Defining Occupy Wall Street: How the Wall Street Journal and Activist Blogs Define The Movement as Legitimate

Group 9: Alexa Fiander, Caitlin Rindal, Christine Moloney, and Somin Bach


The media can play a pivotal role in the development of social movements and reforms.  Studying the ways in which different media sources talk about the legitimacy of the Occupy Wall Street Movement (The Movement)provides an interesting lens into how opposing media platforms portray the movement and influence readers.  Specifically, our group compared how the Wall Street Journal, a traditional media source, and 99% activist blogs defined The Movement’s legitimacy.  The comparison between traditional and nontraditional media sources allowed us to analyze discrepancies found in the reporting and portrayal of Occupy Wall Street in relation to legitimacy.  Because the general public is primarily exposed to traditional media sources, any discrepancies found between our discourse genres can have powerful implications about the public’s knowledge and understanding of The Movement.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and activist blogs differed significantly in their portrayal and representation of Occupy Wall Street as a legitimate movement.  Specifically, the WSJ de-legitimized The Movement by depicting protesters as criminals, favoring quotes from non-protesters, and by establishing The Movement as disorganized and leaderless. Contrary to our traditional media source of study, we found that activist blogs used similar discourse strategies as the WSJ; however, they were used in a way to legitimize The Movement and the protesters’ actions.

Our research paper will analyze each pattern noted above using two specific Discourse Analysis methods.  We will begin by discussing Discourse Analysis as whole as well as the methods we selected for the project.  We will then move into the examination of our three patterns chosen, providing examples and analysis for each.


The practice of language construction gives meaning to specific events, circumstances, things, or people (Wodak and Meyer, 2009).  Language use is highly intertwined with identity construction, as one develops and defines whom they are based on certain interactions, symbols and value systems that are often shaped by discourse (Gee, 2005).  The construction or use of discourse itself can provide interesting insight into inequalities, power stratification, or other deeper connotative meanings within the text.  In order to assess and evaluate texts, discourse analysts employ specific tools that facilitate critical analysis of discourse.

Specifically, discourse analysts draw from two broad approaches when evaluating data: Corpus Linguistics and Qualitative Coding (Gill, 2000). The first is generally considered to be more quantitative, as analysts draw on word frequencies, collocation table, concordance lines, etc., that often provide interesting insight into word choice, cotext, context, etc. (Sinclair, 1998). The second approach, qualitative coding, can be used to draw on patterned themes throughout a corpus to highlight interesting observations about how language is used.  Specific tools such as grammar, syntax, semantics, backgrounding, etc., are all examples of qualitative coding (Wodak and Meyer, 2009).

For the analysis of our project, we will employ both corpus linguistics and qualitative coding methods.  In regards to corpus linguistics, we will primarily focus on a lexical analytical strategy for studying word choice.  We will specifically use word frequencies and context as tools to analyze my corpus. These tools will reveal interesting insights into meaning construction, especially in regards to the association words can develop based on the context (Sinclair, 1998).  The second analytical strategy we will use is a qualitative coding method that evaluates the use of certain grammatical strategies that can be used to legitimize or de-legitimize certain people, institutions, and processes of ideas. This tool is highly useful for revealing stratified power relations (Fairclough, 2003).

Our group focused on two contrasting discourse genres: The Wall Street Journal for our traditional news media outlet and activist blogs including ThisBlogThis!, Gothamist, Political Machine, Act Now!, Down With Tyranny, Pacific Free Press, Barefoot and Progressive, and Jobsanger for our non-traditional media outlets.  We selected our articles based on their relevance to The Movement within the date range of September 1st to October 31st, 2011.  We chose our specific media outlets because they are news sources that appear to have a profound impact on their demographic’s view of the legitimacy of The Movement.  Comparing the discourse between our contrasting publications reveals much about the power structure in the United States and how those ideologies are reproduced through certain texts.


Pattern 1: Depiction of Crime/illegal behavior of protesters: WSJ focused heavily on arrests/criminal behavior of protesters. BLOGS: referred to the movement as peaceful, with very few arrests.

One way the WSJ authors reproduced images of The Movement being illegitimate was through the portrayal of protesters as criminals.  The authors frequently used language to refer to the activists’ social deviance and illegal behavior.  Even though many of the authors may not have been outwardly implying that the protesters were criminals, the word choice, specifically in regards to the lexical forms of ‘arrest,’ and ‘illegal’ were commonly used throughout the corpus.  We specifically used the corpus linguistic tools word frequencies and key word in context to evaluate the significance and meaning of the words ‘arrest’ and ‘illegal.’  First, our group noticed that the lexical forms of arrest (including arrested and arrests) occurred 53 times in the corpus.  The KWIC excerpts also revealed that the lemmas of arrest were generally referring to protesters and their socially deviant behaviors.  The second example that supports our pattern of WSJ portraying the protester’s behaviors as criminals is the use and frequency of the word ‘illegal.’  The word frequency table below shows that ‘illegal’ showed up 8 times in my corpus.  See below for word frequency/ KWIC tables for both ‘arrest’ and ‘illegal.’

On the contrary, blogs turned the story around by portraying protesters as victims of illegal police practices such as the infamous pepper spray incident or arresting activists without warrant. Unlike WSJ, the blogs did not have to imply negative descriptions but used the fact that it was unrestricted to fully criticize the police. When the blog posts were put through the collocation word analysis tool, the lexical forms of “arrest” and “protesters” were commonly juxtaposed together throughout the corpus. “Arrest,” and other lexical forms of “arrest” (see above), occurred 5 times in the corpus. The KWIC excerpts showed that protesters were arrested either wrongfully or in large numbers. This amplified the effect of “illegal” police behaviors towards protesters, especially when numbers (i.e. “dozens” “hundreds”) were added to emphasize how protesters were affected by this. Also, the KWIC excerpts revealed that police were enforcing “wrongful” arrests and civil rights violations.

Words take on meaning in relation to how they are used, their context, and the frequency of their use.  Word frequency lists and KWIC tables are especially important tools for providing a general picture of a text or selection of texts (Adolphs, 2006).  Therefore, in light of the Adolphs reading, the use and frequency of the word ‘arrest,’ ‘illegal,’ and ‘protesters’ give powerful revelations regarding the WSJ and blogs’ portrayal of what it means to be an Occupy Wall Street protester.  Significant usage of a word or similar words, especially if they are used in a consistent context, can greatly shape and affect the ways audiences understand a person, event, idea, etc. (Adophs, 2006).  Both the words ‘illegal’ and ‘arrest’ are commonly used in the WSJ corpus to reference the protesters’ criminal activity, creating a pattern of portraying activists as criminals, thus delegitimizing The Movement.  Furthermore, references of illegal/criminal activity were almost non-existent in the corpus for actors other than protesters, which enhanced the association of activists being synonymous or connected to criminals. Meanwhile, using words ‘arrest’ and ‘protesters’ together effectively helped portray protesters as victims of police force. Interesting references to history also created the effect of legitimizing the victimization of the protesters.

WSJ: Word Frequency for ‘Arrest’ and ‘Illegal’ (+lemmas)
Word: Count:
Arrest 3
Arrests 13
Arrested 15
Illegal 8
Blogs: Word Frequency for ‘Arrest’ and ‘Protester’ (+lemmas)
Word: Count:
Arrest 5
Arrests 18
Arrested 35
Protester 3
Protesters 104

WSJ: Selection of KWIC Examples for ‘Arrest’ and ‘Illegal’ (+lemmas)

Officers arrested 85 protestors over the weekend after they marched
Checked for outstanding arrest warrants then released
But also for resisting arrest, obstructing government administration and in one instance for assault of a police officer
Dozens of demonstrators who have vowed to “occupy” Wall Street were arrested Saturday on the seventh day of the social media-fueled protest
There were approximately 80 arrests Mainly for disorderly conduct

BLOGS: Selection of KWIC Examples for ‘Arrest’ and ‘Protester’ (+lemmas)
Accusations of wrongful arrest and civil rights violations
Over 1,000 protesters have been Arrested . I stand with the protesters…
Hundreds Arrested Across country
Largest mass Arrests In U.S. history
The event quickly turned into one of the largest arrests Of non-violent protesters in recent history.

Pattern 2: Quoting discrepancies

Not only did the WSJ lack quotes from protestors, but it also rarely gave adequate attribution or titles to those activists who were allowed to speak in the texts.  In contrast, however, non-protesters, who consequently often had opposing opinions to The Movement, were often given significant credit and background information before or after their quote.  This discrepancy between accreditation can have a great effect on how the readers view the legitimacy of a person, process, or idea.  One article from October 3rd, titled “Potluck Amid the Protest” reveals the contrasting representation for both protesters and non-protesters.

Non-protester: “ ‘You assemble a large mass and there is going to be some sort of party atmosphere,’ said Andrew Krucoff, a 40-year-old Internet entrepreneur who runs the website Young Manhattanite.  [He was] partaking in a potluck Shabbat dinner and toasting the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashana at Zuccotti Park.  They sipped apple juice and ate challah, fruit, hummus and potato chips. There was even a brief prayer service.”

Protester: “The setting also attracted singles. ‘I’m here to protest the wars we’re in,’ said Yvonne Gougelet, a theater actress hanging out with the Shabbat crowd. ‘It’s a lot of work; we’re all educating one another. But I’m not going to lie: I’ve also been looking for a really hot guy with a beard to offer him a shower.’

In contrast to the WSJ articles, the activist blog articles had a greater amount of quotes from protesters than those from non-protesters.  In fact in the articles that were collected, there was just one quote from a non-protestor. When presenting those people giving the quotes, there was more detail about them and their backgrounds, especially those who held some position of authority than those of non-protesters. These differences can be seen in the September 18th article from Act Now! titled “#OccupyWallStreet: Searching for Hope in America” and in the September 17th article from Gothamist titled “Anonymous’s Occuptation Of Wall Street Begins At Noon,” respectively.

Protester: Matthew is a 40-year-old father of two who says he is attending the protest because he had no other recourse. “My home has been seized, I’m unemployed, there’s no job prospects on the horizon. I have two children and I don’t see a future for them. This is the only way I see to effect change,” he says.

Non-protester: Mayor Bloomberg told his eponymous news organization, “People have a right to protest, and if they want to protest, we’ll be happy to make sure they have locations to do it. As long as they do it where other people’s rights are respected, this is the place where people can speak their minds.”

The contrasting quotes above show the significant difference between the accreditation protesters and non-protesters receive when being quoted in both the WSJ and blogs.  Using the Discourse Analysis tool for Legitimation, it becomes obvious that the publications that we analyzed used specific grammatical relations to establish legitimacy for certain social actors, while delegitimizing others.

The first WSJ quote primarily used moral evaluation to give accreditation to Andrew Krucoff, the entrepreneur and active member of the Jewish community.  Moral evaluation refers to the authorization or legitimacy given based on moral values or association with a system of moral values, such as being a member of the Jewish community (Fairclough, 2003).  Krucoff was also given a rather lengthy background paragraph that portrayed him as intelligent and civilized member of society who “sipped on apple juice and ate challah […].” Gougelet’s quote, however, received a significantly less descriptive and detailed accreditation.  As a result, she lost credibility, and her statement appeared less legitimate.  According to the excerpt, Gougelet was a “theater actress hanging out with the Shabbat crowd.” The author could have easily added legitimacy to Gougelet’s statement by using authorization (tied to institutional status) or rationalization (tied to institutional practices) grammatical strategies, such as listing her education or known roles in plays (Fairclough, 2003). The WSJ often uses these specific grammatical strategies to legitimize or delegitimize certain social actors.

