Rowan and Little Field.

Moita-Lopes, L. P. (2006). On being white, heterosexual and male in a Brazilian school: multiple positionings in oral narratives. In A. de Fina, D. Schiffrin & M. Bamberg (eds.) Discourse and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pinker, S. (2011). The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. New York: Viking.

Stubbs, M. (2001). Words and Phrases. Oxford: Blackwell.

Thurlow, C., Lengel, L., & Tomic, A. (2004). Computer Mediated Communication: Social Interaction and the Internet. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Tognini-Bonelli, E. (2001). Corpus Linguistics at Work (Studies in Corpus Linguistics: 6). Amsterdam/Atlanta, GA: John Benjamins.

Whitehead, S. M. (2002). Men and Masculinities : key themes and new directions. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Wiszniewski, Dorian. , & Richard Coyne (2002), Mask and Identity: The Hermeneutics of Self-Construction in the Information Age. In K. Ann Renninger & Wesley Shumar (Ed.) Building Virtual Communities (pp. 191-214). New York, New York: Cambridge Press.

Winlow, S. (2001) Badfellas: Crime, Tradition and New Masculinities: Berg: Oxford.

[1]  “ABCs: UK National Newspaper Sales 2013”. Press Gazette (UK).

[2]  “The Sun – Facts and Figures”. Newspaper Marketing Agency

[3] COCA Corpus (The Corpus of Contemporary American English) is a 450 million word corpus located online at http://corpus.byu.edu/coca/

[4] The frequent appearance of a word either near or next to another word creates a relationship between the two words which is labelled as collocation (Firth 1957).

[5] The data is present in the form in which it was collected.

Extremist Views of the ‘Britain First’ Party

blair word cloud 2


Recently, the far-right group ‘Britain First’ has been making waves in international media with an article about them in Time magazine.


Although the group has a small membership, they are very active on social media, with a large support base on Facebook.

The group recently posted an article from the main stream newspaper The Daily Express about Tony Blair’s support of Albania joining the EU.


The brief article in the newspaper describes how Tony Blair is assisting the Albanian government’s attempt to join the EU, however, the title reads,

Tony Blair will help three million Albanians get the right to work in the UE

The article has received considerable attention since it was posted on the Britain First Facebook page with over 500 ‘likes’, 300 ‘shares’ and 600 comments.

The comments were collected into a corpus for analysis.

A principle pattern found within the postings was concerned with labeling Tony Blair as a traitor.


The Britain First supporters consider him a traitor because, as the title suggests, in supporting Albanian entry into the EU, Blair is also supporting immigration to the UK.

Certain poster go beyond labeling Blair a traitor by writing that he should be punished.

blair concordance

There are also many examples of racists rhetoric:


Although the leadership of Britain First reject the label of far-right, it is evident that not only is there a large amount of support for their cyber activism, but that certain supporter hold extremist views, which appear to be condoned by the group’s Facebook moderators.



An Analysis of David Cameron’s “Isil poses a direct and deadly threat to Britain” letter in The Telegraph

isis threat


The British Prime Minister David Cameron published a letter concerning Isil in the British newspaper The Telegraph.


I found the text and the reader responses quite interesting and so analyzed the text of the letter using corpus linguistic methodologies.

Using Sketch Engine tools, I looked at keywords:

isis keywords


Considering the topic of the letter, the themes of the keywords are not unexpected, however our is a word of interest, as it is often used to frame the in-group.

isis our

When the concordance lines are searched, it can be seen that a discourse related to the material cost of war and armed conflict is present. Another discourse is related to the the construction of what defines being British: our country, our values, our way of life, our history. It is interesting that the Prime Minister should use discursive strategies related to the defense of the material cost of war in relation to the defense of the ‘British way of life’ in order to argue the validity of entering into an armed conflict on foreign soil.


Gays want to contaminate the blood supply with HIV: a short analysis

The following is a short analysis of an extract of a thread from Stormfront, a white supremacist web forum.

Firstly, I will present the texts of the thread I will analyse, followed by an analysis.

