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

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-west-hollywood-gay-blood-drive-20140711-story.html)

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.

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A look at collocates of ‘man up’

man up

 

 

For this post, I want to take a closer look at the collocates of ‘man up’, as I find it to be a somewhat problematic phrase used by John Kerry when advising Edward Snowden to return to the US from Russia and face the consequences of his NSA revelations.

The looking extract is taken from the BBC:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-27614001

“A patriot would not run away,” Mr Kerry said on Wednesday. “If Mr Snowden wants to come back to the United States… we’ll have him on a flight today.”

Mr Kerry also called the former National Security Agency contractor “confused”, adding “this is a man who has done great damage to his country”.

“He should man up and come back to the US,” Mr Kerry said.

For this blog, I use Sketch Engine http://www.sketchengine.co.uk/ and look at the enTenTen12 corpus, which is a 12 billion word corpus of English texts taken from the Internet.

A search of the corpus produced 6,613 instances of the phrase ‘man up’, 0.5 per million.

I am interested in looking at the collocates of this phrase, which produced the following list ordered by MI score:

collocates of man up

 

However, as I am interested in the verbal phrase ‘man up’ and not the prepositional phrase, I had to study concordance lines in order to eliminate collocates which were not associated with the verbal phrase. A second list of collocates was then produced, again ordered by MI score:

1) pussies, 2) admit, 3) apologized, 4) apologize, 5) whining, 6) gotta, 7) fucking, 8) admitting, 9) whoever, 10) dude, 11) Guys, 12) complaining, 13) decides, 14) excuses, 15) bitch, 16) responsibility, 17) balls, 18) pussy, 19) fuck, 20) quit

Although the phrase ‘man up’ appears to be associated with the act of taking responsibility and accepting the consequences of certain actions, there also appears to be other potential discourses associated with the phrase which may be considered as sexist, demeaning and derogatory. In the next post, I will look at these collocates in context in order to study the discourse prosodies of this verbal phrase further.

 

A Corpus Linguistic Approach to the Study of Writer Identity in Second Language Writing

Recently, I’ve been looking at a corpus of texts produced by ESL learners. The texts were produced by about 70 English major college students and the themes of the texts were autobiographical in nature. I’m interested in looking at how corpus linguistics can contribute to the study of identity in the corpus.

Firstly, I’d like to present a few references which give a certain direction to the study:

“All our writing is influenced by our life histories. Each word we write represents an encounter, possibly a struggle, between our multiple past experience and the demands of a new context. Writing is not some neutral activity which we just learn like a physical skill, but it implicates every fibre of the writer’s multifaceted being.”            Ivanic 1998: 181

The autobiographical self focuses on connecting identity with a writer’s sense of their roots, of where they are coming from, and the knowledge that the identity they bring with them to writing is, in itself socially constructed and constantly changing as a consequence of their developing life history.

3 ways to understand writer identity:

a. Autobiographical self: gives sense of roots.

b. Discoursal self: the impression (multiple) a writer conveys relating to values, beliefs and power in a  social context.

c. Self as author: writers’ voice relates to position, opinions and beliefs. (Park, G. (2013))

Identity is related to how a person has been socialized in a community – which is layered with certain values, beliefs, dispositions and power relations.

Writers’ identities are constructed by negotiating the past and present practices, this hopefully will demonstrate cultural values of the writers.

Writing is a situated, social and political practice offering writers of English an opportunity to find power and legitimacy in a second language.

Not focusing on the ‘linguistic code’ – but seeing how learners negotiate their identities may achieve insights into teaching writing settings. (Fujieda 2013)

Students whose written language does not fit the standard are typically linked to a group called ‘basic writers’ and labelled as deficient, incompetent, or even lacking in cognitive ability – therefore students can feel marginalized.

Rather than focusing on negativity –  learners may hear more clearly the voices of their histories and negotiating the ideological boundaries that have both enclosed and excluded them can be critical.

Writers are too frequently labelled as inferior – yet writer identity can be seen as social, political and related to issues of race, class and gender. Writing can be seen as social and cultural processes rather than cognitive or literary. (Fernsten 2008)

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Students wrote three autobiographical texts based on a selection of questions. These were collected and stored in a computer-readable format. The data were analysed using either Wordsmith (Version 6) or Sketch Engine.

The approach I used is corpus-driven: A corpus-driven analysis is an inductive process. The corpus is the data and the patterns in it are noted as a way of expressing regularities in language. (Tognini-Bonelli, 2001)

Using the corpora in discourse analysis: a focus on frequency, collocation, keyword analysis and concordances (KWIC). (Baker, 2006)

A look at a frequency list of non-function words is a good started point as it allows a certain understanding of the context of the corpus.

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A keyword list will facilitate an understanding of what is salient in the corpus.