The quote from the blog Act Now! gives Matthew credibility by revealing his background information, as well as, his reasons for being active in The Movement. Although only having his first name cited lessens the power we see this protester having, the background information that we are given portrays him as credible because he has legitimate reasons for participating in The Movement. This can be attributed to the method of moral evaluation mentioned above. Protesters were given much more background information as to why the specifically joined in/supported The Movement. Mayor Bloomberg’s quote, for example, simply listed his name, and consequently his occupation, which depends solely on authorization by tying him to the governmental institution that he works for (Fairclough, 2003). This gives him credibility because of the power associated with government institutions making his statement legitimate. The lack of background information gives the impression that his statement appears less legitimate than those of protesters because readers are able to relate to them through that personal information.

By not giving protesters adequate or fair representation, the WSJ is significantly exacerbating stratified power relations between activists and non-activists, as legitimacy is not fairly allocated to both sides. Blogs give protesters adequate and fair representation while limiting the information given about non-protesters in order to allow readers to focus on the legitimacy of the movement. This creates a more equal allocation of legitimation to both sides, but is not perfect.

Pattern 3: Portrayal of the movement’s purpose

The third pattern observed throughout these articles about The Movement was the different portrayals of The Movement’s purpose. More specifically WSJ dismisses The Movement as disorganized and leaderless while the blogs attempts to surface the true purpose behind The Movement.  In our qualitative coding of the corpus, we observed over ten instances where the critiques of The Movement deemed it as leaderless and therefore illegitimate.  This clearly indicates the high level of intolerance for a group which clearly lacks the traditional form people are accustomed to in the United States.  As a result, WSJ is deeming this nontraditional structure as unacceptable and illegitimate.  Some examples of this particular code include describing The Movement as having “no clear-cut goals” and having “few signs demonstrators were coalescing around a set of demands.”  The protesters were merely “a leaderless, unpredictable group” with “no one [who] could offer me a coherent explanation of why they hated Wall Street.”  One article blatantly stated, “The Occupy Wall Street Movement needs to sit down, focus and come up with a list of demands that might conceivably be met.”  While the articles argued that the “huge numbers of confused and directionless young people” had “merely a vague idea to end injustice,” they “asked how long a leaderless movement could last.”  If the protesters’ “demands are free-floating, [and] hazy,” how can a solution be found?  If they don’t “seem to have a coherent or identifiable agenda,” how can they change the system?

All in all, WSJ has made their position on the subject very clear: a leaderless and illegitimate social movement will fail.  In our capitalist society, WSJ and other publications like it, maintain control of its subjects’ ideology through a hegemonic culture where certain values are seen as common sense and therefore create a culture of consensus where people only seek to maintain the status quo.  According to Peter Ives in Language and Hegemony in Gramsci, this idea of hegemony was outlined by Italian writer, politician, political philosopher, and linguist Antonio Gramsci (2004).  The hegemonic ideal is outlined by WSJ and the people follow it, accepting it as common sense.  In the field of Discourse Analysis texts are considered socially constitutive.  In other words, texts serve to organize society.  This implies that because WSJ is held in high regard by much of society, they in turn have the power to institute, establish, or enact their own agenda.  This power is manifested through WSJ articles, where their texts serve as a method to organize society.

Bloggers, on the other hand, portrayed The Movement with a specific purpose and focused on group collaboration rather than having a leader. All of the blog articles in the corpus referred to the reasons why the movement was occurring, which mainly pointed to issues with relations between wealth and power. In the thirty three excerpts identified during the open coding process that dealt with reasons behind the movement and therefore legitimate, all thirty three illustrated the negative effects of power being given to the wealthy: corporations in this case. The bloggers are clearly portraying that the movement is legitimate through the exposure of the power stratification between corporations and citizens as stated in one article that “what unites them all is the opposition to the principle that has come to dominate not only our economic lives but our entire lives: profit over and above all else”. Some examples of this include “the influence of big money in politics” and describing our current government as not by the people, for the people, but “a government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations. And it is killing this country.” Many power relations spoken of in the corpus followed the same theme of corporations influencing American politics through their wealth making their voices louder than those of citizens. This pattern is demonstrated through one article stating that “they didn’t just funnel more money and power to the corporations — they actually let corporate executives write all of the laws relating to the economy and economic regulations.”

Protesters have attempted to make it very clear what they are hoping will change with their actions. One article, in fact, actually lists several demands that they have included in the overall “one demand” statement which has been adopted as a general term rather than describing literally “one” demand. Through the recurring theme of wealth and power we can see that they are strongly related using the Discourse Analysis tool of semantic reversal: deriving the meaning of a word or idea from its cotext (Sinclair, 1998). Specifically, semantic preference shows that a trend towards collocation with words that are associated with negativity and power gives the same semantic features of those words to the words or ideas in question (Adolphs, 2006). The bloggers use this to show that the movement is legitimate through the negative effect and overuse of power by corporations. Their focus is on revealing that there is a significant separation in the power among corporations and citizens simply based on wealth, taking away citizens’ voices, which is the root of the problem in which the quality of life of Americans is deteriorating.

By condemning the protesters as leaderless criminals, WSJ produces the institutionalized power relations through its discourse; this is known as functionalist structuralism. By establishing the hegemonic ideologies through discourse and specifying the protesters as powerless and leaderless criminals, WSJ succeeds in delegitimizing The Movement in the eyes of its mainstream, traditional readers and therefore the majority of middle to upper class Americans. What readers may realize by reading the blog articles, though, is that they work to expose those power relations that the WSJ reinforces in their wording. Some even say that this difference in presentation is because it is “a problem that the corporate-owned mainstream media is not going to cover. They won’t cover it because they are owned and controlled by those same corporations, and they are part of the problem.”


In conclusion, WSJ succeeded in de-legitimizing The Movement by establishing it as disorganized and leaderless while portraying protesters as criminals and failing to properly represent the protesters through their choice of quotations. In contrast, the blogs succeeded in legitimizing The Movement by portraying the activists as victims, properly representing the activists through quotations and by successfully communicating the purpose behind The Movement.  It is clear that there is a very strong distinction between the two genres of discourse.  In this paper, we used methods of corpus linguistics and qualitative coding to support our claim.

The findings support the idea that an established institution like WSJ uses its power and affluence to establish the hegemonic idea that The Movement is illegitimate. In a capitalist society, where society is ruled by corporations and large companies that oversee the vast majority of mainstream media, it is certainly easy for the majority of the public to be susceptible to their influence. It is difficult to imagine a world where major newspapers, like WSJ, are not controlled by the wealthy and affluent. If we lived in a society where the gaps between the classes weren’t so vast, where the rich just keep getting richer and the poor are just getting poorer, then maybe these hegemonic ideals would not be so strictly ingrained in our media.

On the other hand, the world seems to be changing.  The wealthy and the affluent are not the only people with a voice.  The concepts of blogging and social media sites give voices to those who made have never been heard otherwise.  Previously marginalized groups are realizing that if they speak, someone just might listen.  This is precisely what The Occupy Wall Street Movement proves.  Even though large mainstream media sources, like WSJ, continuously refuse to support a movement that completely condemns all that makes them a successful and important corporation in this capitalist society, there may come a time where all that ceases to matter and regular people like you and I create the hegemonic ideologies in our own society on our own terms.  Who will have the power to establish these ideologies?  Right now we are at a tipping point, but unfortunately we will certainly still see the powerful enforcement of hegemonic ideologies through the media for many years to come.  However, this may be a glimpse into a future with a world of change. The Occupy Wall Street Movement declares that we are not alone, we are not silent, and together we have a voice.


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Police Representation in CNN News Media: Privileged and Powerful Actors

Group 6: Alyson Wang, Linda Carey, Linda Quach, Sanya Dhermy, Samantha Wong


There are many different news outlets in society, and many have different agendas depending on the certain interests groups that fund them. Some of these interest groups have a liberal or conservative view, which often end up dictating the content produced and the articles written by these sources. In addition, editors and writers of these news outlets are also supposed to produce unbiased articles, but our group feels that this is impossible. We believe that the individuals – writers, producers, and editors –who make up the forces behind these news outlets hold beliefs and ideas that involuntarily transcend through the articles they produce and in doing so create and re-creates certain norms within our culture, and these in turn shape our beliefs and the way we view our culture. With this said, the topical focus for our group is concerned with how CNN news media portrayed police involvement within the Occupy Movement. The end question we want to explore by looking at police portrayal is this – how does CNN view the police and its role within the Occupy Movement?

We chose to look specifically at word choice and phrases used in the articles to develop a general consensus of whether the representation of police involvement was skewed more negatively or positively to the public in this particular mainstream news. It is important to examine the portrayals of police because other than the protestors, they are active participants and are constantly referred to in articles written about in the Wall Street Movement.  We believe that the police are depicted as a group that holds power but also depicted as using that power in a negative way, and through our research we recognized that journalists further reconfirmed those power roles that police have within our society. Based on these findings, we can also conclude that police representation is controlled by the storytellers – the journalists – and the more powerful actors in the movement – police authorities. In the proceeding sections of this paper, we will discuss how we came to the claims mentioned above and provide evidence that exemplify the influential role of journalists for depicting how police authorities are viewed by their audience because of these representations.


For the purpose of this paper, a corpus linguistics and qualitative coding approach was employed to uncover significant patterns on our topic of interest. Under the Corpus Linguistics approach, we utilized the KWIC program to draw on word frequencies (generates a list of all words in the text and how frequently they occur), collocation tables, and concordance lines. These methods and strategies are objective and quantitative and help us by stripping the corpus down to raw data. The word frequency is a generated list of all the words in the text and how frequently each unique word occurs in the corpus.  Collocation tables show “the simplest, most obvious relationship,” as they describe what words occur in the spatial proximity of a given word from the corpus to 4 words in either direction, which helps us see what meanings and associations may be being made if repeated in a similar manner continuously. (Sinclair, 14) Concordance lines are useful, according to Adolph in the book Introducing Electronic Text Analysis, to visualize the data so that one search item is seen as a node and its use can be easily portrayed in the concordance lay out. Some patterns that these techniques produce are: power relations between the police and demonstrators, CNN seems to be siding with the Occupy Movement as part of the 99%, hence the police can be seen as an out-group while the protesters are seen more as an in-group, with the police given more power as they are seen as oppressors. For Qualitative Coding, we chose to use specific key codes of importance to the research to analyze them using the Dedoose program. These codes were: representers of police (statements and opinions by sergeants, chiefs, police officers that are used as a source in the article), police brutality (when violence is being used by police), attacks on police (when violence is being used on police), arrest (incidents of police arresting protestors), and positive police portrayals (incidents where police are being portrayed in a positive manner). Some of the lexical units that we chose to analyze as a group were: pepper spray, police, aggression, and violence. It is important to not only break the text down into raw numerical data in terms of frequency of word use, but to juxtapose the general syntactic and semantic patterns into the greater social context. Qualitative analysis is important to be able to “elucidate the ways in which meaning and action are created by individuals producing the language.” (Hodges, 1)  So, it is a way to see how the language and ideas fit into the greater social context of humanity. Another method of discourse analysis we used is analysis of representations of social actors. We focused specifically on named/classified and inclusion/exclusion. We found this interesting because “impersonal representation of social actors can dehumanize social actors, take away from them as people, represent them for instance, instrumentally or structurally as elements of organizational structures and processes. The opposite extreme to impersonalization is naming – representing individuals by name” (Fairclough 150).

The discourse genre our group focused on is mainstream news media, more specifically CNN news media. We looked into CNN news because of its global influence. “Domestically, CNN reaches more individuals on television, the web and mobile devices than any other TV news organization in the United States; internationally, CNN is the most widely distributed news channel reaching more than 259 million households abroad; and, the CNN Digital Network is consistently the No.1 current events and news destination on the web” (CNN). CNN news is well known for having the “CNN effect” because its coverage of major events will cause that event to be a primary concern for its audience (McPhail, 2007, p. 156). Given that CNN was very mainstream and powerful, our group felt that we would find more stories on major instances of police involvement within the Occupy Movement that other news media are less likely to discuss.

