“…in our land our women have to see the same,” extremist rhetoric

The Woolwich attacker stated,” I apologise that women had to witness this today. But in our land, our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your government, they don’t care about you.” This was described as characteristic of jihadist discourse in the media.

I wish to demonstrate that such rhetoric is not solely used by jihadist extremists, but is characteristic of texts from other extremist movements.

I will do so by analyzing a corpus of the Turner Diaries.

The Turner Diaries is a novel written in 1978 by William Luther Pierce (a white supremacist leader) which depicts a violent revolution in the United States and a race war leading to the extermination of all “impure” groups such as Jews, gay people, and non-whites. The book has been described as a “bible of the racist right” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The novel has been linked to a number of violent crimes committed by white separatists such as Timothy McVeigh, the perpetrator of the Oklahoma City bombing.

By using WordSmith (Version 6) I can calculate the key words in the white supremacist text:


As can be seen the word with the 3rd highest level of keyness if OUR, a word which was very prominent in the Woolwich attacker’s utterances.

If I wished to look at the collocates of OUR, I find the following:


From this it can be seen that PEOPLE collocates the most frequently with OUR and so a look at the concordance lines of this phrase may be insightful.



The concordance lines demonstrate a strong construction of us/them groups, which may be seen as characteristic for a racist text. However, there is also a very clear semantic prosody related to the victimization of the in-group, as the following lines demonstrate:

killed one of our people

our people are being killed

picking off our people

When our people first began to disappear

our people have been badly roughed up

four of our people have been killed by snipers

a much greater harm will ultimately befall our people


From this brief study of an extremist text, an observation may be made that not only jihadist discourse construct an in-group as being victimized, other radical groups or texts such as the one I have presented here appear to use a similar strategy in order to justify their actions or beliefs.




“Our Land – phraseology used by violent jihadists” a corpus linguistic approach.

The follow post is in response to a paragraph in The Guardian newspaper which reported on the killing of a British soldier in Woolwich, London. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/may/22/woolwich-attack-cleaver-knife-jihadist

The paragraph in question comments on the language used by one of the assailants:

our land

My interest in this is that the reporter states that “violent jihadists” use this phrase to describe a Muslim country occupied by a foreign force. It isn’t my aim to refute this statement, but rather to attempt to observe how other groups may use this, as it does appear to be quite a common phrase.

To do this I will use the corpus of web-based English (GloBwE), an online corpus of 1.9 billion words collected from websites of 20 countries (http://corpus2.byu.edu/glowbe/).

Before going further, it’s interesting to look at the composition of the corpus.



When looking at the composition of the corpus, it can be seen that the data from each of the countries is not equal, and so this must be taken into consideration when frequency word lists are compiled.

Firstly, I wanted to do a search of the entire corpus of the phrase ‘our land’, and this is what the data provided:


Both US and GB have high frequency levels of this phrase, but as corpora from these countries are much larger than from the other countries, that is not necessarily unexpected. However, by quickly looking at a KWIC list, the following is produced:15

From this randomly chosen screen shot it can be seen that the phrase ‘our land’ is associated with strong emotions, as the following indicate: stolen our land, our land our people, trashing our land poisoning our people, noble defenders of our land, took away our land, honour the dead of our land, historical injustices in our land. And of course, these texts are not taken from jihadist discourse, although there does appear to be a semantic prosody of injustice and suffering associated with ‘our land’.

I hope to continue this in the coming days by looking at corpora from different countries and corpora of extremists texts other than those of jihadist discourse.