Title: Gays want to contaminate the blood supply with HIV (posted July 11th, 2014)

Post 1: Their latest cause is to protest rules barring them from donating blood. These rules are in place because of the high infection rates of male homosexuals.

(Link to article: West Hollywood blood drive protests FDA exclusion of gays as donors. In Los Angeles Times


Post 2: Destroy Hollywood!

Gays donating blood is far too risky. Whether they want to admit or not, they do spread HIV. Says a lot about queers that they are so selfish to want to infect an entire population in order to feel better about themselves.

Post 3: Homo scum!

Post 4: Allowing gays to donate blood is like allowing known terrorists to oversee our water supply. It’s a madhouse we’re living in.

Post 5: Yeahhh about that…

Quote:  Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) a represent approximately 2% of the United States population, yet are the population most severely affected by HIV. In 2010, young gay and bisexual men (aged 13-24 years) accounted for 72% of new HIV infections among all persons aged 13 to 24, and 30% of new infections among all gay and bisexual men. At the end of 2010, an estimated 489,121 (56%) persons living with an HIV diagnosis in the United States were gay and bisexual men, or gay and bisexual men who also inject drugs. (CDC website)

Post 6: This goes to show just how far the pro-gay agenda pushers are willing to go to destroy the norms of America.

While blood donations are screened for diseases why would someone who knowingly has HIV/AIDS donate blood? And we all know that gays who have HIV/AIDS will attempt to donate just out of anger or spite.

It’s bad enough that we have mentally unbalanced people with other diseases trying to donate just to get money to do drugs or buy booze, now we are going to add psychopathic AIDS carriers to the mix.

Only in Amerika!

Post 7: Damn the gays!

Now they want to contaminate all of the human race, may they suffer in hell for this!

Post 8: Gays want to contaminate everything.

Post 9: The jews do too.

They are the biggest pushers of the gay agenda.


In the title of the thread, the writer refers to gay men as Gays. In using the word gay a noun rather than an adjective achieves the function of referring to a person or group of people in terms of sexual orientation alone. By doing so, the writer excludes all other qualities or characteristics which could identify the group. Such a referential strategy may be considered as prejudice. The writer then states that gays, therefore all gay men, want to contaminate the blood supply with HIV. Thus, this predicational strategy linguistically attributes a stereotypical negative trait with all gay men, namely that they and all diseased, and secondly, that they wish to spread HIV by contaminating the blood supply.

The first post begins with the words, Their latest cause is to protest. By use of latest, the writer is constructing gay men as a group who habitually have issues to publicly protest about, and due to the regularity of such causes and protests, the writer implies that the current concerns, and perhaps all issues of gay men are therefore inconsequential. The writer continues by stating that the protest concerns being disallowed from donating blood. The poster then states that such a rule is in place due to the high infection rates of male homosexuals. The poster implies this is related to HIV infections, as stated in the title of the thread, although no empirical data is provided support this claim. However, the writer uses a different reference for gay men than the one employed in the title. In this instance, male homosexual, is used, a term which would be more commonly found in a medical discourse. Therefore, it can be seen that the writer attempts to construct the statement as authoritative by using such a referential term. A link is then posted to an article in the Los Angeles Times, the title of the article is: West Hollywood blood drive protests FDA exclusion of gays as donors. The describes a group of gay and bisexual men who protest in West Hollywood against being disallowed from donating blood for life by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration due to their sexuality. However, none of the posters on the Stormfront thread mention that the protest is organised in a manner which is beneficial to the community and contributed to the local blood drive. The protesting gay and bisexual men brought heterosexual friends to donate in their place and wear a sticker stating that they donated blood in place of their friend who was barred. This positive aspect of the protest was ignored by the Stormfront writers, who focused on negative constructions.