We collected our corpus by looking at the following search parameters: the Occupy Movement, 99% movement and Occupy Wall Street within CNN news media. We used the search engine, LexisNexis, to develop our corpus using these three terms: ‘99% Movement’, ‘Occupy Movement’, ‘Occupy Wall Street’. We did not want to narrow the search parameters to be specifically geared towards our topical focus because we wanted to uncover general themes and patterns from all of the CNN texts that talk about the movement in some way. The date range that we included in our corpus dated back to September 2011, when the 99% movement began. Our final corpus included a total of 183 documents consisting of a total of 238,050 words.


1)  Police used as a source

–  Police sources were a privileged voice in that they represent themselves.

From our analysis, we can see that CNN news media reproduced power relations in their coverage of the Occupy Movement through their choice of sources. When speaking about any instance of police involvement, journalists allowed police authorities to speak for themselves or on behalf of their colleagues. For example, stories mentioning instances of arrest included the following named or categorized participants followed by quoted text.
CNN journalists provided police authorities the opportunity to represent themselves or their colleagues when speaking about their involvement with the movement, whether the involvement was an instance of arrest or any other altercation. Instead of paraphrasing how the police was involved, the police authority was quoted in the text, as seen in the following excerpts:

“Demonstrators agreed to ‘voluntary arrest’ as a form of protest, said Sheriff Margaret Mims, and did not resist. ‘They staged a good, old-fashioned sit-in,’ she said (“Occupy…”)

“The demonstrators were arrested…according to New York Police Department spokesman Detective Marc Nell. ‘Protesters were asked to leave because of sanitary reason…’ Nell said.” (Verello)

Another application of the analysis on articles using police as sources with an inherent privilege attached is to view it in the context of representations of social actors. “Social actors can be represented by name (e.g. ‘Fred Smith’) or in terms of class or category (e.g. ‘the doctor’). If the latter, they can be referred to individually (‘the doctor’) or as a group (‘the doctors’, ‘doctors’)” (Fairclough 146).  Through coding analysis focusing on “representers of police,” we have many instances where the article would present an update on the violence or arrests and would also say that the police provided the information. There was also many times where names of authorities were also used. An example of this in our corpus is, “But Interum Police Chief Howard Jordan said…” The names of the police office were used as well as their position in the police force. In both instances, we can see that the police officers are actors in the situation that holds power and authority. Whether they are named or classified, they still are represented with power. Since they are used as a source of information most of the time, they are deemed credible. When the article quotes an authority and even includes their position as an authority, like Chief, Commissioner, Sergeant, they are being recognized with more credibility as an appeal to authority persuasive method.

2)  Police as Social Actors
                  – Police are seen as exerting this power through brutality.

Now, focusing on the pattern of using police as social actors, this representation needs to be analyzed further. When analyzing how police authorities are represented in CNN news media, we can see that they act as the more powerful actor based on the active language in use to describe the action. This is explicitly shown in the following excerpts:

“Police hauled away protesters in various cities on Sunday as Occupy Wall Street…”

(“Protestors Arrested…”)

“Police fired pepper spray and used pepper-ball guns against demonstrators…”

(“Occupy Demonstrators…”)

From these observations, we can conclude that police authorities are represented as powerful social actors in comparison to other participants, such as the protestors/demonstrators. Although the active language in use may describe more negative police actions, the language used only works to further confirm the powerful role that police figures have within our society.

Police is indeed a very powerful word in our corpus. We used our word list to “compare different corpora, such as those that represent spoken versus written discourse, or American versus British English for example” (Adolphs, 40). In our analysis, we compared our corpus to the British National Corpus. Using a log-likelihood calculator, we compared how likely a word shows up in our corpus compared to the British National Corpus that contains 100 million words. The log-likelihood calculator showed that the word “police” shows up in our corpus 45% more than in the British National Corpus, having a heavy role in our topic and corpus. Furthermore, to support this finding, in our word frequency table, the word “police” shows up in our corpus 768 times, the word “authorities” shows up 123 times, and “officers” show up 123 times as well. In our collocation table, the word “arrested” shows up 78 times within 5 spans of the word “police”.There were many instances where “police” was represented in a position of power, exerting their power and force over protestors of the movement. For example, the word “police” was used in certain sentences with words such as “arrest”, “arrested”, “misconduct”, and “brutality” and there were even some bi-grams/tri-grams such as “used pepper spray” and “deeply saddened”.

3) Portrayal of police power
                  – When police are not social actors, they are portrayed in a negative light

Something of interest that follows from the analysis of power is the portrayal of police power in a negative light, generally highlighting the fact that they had weapons being wrongly used against the protesters.  For example, an October 2011 CNN  article included the following scene:

“Authorities made a series of arrests at Occupy Wall Street protests in California and Georgia on Tuesday and Wednesday, with clashes in one city that involved tear gas being used on demonstrators” (“Tear Gas…”).

In addition, many other articles with similar stories filled our corpus:

“After the camp was dispersed, the protesters reconvened for demonstrations later in the day, the affiliates said, prompting the new clashes.” Video from the Oakland clashes showed a chaotic scene, with protesters running from clouds of tear gas.” (“Tear Gas…”).

This portrayal was enhanced and driven by the use of one-sided stories. This bias is known as exclusion/ inclusion. No explanation was given for the police’s actions in many of the articles, showing the protesters as victims of police brutality that had no publicly recorded justification. Such an unbalanced view of the movement shows CNN as not so neutral as it aims to be and is therefore seen as identifying more with the 99 %.  The above-mentioned article, Wall Street protests enter 11th day also exemplifies this issue.  Throughout the article, the police’s use of force and ‘brutality’ are listed and portrayed, however, there is no comment about why this force seemed necessary; only the crowds reactions to the act are displayed, rather than their actions that may have caused this.  With only testimonies from fellow demonstrators, the emotionally swaying opinions in this article that are used as supporting sources for the claims are inherently biased towards the side of the Occupy Movement demonstrators. The way in which articles are written also inherently hold some emotional lures to bring the audience’s sympathies to the movement protestors.  The article, Protesters arrested nationwide as Occupy Wall Street rallies hit monthlong mark, states that approximately 150 people were left without shelter after police took away their tents that they had camped out under near city hall. This statement followed by an appeal to emotion of a basic necessity of human beings with demonstration organizer April Lukes-Streich’s words, “It’s cold. We don’t have any protection from the elements.”  Emotionally, the audience would want to question the powers that were merciless enough to snatch a shelter away, however it takes extra thought to ask what the other side of the confrontation was and what their motivations and justifications were, instead of settling for ignorance and uncertainty.

In the midst of the negative representations of the Police, the actions that are portrayed as positive are only through the statements and opinions of police representers as actors. Every instance we found of positive police portrayal comes from the words of a police representer.  The fact that CNN puts these statements in their articles indicate that they are attempting to maintain a balanced view of police, but when looking at who is talking about the police, it is clear that the general public are not the ones who feel that police action is positive.

We noticed that, generally, journalists liked to position protesters as victims in the Occupy movement, and the police as the antagonists. There were many instances in these articles where police arrested protestors and sprayed tear gas while protests just stood by hopelessly playing the role of victim. For example a CNN article wrote:

“Police carried handcuffed demonstrators from the park—some of them struggling, others limp. According to the New York Police Department, the charges included disorderly conduct, trespassing, assault and resisting arrest. Online, however, Occupy Wall Street and its supporters accused police of abusing peaceful demonstrators” (“Dozens arrested…”).

The idea that protestors were the victims of power abuse by the police force was also supported by protestors who felt this way too:

“All we’re trying to do is have a peaceful protest and they (the police) are attacking us,” protester Sean Drigger told CNN affiliate KUSA” (Candiotti).

Similar to other theme, by analyzing this text we can see structurally the text reflecting institutionalized power and relationships. We can see the police as having the power both physically and culturally; abusing their power to force the crowd into submission rendering them to seem helpless in the eyes of the reader.
It is because CNN has portrayed protestors as weaker, and also as victims of police brutality we begin to form a fuller picture of how these two actors interact in the Occupy movement sphere. Power relations displayed within these articles should make the public think hard about what is being constructed as normal within a protest, what is right? And also what is wrong.

Following this, we decided to further look into the use of power relations between the police and demonstrators. The police is shown as in power over demonstrators.  In an article dated September 26th, 2011 by Ed Payne, entitled Wall Street protests enter 11th day, Payne states “Demonstrators have accused police of using excessive force, following the release of a video from Saturday that shows an officer pepper spraying several women.” In this article, this act is described as “disturbing’ and ‘horrible’ as officers seemingly were taking the situation into their own hands and pepper spraying even those that were not actively posing threats in order to subdue the situation.  Another article from October 16th, 2011, entitled Month-long protests show no sign of abating as rally enters Times Square, states that police arrested protesters for wearing masks.  Showing the police taking actions such as arresting due to something as simple and mundane as a mask.  This juxtaposition is highlighted by the author in the article and makes it seem like the authorities were just exerting their power.

Michael Foucault supports the idea that power is something that is a repeating idea that exists throughout society as a ‘technology’.  “[D]iscipline is a complex bundle of power…power is thust exercised with intention – but not individual intention.” (Wodak, 9). This leads to believe that this sense of power is part of a greater group mentality and a motivation to preserve one group’s own standing in the social hierarchy. Similarly, the police is enacting this disciplinary scene with excessive force to maintain a status quo of power, demonstrating this power on the protesters in the 99% movement.


To conclude, our group understands that CNN is a very large and influential news company. The articles they write on the Occupy movement are read by many, and influence the way these readers view the movement and the social actors within the movement. Our group believes that the articles produced by CNN are bias because of their political views, and believe that CNN depicts police in a negative light favoring the protestors.

Our findings were that we saw CNN using the police as a source. CNN let police voice their opinions on the events of the Occupy movement pertaining to arrest, brutality, etc… giving them unequal power over the protestors. We also saw that in many instances police were seen exerting power by brute force. These include pepper spraying the crowd, arresting, and beating the protestors. A final theme we saw was that whenever the protestors were positioned as social actors, the police were portrayed in a negative light. They were portrayed as having too much power and abusing their power. All these themes support our thesis because they position the police as having power and abusing that power over the protestors.

This paper has hopefully helped us better understand how police authorities interact with protestors in the Occupy Wall Street movement as seen by CNN. Hopefully, this will challenge us to critically analyze and question news sources that write biased stories based on their personal beliefs and the beliefs of those that fund them. By analyzing these texts and articles; we can see clearly which side CNN stands for in terms of the Occupy movement.


Adolphs, S. (2006). Introducing electronic text analysis: A practical guide for language and literary studies. London: Routledge.

Candiotti, Susan, and Ross Levitt. “‘Occupy’ Demonstrators Battle Wind and Cold as Storm Moves in.” CNN. 29 Oct. 2011. Web. 03 June 2012. <;.
CNN Worldwide Fact Sheet. (2011). Retrieved May 24, 2012.

“Dozens Arrested as ‘Occupy Wall Street’ Marks 6 Months.” CNN. 18 Mar. 2012. Web. 03 June 2012. <>.

Fairclough, N. (2003). Representation of social events (134-155). In Analyzing discourse:
Textual analysis for social research. London: Routledge.

Hodges, Brian David, Ayelet Kuper, Scott Reeves. Qualitative Research. Discourse Analysis.
Practice. Bmj Clinical Research Ed. (2005). Volume: 337, Issue: aug07 3, Publisher: Sage.

McPhail, T. L. (2007). Global communication: Theories, stakeholders, and trends. Malden, MA [u.a.: Blackwell.

“Occupy’ Demonstrators Battle Wind and Cold as Storm Moves in.” CNN. 29 Oct. 2011. Web. 03 June 2012. <>.

“Occupy Movement Fights Foreclosures, Protests Program Cuts.” CNN. 08 Nov. 2011. Web. 03 June 2012. <>.

Payne, Ed. Wall Street protests enter 11th day. September 26, 2011

“Protesters Arrested Nationwide as Occupy Wall Street Rallies Hit Monthlong Mark.”CNN. 16 Oct. 2011. Web. 03 June 2012. <>.