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13

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9

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Obviously: The Week Bin Laden Died A Corpus Linguistic Study of an Evaluation Strategy Employed at Press Briefings in the White House the Week Bin Laden Died

press briefings

Introduction

Osama bin Laden, the former head of the Islamist militant group al-Qaeda responsible for the September 11 attacks and other acts of terrorism, was killed in Pakistan on May 2, 2011, by Navy SEALs of the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group. The operation was ordered by United States President Barack Obama and carried out in a Central Intelligence Agency-led operation. Following the announcement from the White House of the death of bin Laden, a sequence of statements from the White House of contradictory information regarding the details of not only the building in which bin Laden lived and died, but also of various combat operations. The White House consequently blamed “the fog of war[1]” for conflicting statements in its recounting of the events surrounding the Abbottabad raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

The press briefings made by the White House in the week following the death of bin Laden have been collected into a corpus and studied using corpus linguistic methodologies, not in order to highlight the contradictory information provided by various members of the US government, but to study the linguistic strategies utilised in those releases. The research focuses on the word obviously and it is argued in the findings that this word is used as a means to express stance in order to encode various points of view.

A corpus-driven approach was undertaken to analyse the White House press briefings. Such a methodology utilises an inductive manner which considers the corpus as the data and the patterns within the corpus are noted as a way of expressing regularities in language specific to the context in which the language was collected. An analysis of keywords revealed that the word obviously was significant within the data; therefore this paper focuses on the linguistic strategies and significance of this usage, which I argue is an example of stance and evaluative language. In other words, to what extent and in what manner did the data under investigation reveal, implicitly or explicitly a stance with respect to issues discussed surrounding the aftermath of the death of bin Laden.

Thompson and Hunston (2000: 5) define evaluation as, “the broad cover term for the expression of the speaker or writer’s attitude or stance towards viewpoints on, or feelings about the entities or propositions that he or she is talking about.” Furthermore they consider that this attitude may be related to certainty or obligation or desirability. Biber et al. (1999: 966-86) defines stance as: “In addition to communicating propositional content, speakers and writers commonly express personal feelings, attitudes, value judgements, or assessments: that is they express a ‘stance’.”

A certain perspective of evaluation is that it is a pervasive function of discourse by which the speaker expresses not just content information but the ‘angle’ from which the content needs to viewed in order to understand how it fits into the ongoing interaction through language.

Data

The data for this study was a corpus of White House press briefings given the week bin Laden was killed. The corpus consists of seven briefings which totalled over 33,000 words.

White House press briefings are news conferences given almost daily by the White House press secretary and at times other senior White House staff. The press secretary at the time the data was collected was Jay Carney[2]. The White House press secretary is usually appointed from within the governing party and already has experience as a spokesperson. The White House, through the briefings, communicates official information and announcements, the administrations decisions and policies, and responds to journalists’ questions. Such briefings are a valuable source in which communicative strategies by which the world’s only superpower imposes its vision of the world on the global audience through the globalised media system. The White House employs briefings to convey messages not purely to the audience accessed by the global media network, but also, other nations, enemies as well as friends, governments, international organisations, and so on. The briefings thus have considerable significance in both the domestic and the international political context.

Findings
Firstly, I want to look at the most frequent lexical words, which are as follows:
bin laden freq
When looking at the most frequent words, it appears that the words present on the list are to be expected considering the context of the Press Briefings in relation to the events which had taken place. Verbs such as think, said and know are common high-frequency verbs. The nouns present give an indication of the topics of the discourses found within the corpus. However, the inclusion of the word obviously  is of  interest.
The the keywords are observed, again, the words present are, in many ways, to be expected as the press secretary and other White House officials discussed the events which led to the killing of Bin Laden, with the exception of the word obviously.
bin laden keyword
When I looked at the concordance lines of obviously, the data demonstrated that press briefings do not remain only one topic, but over the duration of the briefing, may cover several varying issues. Due to this, I will focus on instances of obviously which were directly related to the topic of the death of Bin Laden.
The following are a selection of concordance lines of the word obviously in context.
I mean, there was obviously a success here at a different level
There are obviously arguments to be made on either side
it could obviously harm the relationship, which as you said, is critical to the United States
people had reservation, obviously because it was a very risky mission
So we obviously believe that we are absolutely within our rights to go after
there are obviously big threats to the United States in places like Yemen
We obviously cooperate and have an important relationship with Pakistan
The Government has obviously been talking how best to do this
Obviously he wanted to hear the opinions of others
And obviously some of the information was – came in piece by piece
he wanted to hear the opinions of others, obviously
Findings
The word obviously appears to be used in utterances which could be deemed as contestable and is used by the speaker to lessen or attempt to eliminate doubt or discussion of opinions or stances expressed throughout the press briefing. It is of interest that such a linguistic strategy was used with such frequency throughout the press briefings.
References
Biber, D., Johansson, S., Leech, G., Conrad, S. & Finegan, E. (1999) Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English. London: Longman
Hunston, S. and Thompson, G, (eds.) (2000) Evaluation in Text: Authorial Stance and the Construction of Discourse. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[1]The fog of war is the uncertainty in situational awareness experienced by participants in military operations. The term seeks to capture the uncertainty regarding own capability, adversary capability, and adversary intent during an engagement, operation, or campaign.