The second poster begins by stating: Destroy Hollywood! Such a declaration may have been made as the writer considers Hollywood to be a liberal community in which gay and bisexual men are allowed to publicly air their grievances concerning laws which exclude them from participating fully within society, and therefore, in the writer’s opinion, warrants obliteration for such liberalness. The poster continues by declaring:  Gays donating blood is far too risky. Such a stereotypical statement is made regardless of the fact that the majority of gay men are healthy, as the article in the Los Angeles Times described. The writer justifies the claim by stating that gay men spread HIV. This labelling of all gay men with this negative trait can be seen as fallacious, as the majority of gay men do not spread HIV, although such a stereotypical construction is used as a justification to prevent healthy gay and bisexual men from donating blood. The poster continues with: Says a lot about queers that they are so selfish to want to infect an entire population in order to feel better about themselves. In this instance the writer labels gay men as queers, a pejorative derogatory term for sexual minorities denoting deviance. They are further constructed as selfish and wanting to infect an entire population with HIV. Such an argument is often made, as the data throughout the book will demonstrate. Not only are gay men constructed as deviant, but also as spreaders of disease who intend to weaken the white race by infecting white people with HIV and AIDS.

The third poster on the thread contributes by labelling gay men as Homo scum. Homo is a contemptuous term used to label gay men, while scum is a disparaging label which is employed to depict a person as the lowest form of life, as worthless.

The fourth poster continues the theme of opposition to allowing gay men to donating blood by making a comparison that by doing so, it would be as irresponsible as allowing terrorists to control the water supply, both would result in catastrophic consequences for the general public. The writer continues by making a statement criticising society and declaring that it is a madhouse for even contemplating allowing gay men equal rights. Furthermore, such a statement disparages the governments, past and present, for allowing such as state of affairs to exist.

In the fifth post, the writer quotes from the website Centers for Disease Control and Prevention a text which presents statistical information regarding HIV among gay and bisexual men. The use of statistical information from creditable sources is a means by which the Stormfront member attempts to justify the stance taken to the previous posters, namely that allowing gay men to donate blood will result in the spread of HIV among the general public. However, such an approach is flawed as the information provided in the quote primarily focuses on a narrow age group of gay and bisexual men, as well as on new cases of HIV. Furthermore, the protesters were demonstrating against a blanket, lifelong ban against all gay men, regardless of their health status, an issue which was not mentioned by the quoted article, or in fact by any of the posters. Gay men are stereotypically depicted as carriers of the HIV virus, and therefore a health risk to the heterosexual in-group.

The writer of post 6 introduces a conspiracy theory to the thread, namely that the pro-gay agenda pushers are willing to go to destroy the norms of America. It is not stated who the pro-gay agenda pushers are, although as will be seen on numerous occasions throughout the book, such a conspiracy theory is commonly articulated whereby Jewish hierarchy within society are deemed as attempting to weaken the white race through numerous strategies including the acceptance of homosexuality within mainstream society in order to weaken the hegemony of whites by dissolving the moral standards of the white people. The writer goes on to claim: we all know that gays who have HIV/AIDS will attempt to donate just out of anger or spite. Once more gay men are constructed fallaciously with a stereotypical negative trait, explicitly that gay men who are HIV carriers will attempt to infect others with the virus. Additionally, the writer claims that this is common knowledge with the phrase we all know, thereby making claims as to the accepted and shared knowledge of the in-group. The writer continues the post by constructing gay men as psychopathic AIDS carriers, again a derogatory construction. The writer concludes with the exclamation: Only in Amerika! The usage of this Russification of America may indicate the writer’s opinion that American society is in decline rather than resembling Russia, a country in which gay men are discriminated against much more than in the USA.

The writers of posts 7 and 8 reiterate and therefore disseminate the fallacious negative argument that gay men wish to contaminate heterosexual society with the HIV virus. Post 9 returns to the conspiracy theory, but in this case, the writer names the Jews as being responsible for promoting gay rights within society. As previously described, this conspiracy theory articulates that Jews promote gay rights as a means to weaken white hegemony.

Thus this short analysis of an extract of a thread on Stormfront has demonstrated some of the negative, derogatory referential strategies which are used by Stormfront members to label gay men. It has also shown several stereotypical, pejorative traits which have been fallaciously attributed to gay men, as well as demonstrate the presentation of a conspiracy theory against gay men.