Sinclair, John. “The Lexical Item.” In Contrastive Lexical Semantics. Ed. Edda Weigand.
Amsterdam ; Philadelphia : J. Benjamins, 1998. 1-24.

“Tear Gas Used on Occupy Protesters in Oakland, California.” CNN. 26 Oct. 2011. Web. 03 June 2012. <;.

Verello, Dan. “Occupiers Clash with Police in New York; 6 Arrested.” CNN. 21 Mar. 2012. Web. 03 June 2012. <;.

Wodak, R, and Meyer, M. (2009). Critical discourse analysis: History, agenda, theory and
methodology (pp. 1-33). In Methods of critical discourse analysis. London: Sage.

Fight for Equality: Student Protest in Occupy Wall Street Movement

Group 23: Kelly McNemee, Ryan Jorgensen, Anna Nikolova, Stanley Sha, Jason Quan

Topical Focus

 Our topical focus is to critically analyze how student protests in the Occupy Wall Street movement are portrayed by national journalism. Today, college serves as crucial pathway for individuals who wish to become an expert in desired field of study as well as for those who wish to obtain a respectable career. However, as financial crisis unfolded in the year of 2007, the cost of higher education increased sharply as colleges raised its tuition due to continuous cuts in federal funding. In exchange, burden on students was at large with poor and middle-income families were left with little alternative to pay for high tuition. Furthermore, students without enough earnings or savings to afford higher education became severely indebted with financial loans. With frustration and fear towards their inability to pursue higher education, students became primary participants in the Occupy Wall Street Movement as to demonstrate this unequal and unfair opportunity provided by the society.

 In reflection to this dilemma, our project is focused to examine this Occupy Wall Street Movement through the perspective of student protesters and examine how they are being portrayed by the chosen media. This involves in examining the “image” of student protesters being portrayed in this social movement. Furthermore, we are interested in examining how the media reflects upon the issue of such unfair and unequal burden among social classes to obtain higher education in the United States. As students ourselves, examining this subject would give us insight to how our peers, and interests, are positioned in social discourse. This is important because national media is very influential in society, as it represents and creates positions of power.

Thesis Statement:

 Mainstream journalists from the New York Times reproduce the classification of students through generalization, low competence, and low priority. This pattern will be examined throughout the period of five months. (November 2011 – March 2012)


 The following Research paper will explore the New York Times and the way that journalist’s represent students and the arising cost of higher education. The first section will be the methods we used to support our thesis, and following that will be the patterns we used and analyzed in our corpus.


 This paper implements both corpus linguistics and qualitative coding to analyze the patterns. We used concordance lines with “student(s)” as the node to analyze collocates. The purpose of this is to gain a better understanding of how the chosen word in the discourse is used by interpreting its meaning through the words that surround it and give it context rather than the definition of the word that can be derived from the dictionary (“Concordance overview”). Using electronic analysis was important because it uncovers descriptions of individual words that stand for greater ideologies (Adolphs, 2006). We used paradigmatic analysis which is the use of words with in the movement concerning the students and syntagmatic analysis where we examined the sentence structure around “student(s)” and concordance lines (Adolphs, 2006). We also read through the excerpts created in our coding rounds to search for reoccurring patterns of importance. We used the combination of these techniques to narrow down the areas of interest and then allow for a detailed analysis of the patterns (Baker, 2008) and also to look at omission (Huckin, 2002).

 For instance, we looked at how social actors were represented within the texts. Specifically, we looked at how excluding the representation of social actors in the text can say a lot about the language. The two types of exclusion are: “suppression” which means that the text purposely does not mention anything about the actor and “back-grounding” which means that the primary actor involved (students) are sometimes mentioned in the text, but have to be inferred by the reader to make a connection between what is happening and the people involved (Fairclough, 2003). Looking at this can help us answer why people are left unnamed or questions left unanswered.

Another strategy that shows us how we should interpret a text is noticing when something is being legitimized. For instance, one particular strategy for legitimation that is prevalent to students in the 99% movement would be rationalization. This looks at how institutions are used to rationalize action because society believes there is a certain amount of validity and credibility behind its claims. (Fairclough, 2003).

Discourse Genre:

 Accordingly, our discourse genre will be to identify and analyze the portrayal of students in the occupy movement through examination of mainstream journal The New York Times. It is important for us to use this national media because the cost of higher education is a national issue, so we believe the widely distributed forms of discourse genre are most relevant to its portray in society. We do not believe that a local newspaper has the resources to cover all these issues with the same details and timeliness. The coverage on this topic is influential on our views of acceptable distribution and the underlying power that is attached. It is our goal to fully utilize the theory and practice of discourse analysis to understand the significance found in the media attention to this topic.


 Our data was collected searching through the online data bases available to us such as LexisNexis and the archive of the New York Times. We searched key words such as, “occupy wall street,” “occupy movement,” and “protests”. The time frame for our group was November 2011 to March 2012. Our corpus consisted of 136,815 words and a type/token ratio of 9.09% (12,443/136,815). This created a valid data set because there were a large number of texts from a current and relevant time frame. Also the texts were written by a number of different authors lessening the chance of a dominant personal view to skew our research patterns. 


First Pattern (November): “Grouping Students as Social Groups, Instead of Individuals”

Another pattern is how students are represented as merely objects in the media, rather than actual people within the movement. In various articles, the word “Student(s)” is used more as an object with nothing really connected to it. There is a generic usage to it. In a few instances, the students are actually specified to individuals and they are described in a little more detail. They are used to be more of a represented group rather than a active group, they are not specific people doing things, but a group thrown in certain areas to provide a variety when some of the authors are showing a large number of different groups of people that are participating.

Some examples are: “Union workers, students, unemployed people and local residents joined the crowds in many cities, adding to a core of Occupy protesters.” Where they are just a group put in with a couple other group to show a variety of people in the movement, or “There seems to be little on the specific descriptions on the students or even acknowledging them as individuals or separate people. It seems that institutions or people associated with the institutions get to be recognized and get their input included in the article, while the students do not really.

An example is, “Mark Lake, a Morgan Stanley spokesman, said in a statement…” This is an excerpt from an article where there was input from both sides, but this statement was highlighted. Other instances have quotes from the student, included with a description of that participant. In an article by Norman Fairclough, he talks about authorization and legitimization, saying this “Legitimization by reference to the authority of tradition, custom, law, and of persons in whom some kind of institutional authority is vested.” (Fairclough, 2003, Representations)

This quote should begin to show how through authorization and more specifically legitimization there is an establishment of authority to the persons of focus. In this the focus, when being used is mainly put to the person talking and is the link to an institution, in the earlier examples, the spokesperson for the university.

Second Pattern (December): “Middle-Class Students are Portrayed as Having More Priority than Low-Income Students”
Middle-class students are portrayed as a class of citizens that hold more priority on the government’s agenda than low-income students that lack exposure in media. We can see this through the attention and severity that a mainstream publication exposes on an issue when “1/5th of American children live in poverty” (Ladd & Fiske, 2012). The voices of the Occupy Movement are not heard because there is a lack of exposure in mainstream publications like the New York Times to the problems of the least wealthy class. There is an article by Jennifer Medina that was published in December 2011 that discusses how the University of California, Berkeley, is now setting a new precedent for public universities to give more aid to middle-class students. She states that:

“For the most part, public colleges have focused on merit scholarships to lure top students and aid for the poorest families to ensure access, but many now worry that approach has left out a wide group of families” (Medina, 2011).

When the phrase “left out” in the excerpt is collocated with the lexical bundle, a “wide group of families”, we can say that meaning is established through categorization of an in group that has already captured the media’s attention versus the out-group, which includes the wide range of families that are a part of the middle class (Sinclair, 1998). However, we know that “1/5th of America’s children are living in poverty” so it is more critical that attention shifts to families of the lowest income so the gap between rich and poor do not keep widening. As this gap grows, the number of middle-class students will follow.

Finally, a second example of the pattern is shown when the text states:

“Although there are only a few anecdotal reports of middle-class students actually dropping out because of rising college costs, the issue has become a rallying cry of Occupy protesters around the country” (Medina, 2011).

Based on the word choice used here, we can see that the journalist does not fully believe in the benevolence of Occupy protesters. Using words such as “although” before a statement like “the issue has become a rallying cry …around the country” shows a sense of disbelief from the author regarding the protests. Furthermore, the real issue lies in the protests by the low income students, a small portion of the 99% population that is shoved aside by the New York Times to address the needs of a class that society is persuaded to see as having more potential.

Third Pattern (January):“Students are Portrayed as Having Low Competence”
When journalists discussed what students are protesting income inequality and rising tuition costs were dominant in the corpus. They claim that students have sided with the greater movement in bringing income inequality to national awareness. We reviewed this more carefully by retrieving the original texts where we found the occurring theme to more closely examine it (Kelle, 2000). We found that the articles branded income inequality as inseparable from the movement, yet they directly divided this from student quotes. Students were spoken about nearly three times more often than students were allowed to speak out in my excerpts of the New York Times for the month of January. However, when students spoke out, the journalists did not quote them specifically discussing financial inequality. Instead, students talked about how they organized their Occupy movements on campus and sometimes about greater underlying issues such as politics and the future. For Example, an article written by Cara Buckley on January 22, 2012 called

“The New Student Activism” states:

Mirroring the broader movement, students have taken aim at widening income disparities and the cozy symbiosis between Washington and Wall Street.

Later in the same article a student, Marina Keegan (a senior at Yale) is quoted:

”I’m not sure it would’ve happened if Occupy Wall Street wouldn’t have started. Definitely people are starting to think more critically about their choices after graduation and how they affect not just themselves, but the world.”

As the reader we cannot know if Marina talked to the press about financial inequality or any specifics about these “choices” students make. However, if she did the media chose to exclude it from the article. A freshman from Harvard, Gabriel Bayard, was quoted:

”With [Occupy Harvard] 2.0, we can focus on specific actions and protests instead of using energy toward sustaining an unpopular occupation.”

Again, this is just a general statement without any mention of inequality. The corpus also quotes Angus Johnson, a historian at the City University of New York who says:

”What you have with the Occupy movement is a criticism of global capitalism and the American financial system, but also a critique of policing on campus, tuition policy, the way universities are run.”

As a professor, he is portrayed as qualified enough to be speaking about these issues specifically. Omission is very important because it is sometimes reflective of greater ideologies (Huckin, 2002). Quotes from students about inequality and tuition could be intentionally omitted in order to portray students as not yet capable of discussing the complex issues of economic inequality and its causes. This argument is also supported by describing students as “mirroring the broader movement,” implying students are simple minded and their campus movements are a case of monkey see, monkey do. Low creativity and low intelligence are translated to characterize low competence (Abdollahi & Fiske). Therefore readers, and society, are positioned to see students as having low competence.

Fourth Pattern: (February): “The Voice of Students Are Silenced”

As the discourse analysis was being conducted, it was interesting to observe that the actual representations of student protesters were in fact not in line with my initial expectations. That is, rather than being portrayed as “heroic” figures with positive images, the significance of student protesters were often dimmed and were considerably insignificant compared to other actors in the article.

For example, the article titled 2-Year College, Squeezed, Sets 2-Tier Tution, examines the role of community colleges to offer courses with different prices to resolves issues of overload of students in a class. In this issue, students who could pay the added money were able to secure a seat in a particular class. Interestingly, this unfair strategy to collect money by the community college neglected in including a “voice” of students. That is, the article did not include any quote made by students to express their opinion on the matter. (Despite the fact that image on the top of article shows student demonstrators protesting the issue with a sign that reads, “Education is a right, not just for the rich”) Instead, all the quotes in the article were formed by the representatives of community colleges with their opinion leaning toward supporting or neutral on the new strategy. Furthermore, the quotes by the faculty were enforced with legitimization strategy with their full names and occupations were purposely added to earn credibility in the argument.