[2] Prior to his appointment as Press Secretary he was director of communications to Vice President Joe Biden. Carney previously served as Washington Bureau Chief for Time magazine.

“open and honest debate” A Corpus Linguistic Analysis of a White House Press Briefing during the NSA Prism Scandal

briefings Capture 2

As we are witnessing the current NSA Prism scandal, I thought it would be interesting to have a look at a White House press briefing (transcripts can be found at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings).

I used the transcription for the briefing held on June 11th, 2013. I cleaned the text very slightly by removing the words Mr. and Carney, as the press secretary’s name appears regularly on the transcript to indicate the speaker, and as this alters the data readings, I decided to remove them. The text in question contains 7,294 words; I was interested in looking at the keywords of the text, and in order to obtain a keywords list, I used Wordsmith. As a reference corpus, I used a section of the Westbury Lab Usernet Corpus, a 30 billion word corpus of news texts. (This corpus is available for download, but a BitTorrent and patience is required!:http://www.psych.ualberta.ca/~westburylab/downloads/usenetcorpus.download.html).

When I looked at the keywords, I found the following:

keywords

As can be seen, the keyword list is able to demonstrate the principle themes of the text, which include not only the NSA controversy, but also topics such as Syria and Nelson Mandela.

The word with the fourth highest level of keyness is debate, and I would like to focus some time on this.

And just to remind ourselves before continuing, the Oxford dictionary defines debate as follows:

debate

A search of the concordance lines of this word gives the following:

concordance

I find it quite fascinating that the NSA Prism project, which until very recently remained secret, is now being constructed by the White House as something which:

he is interested and believes in a debate

spirited and animated debate

healthy debate

honest debate

important debate

merits debate

welcomes the debate

If this debate is so healthy, honest, important, merited and welcomed, why has it taken the actions of a whistleblower to make it happen?

‘Our Land’ not just for jihadists: A Corpus Linguistic Approach

I wish to continue the theme of how the phrase ‘our land’ is used by different groups in response to a recent article in The Guardian newspaper, in which a journalist described it as jihadist rhetoric. My immediate reaction to that comment was that it appeared to be a stereotypical labeling of an out-group and not necessarily a phrase used exclusively in jihadist discourse. The approach I wish to take is a corpus linguistic analysis of this phrase using the 1.9 billion word corpus of web-based English available online at http://corpus2.byu.edu/glowbe/

My aim is to look at how ‘our land’ is used in different countries rather than looking at the whole corpus which has collected data from 20 different countries.

I wish to look at three developed countries which have been the most involved in the ‘War on Terror’, the U.S.A., the U.K. and Australia. The most frequent collocates of ‘our land’ are:

U.S.A.

heal (23), water (17), took (14), law (14), across (13), highest (10), laws (10), air (9), resources (8), defend (8)

U.K.

law (11), laws (9), hands (9), water (9), campaign (7), occupied (6), electricity (6), gas (6), resources (6), gave (5)

Australia

water (13), nature (9), abounds (8), languages (8), see (8), resources (8), buy (6), mass (5), control (5), adore (5)

When these sets of collocates are considered, there appears to be two clear patterns emerging. One appears to be centred around the notion of legality (law/laws), while the second is associated with natural resources (water, air, electricity, gas, nature). However, when ‘our land’ is viewed in context, another pattern emerges. The following concordance lines were randomly selected.

U.S.A.

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As can be seen, although the data was taken from websites in the U.S.A., they are not all referring to the U.S. when they use the term ‘our land’. However, it is interesting to highlight words and phrases found in these concordance lines:

reclaim/ take…by force/ protect/ immigrants…first arrived/ heal/ power of darkness/ submit ourselves/ wicked ways/ healed/

Certainly there appears to be a great deal of struggle attached to the notion of ‘our land’.

U.K.

31

 

In texts taken from the U.K. we have:

fundamental law/ destruction/ taken away/ destroying/ replacing/ stain of blood shed/ terrorism that stalks/ take over/ expelled/

In texts taken from the U.K. there appears to be a higher degree of conflict associated with ‘our land’ than was found in the texts taken from the U.S.

Australia

32

 

In data collected from Australia there is:

stem the tide of terror/ keep freedom/ wanton destruction/ broke our spirit/ given away/ become bystanders/

This very brief observation of ‘our land’ appears to indicate that there are clear patterns of meaning associated with this phrase and although individuals described as jihadists may use it in their rhetoric, it is most certainly used by other individuals and groups around the world with strong emotions, often related to struggle, conflict and victimisation in ways not dissimilar to the rhetorical strategies which certain journalists characterise as jihadist rhetoric.