Interestingly, other articles also followed similar pattern with silenced voice of the student protesters. For instance, another article titled Occupy Movement Regroups, Preparing for Its Next Phase includes a phrase, “The group included a mix of ages and races, with graduate students, teachers, older labor veterans and some full-time activists.” In the article, there are various quotes made by political figures, writers, and other social actors with their opinion in the movement however, the quote by students are nowhere to be found. Additionally, the student protesters in Wall Street Movement were often found clustered with other social groups (i.e., teachers, labor veterans, and full-time activists in this case) or were categorized simply as “protesters.”

These reflections certainly do not promote positive images to the student protesters but rather, the opposite. The lack of students’ voice and their categorization as “protesters” promote a sense of out-group to the audience of articles. These observations show that our thesis is not true, and many instances, student protesters as a social group were not gaining enough coverage as they may have deserved. This is lack of coverage for student protest is significant to acknowledge, as “with less visibility, the movement has received less attention for the news media, taking away a national platform.” (Moynihan, 2012) That is, with little visibility, student protesters’ as a social group obtain limited power and weak position in the occupy movement.

Fifth Pattern (March): “Anonymity of Student Protesters”

After analyzing the corpus, we have found that New York Times Journalist are effectively anonymizing students with the presentation of statistical data and seemingly not representing students. We state this because as reader’s numbers and statistics rarely position the reader as the group being represented. Therefore with no in depth description or personal accounts readers merely pass off the certain articles as just another conflict in the United States.
Granted, when speaking about issues it is usually acceptable to leave out the participants being spoken about. Yet at what point do the represented group get lost or become irrelevant in the discussion of an issue.

Below is except that clearly states student plans for occupy movement, but these statistics seem to convey one message, which is equal right to education:

“While all actions will begin at college and university campuses, some have incorporated symbolic efforts like marching to the department of education, assembling in front of administration buildings, creating “tiny-tent” cities, holding teach-ins, re-occupying evicted Occupy campgrounds and collaborating with students, parents and teachers of all education levels at neighboring Occupy demonstrations. Fifty-nine colleges and universities have registered as of today. All registered institutions have at least 100 participants attending this call to action. Among the registered schools are Temple University with 700 participants, California State University – Long Beach with 500 participants, Ohio State University with 400”. These students are not tomorrow’s leaders. They are today’s and on March 1 they will demand change not just be pontificated from podiums to generate cheap votes, or made slogans, but that change actually take place now”.

 The only participant in the article is the journalist, speaking about what will be happening when they protest the cost of higher education. No other voices are present and the only real representation is of the number of participants at each public university. There seems to be a lack of representations with no student’s commentary or interpretation of issue. (Adolphs 2006).The statistics and presentation seem to dilute the overall meaning of students and their representation in the occupy movement. Since each group of student are protesting for their unique cause why does the journalist leave this essential part out.


Mainstream journalists from the New York Times reproduce the classification of students through generalization, low competence, and low priority. This pattern became more evident throughout the period of five months, through November 2011 until March 2012. As each member of our group analyzed our corresponding month, we started seeing an alarming pattern. Students were not being quoted speaking about income inequality, and journalists leveraged this to portray them as having low competence. That is, the voices and opinions of students were being completely left out. Student’s representations were being overly generalized and often clustered together with other social activist groups. Furthermore, the students were often a topic of being spoken about in the New York Times, however students themselves were rarely speaking for themselves. This paper helped us understand the social phenomenon after finally realizing that the voices and opinions of students were being left out. Since the media is such a big part of the interpretations of everyday people having this type of representation in such a nationally read newspaper like the New York Times truly gives students injustice. The paper has the ability to illustrate the true representation of student’s protesters and what they are standing up for.


Adolphs, S. (2006). Electronic Text Analysis, Language, and Ideology. Introducing Electronic Text Analysis (pp. 80-96). London ; New York : Routledge.

Fairclough, N. (2003). Meaning relations between sentences and clauses. (pp. 87-104). In Analyzing discourse: Textual analysis for social research. London: Routledge.

Fairclough, N. (2003). Representations of social events. (pp. 134-155). In Analyzing discourse: Textual analysis for social researc. London: Routledge.

Polanyi, L. Van Den Berg, M. Ahn, D. (2003) Journal of Logic, Language, and Information , Vol. 12, No. 3, Special Issue on Discourse and Information Structure, pp. 337-350

Huckin, T. (2002). Critical Discourse Analysis and the Discourse of Condescension. In E. Barton
and G. Stygall (ed). Discourse Studies in Composition.

Kelle, U.(2000). Computer-Assisted Analysis: Coding and Indexing. In Martin Bauer & George Gaskell (ed). Qualitative Researching with Text, Image, and Sound (pp. 282-298). London: SAGE.

Moynihan, N. (2012) Occupy Wall Street, Times Topics. The New York Times, 2 May 2012.

The College Option: Protrayal of Upward Mobility in Tumblr and New York Times

Group 21: Bryan Austin, Jamie Christianson, Cassandra Hathaway, & Roberto Whyte


The specific focus that we have chosen to tackle is “education” and the ways in which it has been a topic of inequality throughout the Occupy movement. While the Occupy movement has revealed many topics of inequality, we as college students are especially conscious of the ways in which it has impacted our own lives, and the lives of other college students. Our mission for this project is to further research these topics of inequality—such as the rising cost of higher education, both in financial and personal terms, and to truly understand how the experiences of college students have been portrayed throughout the Occupy movement. Students experience inequality in education through the rising costs of attaining a college education, both personally and financially; these costs are then worsened by the state of the economy which makes a college degree less valued. Our group decided to use Tumblr and New York Times to look at the topic of upward mobility in regards to inequality. We chose these forms of discourse due to their popularity and the historical significance each share as a space to gain accurate and up-to-date conversations concerning current social events. Through the study of these two discourse genres, we have found that debt is a major topic that is often intensified when discussing education, lack of job opportunities create an expression of fear and disappointment regarding the education of graduates, and an over-arching ideology that is being challenged, which will change the meaning of higher education.


Discourse analysis is the way that we study language usage, spoken, written, and visually, in an effort to make sense of the choices made by the author. Every author presents a story in a different way, using many options they have. Discourse analysis gives us tools that help us to understand lexical and grammatical choices. Some of the tools we have used to analyze this corpus are: key word counts, collocation, and concordance. Key word counts simply allow us to see how prevalent a word is within a corpus, which can be turned into a ratio to compare to other corpora. According to Svenja Adolph, our project mainly focused on “positive keywords” (words that occur significantly more than others), with my own interest falling on ‘debt’, being one of the most frequently used words (Adolph, 45). Concordance lines allow us to choose a key word and view the 5 words before and after, in order to see the context that the word falls in. Collocation tables show us the frequency in which a word occurs within 5 words of a keyword, allowing us to see patterns in representation (Sinclair, 15). The collocation was also a significant tool in our analysis of Tumblr. I also used the theory of ideology (a way of viewing social phenomena), as this was a key tool in understanding the reasoning behind the stories depicted in Tumblr. (Van Dijk, 384).

Prior to the ’99% Occupy Movement’ and student movements that are occurring throughout theUnited States, New York Times had already been dealing with the Occupy Wall Street movement. In fact, many would agree that students did not become noticeably involved until October and November of 2011. As OWSM grew in popularity, students joined in. The social network site Tumblr began receiving personal stories from people all over the country. These stories were of the utmost importance to us, as we wanted to look comparatively at howNew York Times discusses educational inequality, versus those that actually experience it first hand. For us, the personal experiences of education (fear, failure and disappointment regarding higher education) seemed more significant than commentary by a journalist.

When we were choosing which texts to include in our corpus, we decided to only use articles from October and November of 2011, in order to capture the beginning of the movement. Since our group had two corpora, Jamie and I focused on the documents from Tumblr. We each collected 30 images with descriptions from one of the months, so that we would have a total of 60 articles. From the Tumblr corpus, the total number of words was 6141, with 1289 types of words. This corpus had a type/token ratio of 0.21. We have decided to use these parameters because we wanted to see the initial reasoning for following the Occupy Wall Street Movement, and how education was being talked about with those initial reasons.


Student loan debt has been a major issue when discussing education on Tumblr. Most of the individuals who posted about themselves discussing education made a comment about their debt involved with this education. While a few stated that they were lucky enough to leave school debt-free, this was not the case for the majority of posters. Because debt was one of the ideas that interested me, I used concordance lines of the lemma ‘debt’ and found that an overwhelming number of individuals had used a number to express the depth of the problems they are experiencing. Of those who did have student loan debt, 23 out of the 38 excerpts involving student loans had used a concrete number to express how much debt the individual had. One individual wrote:

I have $90K in student loan debt. My payments are 20% of my income. By the time I pay off my debt, I will have paid the government double what I borrowed.

This individual had a very large amount of debt, and was very detailed by telling the audience that the payments on her loans are a major portion of her income. Stories of large amounts of student debt were not at all uncommon on Tumblr, as another individual writes:

I am a 26 year old graduate with $120,000 in student loans.

This process of using concrete numbers is intensification. These numbers allow the reader to have a better idea of how significant the amount of student loan debt. If these individuals would have simply stated that they have student loan debt, the reader would not have understood the issue to be as grave as it is.

Students who posted their stories on Tumblr have related higher education to success and power. When sharing their personal stories, though all very different, a commonality seems to be the over-all disappointment that each individual feels in their degree and/or education, themselves, the economy, and their government. People are seeing education costs rising, both personally and financially, and cannot overcome the debt they take on to achieve their goals. As we pulled excerpt after excerpt, I began seeing references to the “American Dream.” We soon became fascinated with this illusive “American Dream” and counted how many times the word “dream” appeared in our corpus. Despite having a fairly small corpus in comparison to other groups, the word “dream” still came up a total of 9 different times, with other words such as “debt” appearing 38 times. From the excerpts we pulled, combined with our knowledge of the greater ideologies at play—we began to see the connection between the “American Dream,” success, and education. These ideas were interconnected, and we couldn’t help but acknowledge how many people seemed to be basing their worth off of social ideologies regarding education as means to achieve success and the illusive “American Dream” (Van Dijk, 384). Growing up in this country, we are constantly reminded about the American Dream. The American Dream is an ideology that we can use as a lens to look at the world. We are taught that if you work hard and are educated, success will be yours. Our educational system is built upon this idea. However, the Wearethe99% Tumblr questions this ideology, with its evidence that the American Dream is a falsehood for many. Because of the debt individuals expressed, as well as the high rates of unemployment of college graduates, these individuals believe that they were told a lie. Qualitative coding allowed us to read through excerpts and identify them as having this theme regarding the American Dream, from this alongside concordance lines of ‘dream’, I was able to see that many educated people are not achieving the dream:

Now what? I feel completely misled – I was always told that if I worked hard I could have that “American Dream”. Now I’m just loaded in debt, so those degrees are worthless.

It is almost a type of moral evaluation, because the success expected through the American Dream is deeply tied to being the ideal citizen, and it calls the morals of the storytellers of the American Dream into question as well:

I was raised to believe that if I went to college and worked hard, I could get a job and a living wage. Maybe it was true once, but now the American Dream is a lie.

Another pattern we want to discuss illustrates the use of re-occurring lexical units such as “fear,” “terrified,” and “scared” when discussing the future. As gathered from Adolph, these re-occurring words are considered “positive keywords” and hold much significance (Adolph, 45). We found this pattern to be worth mentioning because of how common it was, but also because it was contradicting it was to America’s over-arching ideologies, which suggest that education will bring success and power. Though each individual presented a very different set of circumstances and context, there were common themes of a fear for the future, and a sense of helplessness for their fate, as we saw these terms appearing about 8 times combined. While we cannot assume that our analysis of these particular texts will be representative of all texts for this social event, we have begun to attribute these common feelings of fear for the future as something closely related to the theory of ideology (Van Dijk, 384). As mentioned earlier, we believe we (U.S.citizens and non-citizens a-like) are all living under larger ideologies that shape our perspectives so that we believe higher education has the ability to bring us success and power. When these connotative assumptions are wrong, or do not pay off—we become fearful for the future, and seem to experience a sense of helplessness in our own lives. As Van Dijk argues, “ideologies, thus informally defined, are general systems of basic ideas shared by the members of a social group, ideas that will influence their interpretation of social events and situations and control their discourse and other social practices as group members” (Van Dijk, 380). Perhaps then, the ideologies at play, though they may be false notions, are reinforced by society to make us think that education is our key to success. So now, when this is no longer working, our helplessness and fear for the future are accentuated when our only key to success and power (education) does not work.

In the excerpts studied, college students are very much contemplating on the value of their investment in education. Often the meaning of a clause or phrase is derived from the sum of its lexical units. John Sinclair explains in his book Contrastive Lexical Semantics “Whenever the meaning arises predominantly from textual environment rather than the item choice, it is considered to be an instance of semantic reversal” (Sinclair, 1998). When applying this process to one excerpt it becomes clear that Gan Golan is finding less value in his education investment. In another, again we see terms that show us students are very concerned about the investment and commitment required for completing a college degree and the possible risk of getting nothing back in return. In nearly the entire collection of excerpts collected from a student’s perspective, the students carry the same message education in today’s society holds less value than just a decade ago. Then you have many economists predicting that new job growth will continue to be hampered by emerging economies such as China and India and that U.S. companies will be creating more jobs in these markets rather than at home. This information continues to discourage many young adults coming out of high school to seek higher education. If we continue to apply the process of semantic reversal it becomes clear that we can now see the shift in attitudes towards higher education. What this is doing to younger Americans is placing them in the middle of social conflict. Signing up for the armed services was once a wise choice for offsetting some of the expense of getting a degree however with America involved in many conflicts around the world this option is also less appealing. Youngsters really are running out of options. It is understandable why they may begin to feel apathetic.


The Occupy Wall Street movement has been a topic of interest for several months, and many have entered into this discussion. Through our analysis of Tumblr, we found many personal stories, and found a lack of personal stories in the New York Times. However, both corpora showed similarities. Students experience inequality in education through the rising costs of attaining a college education, both personally and financially; these costs are then worsened by the state of the economy which makes a college degree less valued. Through the study, we have found that debt is often intensified when discussing education, lack of job opportunities creates an expression of fear and disappointment regarding the education of graduates, and the over-arching ideology of education is challenged, which will alter the meaning of higher education. Through our careful analysis, we have seen that higher education is coming to mean less and less in the job market, which will eventually cause a shift in ideology, if things continue in this manner. Students and graduates struggle with the idea that their success did not come as it was assured to us.


Adolphs, Svenja. “Exploring Frequencies in Texts: Basic Techniques.” Chapter 3 in Introducing Electronic Text Analysis. London;New York; Routledge, 2006. 37-50.

Bauer, M. W., & Gaskell, G. (2000). Qualitative researching with text, image and sound: A practical handbook.Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Bauer. , Martin, , & Bas Aarts, (2000). Corpus construction: A principle for qualitative data collection. (Vol. 2, pp. 19-37).London: Sage.

Fairclough, N. (2003). Analyzing discourse; textual analysis for social research. (pp. 87-104).London: Routledge.

Laura, V. (n.d). Grads: Pursue a realistic dream. USA Today.

Sinclair, J. (1998). Contrastive lexical semantics . (171 ed., pp. 1-24).Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Sinclair, John. “The Lexical Item.” In Contrastive Lexical Semantics. Ed. Edda Weigand.Amsterdam;Philadelphia: J. Benjamins, 1998. 1-24.

Van Dijk, T. (2011). Discourse Studies: A Multidisciplinary Introduction. (2nd Ed.) London,UK: Sage.

Coloring a Movement: 
Revealing Hegemony and Definition of “People of Color”
from the Perspective of POC

Photo: Raymond Haddad/

Group 3: Alvin Chang, Conor Knowles, Scott Lozano, Fumiko Nishioka, & Tzu-lin Wu

I. Introduction

Our group is focusing on the element of identity from the perspectives of People of Color (POC,) a subgroup of the 99% Movement. The obscure nature of race and differences comes into play in the self-identification of the group through social media. We specifically focus on how the movement defines the term, “color.” Having a better understanding about the definition of “color” can help us reveal the figure of hegemony hidden in our society.Texts are taken from the official blogs and micro-blogs of the POC movement. These sources reflect the most contemporary views which directly represent the movement from within. People of Color is a sub-unit group of the Occupy movement and a group devoted to “developing critical consciousness” within the 99% movement ( and to equalize the imbalance of representation. By looking closely at how “people of color” are defined, we can gain a closer glimpse of how classical formations of race and differences are presented through discourse in American society. POC’s efforts to bring greater representation to people of color offer an underlying understanding to the tensions found in economic inequality and the overall 99% Movement. The movement’s efforts in challenging the power differences ultimately reveal a socially constructed hegemonic relation between those of distinct social classes and races. Identifying these groups lends an actionable framework around which groups can organize. These are similar premises to those around which sports teams operate. Essentially, in-group members of a socio-economic minority group self-characterize by reproducing hegemonic structures of social and race-based stratification. The POC differentiates in-group and out-group through broad self-representation as vicitimized and a specific representation of the out-group through stereotype.

This analysis will take a qualitative approach at analyzing discourse, reviewing first the methods used to extrapolate upon the aforementioned theories and hypothesis. Then a detailed analysis will be presented that draws upon key patterns and findings which led to the formation of this social theory.

II. Method

The corpus that is the subject of this analysis is comprised of messages and discussions, or posts, taken from the official social media web-sites of the People of Color Occupy movement. These include the POC Tumblr blog, the POC Working Group Twitter micro-blog and the POC Working Group Facebook page. Additionally, articles from outside sources posted by activists to their social media web-sites were included as representing activist discourse. The posts from these respective sites are organized in chronological order. Posts are taken from within the dates of October 3, 2011 and December 31, 2011. These dates reflect a time when activist organizers were generating texts most vigorously. Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr play a vital role in how we gain access and view events in the world, and the occupy movement has been vastly portrayed through social media sites.  It has made the movement easier to follow and it can help people collaborate with people across the nation and the world. The social media genre is one of the only ways of studying a minority in-group perspective on the Occupy movement, though it is perhaps the best and most representative of the direct voices of all activists in the movement as discourse in such media is generated by all members of the group regardless of leadership status. Texts are compiled in a 33,28-token corpus with a Token/Type ratio of ~.16. Roughly 160 posts or articles combined comprise the corpus.

Several strategies were employed to derive the social theory mentioned earlier. The practices outlined by Svenja Adolphs are particularly helpful in preliminary identification and formation of this theory of exclusionary motivation (Svenja, 2006). Specifically, techniques such as generating frequency lists and then using collocation tables and analyzing concordance data for semantic prosody illuminates relationships between various words and phrases to similar lexical units surrounding them. In our corpus, we were able to see the rate in which words like “movement”, “justice”, “color”, or “race” occurred.  Looking to see how many times these words appeared helped us see just how the POC wanted to define themselves, and how often they decided to use a word.Tools such as KWIC, an electronic corpus analysis program, is significant for identifying patterns amongst lexical items and forming initial theories based on semantic prosody. For example, the word “white” was commonly found near the word “racist” or “racism.” The readings on Kelle and coding similarly helped identify patterns and key words that are relevant to the definition of color (Udo, 2000). Analysis methods such as those mentioned earlier (collocation tables, ect.) helped extrapolate on these codes. In this analysis some items proved irrelevant and could thus be discarded while unexpected patterns and meanings appeared. Also, Fairclough’s ideas surrounding clausal and sentence structure are also useful in deriving meaning from the POC corpus (Fairclough, 2003). Analysis of agency reveals in the case of POC one of the more basic ways in which group identity is formed. Understanding narrative structure and methods for analyzing race-based discourse taken from Van Dijk is similarly useful to understanding discourse construction by groups and race-group identity (Van Dijk, 2011).

III. Analysis

1. First Pattern

The POC represents group identity by re-creating itself as a minority. It does this in three ways; narration, specific out-group representation, and vague in-group representation.

The POC discourse as taken from the texts they create via social media offers a perspective which presents the assumption that the reader and the narrator of the text are in-group members. From both a syntagmatic and paradigmatic perspective this holds true. Pronoun usage such as “we” and “us” positions readers as in-group members.

“We spoke out about Racism in the 99 percent…”
“We spoke out about how nobody was talking about the racist….”
“Those of us in the POC spoke shared the deep concern…”
“Join us to help OWS….”

Cook’s Triangle of Communication highlights the positions of activist narrators and those spoken too in the text, by the text. For example, what is absent from the texts are narrator definition and indeed most forms of adjectives describing the group, revealing both in-group definition by defining what the group is not.

“When we wanted to address the people….”
“…so we know that Wall Street…”
“…reminds us that we must look…”

Contrast of actions and how groups are affected by each other/ will be affected (binaries)
Representation of Social actors (inclusion/exclusion, activated = victimizing, impersonal= institution, generic yet specific= institution/distinct attributes, classified= institution)

<Specific out-group definition>
Descriptors applying to out-group members generally took on a negative connotation, as proved by binary contrast analysis. Specific institutions, races or classes such as banker, corporation, government and white were common underlying thematic paradigms characterizing the out-group. These definitions are often paired with negative adjectives or actions, creating a binary of action against the in-group which legitimizes reactions by the group. For instance, the phrase “corporate greed” 68% of the times the word was found using a key-word analysis, where the other times “corporate” was paired with benefactor, profiteering, and occupation.

“white dominated movement…”
“Neither approach needs to be treated by whites as a threat…”
“…organized by upper-middle class, educated white…”
“oppressive ideas of whiteness…”
“whites need to acknowledge…”
“The capitalist class has historically used racism to divide…”
“…our government no longer represents us…”
“…government has been slashing away …”

Analysis establishes that out-group characteristics are most prominently socio-economic, and particularly racial. The word “white” is predominantly used to describe the out-group. Discourse thus centers on racial identity much of the time to define group character. Out of 90 samples of the word taken from the group 3 corpus all 90 uses of the word pertained to race. Compared to a random sample of 90 contexts surrounding the word “white” in the British National Corpus, it was 90% more likely to be used as a racial marker.

“being an anti-racist white…”
“white people haaaaate…”
“White kids whining that it’s unfair…”

<Vague in-group definition>
Group actions or concerns were also used to describe in-group members, rather than specific racial markers, which was decidedly vaguer than how the out-group was defined. In-group definition of the POC uses several referential strategies. The in-group is represented in a classical power struggle between those in power and those lacking power. Victimization is typically used to represent the in-group as well, as people who have been “oppressed” or subject to “social injustice.” In our Dedoose code section, we had a lot of sentences tagged with codes such as “group categorization,” “group characteristics,” and “identity” as you can see in the excerpts below;

“our movement against corporate…”
“…protests against banks and insurance…”
“we would like to see the nationalization of banks…”

Also, a lack of descriptors applying to in-group as denoted by token figures for the few instances of descriptors such as “black, Hispanic, Latino, LGBT, etc. are negligible. Speakers and those spoken too are back grounded while statements broadly include in-group members through general pronoun use and unspecific group actions.

“ We will protest…”
“We will stand in solidarity…”
“We should not forget…”
“We were called racist…”
“…they have evicted us…”
“…To help us face…”

We need to be aware of the fact that there are numbers of people who are not categorized in neither in-group nor out-group; in another word, 99% nor 1%. In critical analysis, it is a fallacy to claim that “if you are not 1%, you are 99%.” It syllogism has not been well established and can be considered enthymeme. This is the case of Modus Tollens. For example, the middle-class people, which we believe majority of us who go to UW are also categorized in this section, receive education, have enough food and drink, basic health care, and some luxuries that satisfies their life to some extent. These people seem quite different from those who participate in POC movement such as long-term unemployed workers or homeless people.

2. Second Pattern: 

Internal and emotional stimulants used as a motive for gaining support and spreading representation.

We could observe many cases of usage of internal and emotional stimulants as a motive for encouraging POC blogs viewers to support their actions and will within the movement and spreading its representation widely. POC approaches to people using pathos, an appeal to audiences or viewers’ emotion. Use of pathos is very effective way to gain more power and representation for this POC’s 99% movement. It helps not only convincing people to support POC by victimizing their representation, but also it builds stronger interaction and bonds between POC and followers of their movement. For example, you can observe the pathological approach in a sentence below;

“Within an emotional justice framework, someone is able to bring up their pain.”

In the example, emotional justice is referred to as a framework, where pain is experienced. The form that this example is presented in is through a collective identity, which shows plurality, complexity, and involves the identity of a community (Dijk, 2006). As this shows, the use of the ‘justice pattern’ brings the issues into an internal form where individuals are identifying themselves. This is how this ‘justice pattern’ plays a part in exploring the claim in using identity as a driving force in equalizing the social and economic inequality.

IV. Conclusion

Throughout the analysis, a close association is taken to how the text uses the theme of creating an environment where identity is chosen by splitting up in and out-groups to oppose the social and economic power imbalances in terms of the People of Color Working Group and the 99% Movement. Through the essay, the methods of corpus linguistics and qualitative coding allowed us to extract the meaning found underneath the text and within the genre of social media. Unlike the OWS movement, the smaller POC is not so broadly inclusive in terms of members. Although there are times in POC generated discourse where definitions of membership still represent individuals with out-group-like characteristics, there seems to be fairly specific criteria for those presented as POC members. Typically, as in the case of the POC, in-group members of the socio-economic minority group self-characterize by reproducing hegemonic structures of social and race-based stratification. The POC wants to differentiate itself from other groups. The more branched out they can be, the more unique they will seem, and perhaps they will garner more attention as a group.  However, at the same time, they want to include as many as possible, by leaving the definition of “color” completely open.  These people of color tend to associate themselves as a subset group of the 99%–a 1% of the 99% if you will. As can be seen in analysis of both the sub-division undertaken by POC discourse generators within OWS and more broadly in society, out-group and in-group characterization is motivational. Negative qualities attributed to out-group characteristics are paired with actionable perspectives similar to how pronouns both define and are paired with phrases to define groups and promote group action. Overall this generates a better understanding of how classical struggles such as those undertaken to fight inequality by the POC can reveal a broader understanding of race-based power relations in a society (Means, 1992).

One particular interesting finding of our research was that counter-hegemonic power try to fight against hegemony using a classical stereotypical hegemonic imageries. As we have mentioned many times with various examples, victimizing in-group and making out-group look like an evil enemy has used in POC’s discourse. We found their representation of both have created with hegemonic stereotypes. It is a very unique and interesting to see the ironic relationship between hegemonic power and counter-hegemony. Even though subordinated groups of people challenge hegemony, their claim to discredit hegemony does not even exist without the figure of hegemony in their appeal and discourse.

Finally, in context of the greater 99% Movement, we have discussed how this form of support-gathering executed by the People of Color Working Group helped us understand the forces behind the supporters of the 99% movement in raising awareness, gaining support, and struggling to create a counterbalance to the nation-wide social, racial, and economic hegemonic power imbalances. Social inequality remains in our society for too long time in our history producing anger, sadness, misery, grief, hopelessness, fear, and other diverse negative feelings that can not be described only with visual words here. Yet, now, with the power of today’s high technology, more and more people are enabled to speak up their ideas in public and gather with those who share the same ideas to claim it in the entire world across the nation and the world. Many underrepresented people started to shout their voice to counter hegemony today. However, we must emphasize that each one of us including these counter-hegemonic people must consider what the “real meaning of equality” is in terms of being active in movements to seek the true equal society in this world.

V. References

Dijk, T. A. (2006). Discourse studies. (2 ed., pp. 268-273). London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Fairclough, N. (2003). Representation of social events (134-155). In Analyzing discourse: Textual analysis for social research. London: Routledge.

Means, R. (October 23, 1992). Acting against racism. Entertainment Weekly, 102392, 141.

Adolphs, Svenja. “Exploring Frequencies in Texts: Basic Techniques.” Chapter 3 in Introducing Electronic Text Analysis. London ; New York : Routledge, 2006. 37-50.

Adolphs, Svenja. “Exploring Words and Phrases in Use: Basic Techniques.” Chapter 4 in Introducing Electronic Text Analysis. London ; New York : Routledge, 2006. 51-63.

Adolphs, Svenja. “Electronic Text Analysis, Language and Ideology.” Chapter 6 in Introducing Electronic Text Analysis. London ; New York : Routledge, 2006. 80-96.

Van Dijk, T. (2011). Discourse studies: A multidisciplinary introduction. (2nd Ed.) London, UK: Sage.Ch. 12,14,15.

Kelle, Udo. “Computer-Assisted Analysis: Coding and Indexing.” Chapter 16 in Qualitative Researching with Text, Image, and Sound. Eds. Martin Bauer & George Gaskell. London : SAGE, 2000. 282-298.

The Power of Glitter and Gold: Exposing the Influence of Celebrity Endorsements

Group 12: Brianna Wood, Lisa Chanthavisay, Jung Su Kim, & Jenniffer Gonzalez

Topical focus

As a collective, our group is most interested in the influential change of perspective that celebrities have over their fans’ opinions, concerning the “99%.” We find this phenomena important to examine because whether purposeful or not, celebrity endorsements change how participants interpret the Occupy Movement. It can lead to a manipulation in the agenda of the movement and it also sends a conflicted message to audiences, that the “99’s” can be represented by someone in the “One Percent.” This relationship dilutes the intended meaning of the movement but still gathers protesters’ support.

Thesis statement

We will examine how within coverage of the Occupy Movement, journalists have a tendency to use celebrity involvement to convey validation and rationalization, in comparison to more appropriate sources. This is an important claim, because celebrities’ ability to structure a cause makes an important distinction about the amount of weight American society gives to them.  With an emphasis on the social constructivist orientation, we will discuss how inequalities in social structures (celebrity versus non-celebrity) have led to a disparity in the meaning relations of the Occupy Movement, thus regulating the relations of power between differing participants in the movement. Specifically, we will attempt to explain how media uses celebrity endorsements to legitimize the Occupy Movement’s cause.

Discourse Methods

The discourse analysis methods that we chose to employ included several techniques that we found most prevalent and consequently most supportive of our presented argument. These methods are the legitimation techniques of rationalization and authorization, KWIK analysis of the word “we” in context, an examination of excerpts coded for “social class”,  and an analysis of the “collective frames of perceptions” .  These methods allowed our group to focus on how discourse properties perpetuate the patterns we discovered. Most importantly, how a large proportion of articles about celebrities having influence on the Occupy movement, were also highly associated with them having a primary role in how the movement was addressed.

Discourse genre

The discourse genre that our group initially decided to explore was centered in the use of social media to propagate celebrity endorsements. We found highly relevant material throughout hubs like Twitter, Entertainment Blogospheres, and Entertainment news sites. But we soon discovered that many of the excerpts that we found concerning the use of celebrities’ social media outlets did not contain enough substance to validate our claims. They were simply too short to substantiate any real prerogatives. We therefore shifted to an analysis of roughly 121 entertainment media documents written between September and December of 2011, which spoke directly not only about particular celebrities’ opinions on the Movement, but that also addressed said celebrities’ physical immersion in its issues. Our group hoped that entertainment journalists’ slant on the Occupy events would reveal how celebrity endorsements are both expressed (in person) and re-communicated (through text).

Corpus description

Our corpus is 89,254 words. 8,733 types. Type/token ratio: 0.09784435. Date range: September 2011-December 2011. We used Google and LexisNexis searches with search terms: “celebrity endorsement of occupy movement,” “celebrity support occupy movement twitter,” etc. And we used the search engines within specific media outlet sites. These search terms and the texts that we chose to include in our corpus made the most sense because we were searching for celebrity involvement and social media/entertainment news are most likely to report on this, also our date range was a good sampling of the beginning and peak of the movement.

Pattern 1- How Celebrities Classify Themselves

We will look at the relationship between celebrity support of the Occupy Movement and how it is depicted in a rallying effort for the 99%. We found patterns that portray the 1% attacking others in the 1%, and taking the 99%’s view on Wall Street. Since celebrities are aligning themselves with the 99% and directing their mistrust and the real issues at Wall Street workers specifically, their support is seen as positive. An example is an excerpt stating,

“Russell Simmons has been encouraging Occupy Wall Street, tweeting, give power to the people and not to corporations. take the money out of Washington.”

The celebrity support is rallying up against ‘the other’ 1% which is corruption in our government and big business. This gives supporters hope and it is seen as positive because they are getting more press for their cause.

We also think another reason why we see celebrities shed in a positive light is because they support it almost like they become part of that 99%. Before, the celebrities who endorse the occupy movement hadn’t put themselves into the ‘in-group’ or the 99% or created an ‘out-group’ which is Washington and Wall Street specifically. We can see an example of this in a blog that posts,

“On Twitter, celebrities including Russell Simmons pledged their support for the movement. Others on Twitter painted pictures of the situation on Wall Street. Husky in Georgia wrote: At #occupywallstreet, u will find hippies, true.  Also, unions, libertarians, children seniors, ppl with good jobs, and more.”

In the beginning of this excerpt we see the relationship between the celebrity tweet and ‘other peoples’ tweets the texts shows celebrities as the 99%. Celebrities who support the 99% are not only shown in a positive light, they are also depicted as part of the group. In the second part of the selection we see a 99% person stating that all kinds of people from all walks of life are joining in for support.

This positive support that celebrities are endorsing the 99% movement is putting them in the ‘in-group’ and the 99% people are accepting them even though they are not actually part of the 99%. We can see this relationship through our discourse analysis of sociocognitive approach where we look at social actors and social representations (Wodak 2009). When we look at why celebrity endorsements are viewed in a positive light we are examining the social interactions and hidden messages behind those interactions and we come to find that they are aligning themselves with the 99%.

Pattern 2- The 1% as Actors  for the 99%

Wealthy 1% celebrities are supporting 99%, some are hypocrites who are doing it for making their positive image and this has brought up the issue of celebrity validation. Some celebrities identify themselves as 99% because they are afraid to stand out against the crowd.                                      Celebrities have power to influence public opinion and celebrity endorsements change how participants interpret the Occupy Movement. Although celebrities influence perspectives of their fans in either positive or negative way, there have been critiques about celebrities supporting 99% arguing that celebrities are being hypocritical, that they are using this chance to build their positive image and reputation to the public. According to Bowen and Simeone (2012),

“Although celebrities supporting Occupy Wall Street contain a massive amount of wealth, placing them in the same rank as many of the individuals the protests speak against their situations and ways of obtaining wealth are vastly different. Well known wealthy celebrities have associated themselves with the OWS movement by “tweeting” their support via social media outlets such as Twitter. Though their influence is essential for spreading the word about the movement, it is almost natural to question the intentions of these celebs when it comes to helping the 99%.”

Pattern 3- Legitimation

Legitimation refers to the discourse analysis method in which text establishes a legitimacy of institutions, processes, and ideas. In this case, the Occupy Movement’s validity is both authorized and rationalized by celebrities who express a common support of the Occupier’s goal. In the excerpt below, Occupiers themselves give more weight to Celebrities, who they feel can project the Movement better than they can.

“It’s really great to see influential people coming down to these protest because I think it gives a little bit more validity to it when you have people who have respected voices and respected opinions siding with a group of people who have been marginalized by the media[…]”

Here, the speaker Anthony Graffangnino is expressing a legitimation by reference to the authority (of celebrity) by custom. (Fairclough, 98) His next statement, about the reach of celebrity support, demonstrates how rationalization works closely with authorization to enhance the legitimation. By reference to the knowledge society (here Graffangnino) has constructed to endow celebrities. (98)

“Everybody’s voice should be respected equally, but when you have a celebrity, their voice carries much further.”

Similarly, as Fairclough discusses in his examination of semiotics in legitimation, the language used to communicate the Occupiers’ agenda obscures the actual speaker. Occupiers are referred to as “the audience” whereas “celebrities” are referred to by name.

“They can bring a larger and more diversified audience to the cause. I respect any celebrity that’s going to come out and stand up for a cause that’s justified and right. I hope they keep coming down and joining us.”

Again, semiotic use of “us” in the excerpt above is an example of explicit power struggles between Occupiers and Celebrities. The celebrities, seen as outside (but above) occupiers, are given authority to set the agenda of the movement. (100)


This analysis helps us to understand the phenomenon of the influential change of perspective that celebrities have over their fans’ opinions concerning the “99% by exploring the effect of celebrities’ involvement in the movement in different lens through variety of media outlet.In essence, the integral part of our research project was beginning to understand how the media both portrays celebrities as having a more powerful reach in spreading the Occupy agenda and equally, that Occupiers tend to lend their message to celebrities. Through the examination of the way entertainment media communicates and interprets celebrity involvement we were able to conclude that the inequality of power exhibited within the Movement is not just a manipulation by the media, but also a valid expression by protesters. Therefore through legitimation, word choice, and representation of actors, the display of hegemony is further perpetuated.


Amos, Clinton, Gary Holmes, and David Strutton. “Exploring the Relationship between Celebrity                Endorser Effects and Advertising Effectiveness.” International Journal of Advertising. Web.

Bowen, K., & Simeone, G. (2012, April 29). Celebrities Occupy Wall Street. In Occupy Wall Street.          Retrieved May 20, 2012, from          occupy-wall-street/

Entman, R. M. (2007). Framing bias: Media in the distribution of power. Journal of Communication,         57, 163-173.

Little, D. (2008, August 24). Power and social class. In Understanding Society. Retrieved May 25,        2012, from

RODINA, H. E. R. T. A. (September 01, 2007). THEORY AND PRACTICE: An Introduction to                      Discourse Analysis: Theory and Method by GEE, JAMES PAUL. The Modern Language Journal,           91, 3, 476-477.

Wetherell, M., Taylor S., & Yates S. (2001). Discourse as Data. (pp.94-146). London: SAGE.

 Wodak, R., & Meyer, M. (2009). Methods of critical discourse analysis. (pp. 1-32). London: SAGE.

Photographer: Unknown

Shut the Front Door: Disempowerment of protesters by popular culture and mainstream media on Occupy Wall Street 

Group 8: Sarah Carson, Dayna Feller, and Tracy Tsujii (Gregory Burrell and Grace Shih)


Topical focus: As part of the generation that is mass consuming media information and news, we found it to be vital that we examine both mainstream media news  (local and national) and popular culture television shows because they have become our major source of knowledge about current events. Based on how stories are portrayed and delivered to audiences on an enormous level, happenings within our societies can either be taken seriously by spectators or tossed in the wind like the weather report. It is important to take a critical look at what news and entertainment sources are showing us and how they want us to feel about them.

Thesis: Although conducted in different ways, both mass media reportings from CNN and comical coverage from South Park, Saturday Night Live (SNL), and the Colbert Report dismissed the seriousness of the Occupy Wall Street Movement and kept it from gaining proper momentum by disempowering protesters and subjecting them to the portrayals of being an ‘out-group’. However, our more local news from The Seattle Times helped to elevate the protesters by giving them a voice and not scorning their demands.

Outline: In this analysis, we examine articles and transcripts from our sources and display evidence of how humor and “othering” take away the validity of the Occupy Wall Street movement while using quotes from participants gives empowerment to participants.


Since each group member was assigned a specific news source, we have collaborated our works and will display excerpts from each piece while explaining their correlation.  

 Discourse analysis is the name given to a variety of different approaches to the study of texts (Gill, 2000).  There are many different methods used in discourse analysis and we can use these methods to get a deeper understanding and meaning of a text.  The purpose of discourse analysis is to show how discourse in its first sense (language in use) also functions as discourse in its second sense (a form of social practice that constructs the objects of which it purports to speak) (Cameron, 2001).  It can show that how something is written/ spoken can construct the purpose or stance of the article. Describing discourse as a social practice implies a dialectical relationship between a particular discursive event and the situation(s), institution(s) and social structure(s) which frame it: the discursive event is shaped by them but it also shapes them (Wodak, 2009).  Through use of corpus linguistics analysis- coding, word frequencies and collocation- and study of social actors, we were able to analyze our variety of texts and identify ideas or patterns of how Occupy Wall Street was being talked about.

Our group chose to focus on news from CNN and The Seattle Times, while looking at the popular television shows such as South Park, Saturday Night Live, and the Colbert Report. As young adults, we are the targets of both news channels and popular culture television shows, which display and project content aimed at influencing our views on the world. CNN gives us a worldly perspective, while The Seattle Times keeps it close to home, but the entertainment from South Park, SNL, and the Colbert Report clue us in on how our social worlds are and/or should experience Occupy Wall Street (OWS).

Our corpus consists of the transcripts of three popular culture television shows: South Park, Saturday Night Live, and The Colbert Report, and articles from CNN and The Seattle Times. Since each analysis was done separately we have displayed the quantitative data respectively:

South Park, SNL, and the Colbert Report:

Data Set Description: One transcript from each show

Word Count: 6292

Type/Token Ratio: 1493/6292

Validation: This is a valid set of data because even though it seems like our corpus is on the small end, this is a relatively new movement and there were not very many popular culture television shows that covered this topic.  We do believe that the range of shows we have selected is a good representation of shows made about the Occupy Movement and it is a good variety to analyze.


Data Set Description: 30 articles from CNN

Date Range: October to November of 2011

Word Count: 23,971

Type/Token Ratio: 0.1603187 or 16%,

Validation: Given the selection of 30 texts in the allotted time frame for conducting this research and the broad audience needed to be reached by CNN, very little lexical variation is to be expected. Having been given a longer period of time or larger resources, one could conduct a much deeper analysis with a larger corpus.

The Seattle Times:

Data Set Description: 30 articles from The Seattle Times

Date Range: October  to November of 2011

Word Count: 18,022

Type/Token Ratio: .17634%

Validation: Since the Occupy Movement only started on September 17, 2011, it is understandable that there is not a cornucopia of news articles, especially since Occupy Seattle did not hit until September 26. Furthermore, the given time frame for conducting this research was limited so using a smaller corpus allowed for a deeper, more detailed analysis.


One of major patterns we noticed in analyzing the television transcripts was in how the television shows spoke about the movement.  Jokes were constantly made about the Occupy Movement, giving it a much less serious feel.  The constant jabs and sarcasm undermines the movement and makes it seem as if it’s nothing that should be taken seriously.  For example, on Saturday Night Live, character Mayor Michael Bloomberg states:

“Now, even though we have gone to great lengths to make them feel welcome, there have, regrettably, been some clashes between the protestors and law enforcement. Several demonstrators have even been pepper-sprayed. Although these were isolated incidents, on behalf of the city I would like to apologize and to make one thing absolutely clear: All pepper spray used was made from 100% pure cayenne extract, without any added oil or trans fats and was completely salt-free.”


After stating that demonstrators have been pepper sprayed, instead of explaining why or what was done wrong, a joke is cracked instead.  By doing this, it draws attention away from the fact that many instances of pepper spraying and police brutality have occurred because of the Occupy Movement.  It makes the whole situation seem less serious and concerning. Another example of this joking manner can be seen in analyzing the South Park episode and how they talk about the Occupy Movement. Here are a just a few examples of how the word occupy was used:

“I’m reporting from the middle of a protest where two fourth grade students are fed up, and have decided to occupy Red Robin. Occupy Red Robin has been going on for several hours now”

Occupy Red Robin Clip

“The 89%ers movement continues to grow as more and more Americans occupy Red Robin”

The use of the word occupy in the South Park episode was depicted  in a jokingly manner the majority of the time.   Over half of the time, the word occupy was followed by Red Robin.  This takes the idea of the Occupy Movement and turns it into just the physical act of being in a location (in this case Red Robin).   By using the word occupy in this fashion, in a way, it almost dismisses the movement as being a big problem.

Another technique that can be seen in our corpus is in the reporting from CNN where the use of semantic prosody produces power relations between the police and protesters as a means of aggressive dominance through certain word associations of police actions. When speaking about how situations unfolded between protesters and police, aggressive adjectives and verbs were often used. Take for example the following excerpts in the collocation lines for police:

Line Left Key Right
28 he Brooklyn Bridge … after multiple warnings by police were given to protesters to stay on the pedestria
121 strators have addressed various issues, including police brutality, union busting and the economy.  LOAD-D
264 trations have addressed various issues, including police brutality, union busting and the economy, the gro
437 eks, demonstrations have addressed issues such as police brutality, union busting and the economy, the gro
565 untries to deny protesters the status of martyrs. Police crackdowns on orderly protests became rare, altho
570 eared heavy-handed. The incident, together with a police officer using pepper spray against female protest
646 arty movement, there were few confrontations with police . But violent rhetoric was often caught on camera
748 dnesday evening, as some protesters scuffled with police , resulting in the arrest of 23 people for various
754 e said five people were detained after charging a police line.  The majority of Wednesday’s protests, howe
766 t Codes (48278-48420) Police Aggression Saturday, police arrested hundreds as they marched across a roadwa
1438 protest tactic,” he told CNN.  Meanwhile, Seattle police arrested six men and one woman who refused orders
1555 KPTV.  “This tonight was, ICodes (101601-101708) Police Aggression think, an unnecessary confrontation th
1673 llowed a crackdown on protesters October 25, when police fired tear gas, and Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen
2271 U.S.  LENGTH: 927 words  DATELINE: San Francisco   Police in riot gear moved intCodes (140478-140752) Polic

The choice of analyzing ‘police’ as the lexical item is key in looking at this certain power relationship, making it a prime candidate that may facilitate the process of uncovering a certain type of ideology in the corpus sample (Adolphs, 2006). The bolded words highlight some of the words that create this negative connotation about the relationship between police and protesters. The use of explicit force with protesters gives police the upper hand and since the reports do not confront the issue, readers are left to accept this as the ‘norm’. These negative, forceful words being used around ‘police’ also paint this image and thus, the meaning of daunting power that appears threatening and harmful. This power is further enforced with the violent actions taken against protesters from police actors and the violent words used to describe protesters’ actions as displayed in the following chart

line Left Key Right
10 AM EST  Police: Hundreds of ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protesters arrested  BYLINE: By the CNN Wire Staff  SECTION:
22 odes (214-402) Police Police arrested hundreds of protesters who occupied an iconic New York bridge during dem
26 ing the roadway, authorities said late Saturday.   Protesters banged drums and chanted, “the whole world is wat
30 e Department.  Browne said authorities had warned protesters they would be arrested if they occupied the roadw
36 n-bound lanes were open during the incident.  The protesters are rallying against what they say are social ine
90 ork protesters.  Video: Police arrest hundreds of protesters in NYC  The lack of coherent message has not stop
113 r being given tickets.  The confrontation came as protesters along the road banged drums and chanted, “The who
166 Wall Street’ protests  On Saturday, more than 700 protesters were arrested for blocking the Brooklyn Bridge. A
748 t turned violent later Wednesday evening, as some protesters scuffled with police, resulting in the arrest of
750 howed police officers wielding batons and forcing protesters to the ground as the officers made arrests. Other
1086 ay Kelly said an investigation is under way after protesters claimed officers used excessive force when corral
1673 807) Police Aggression ke followed a crackdown on protesters October 25, when police fired tear gas, and Iraq
1673 ured skull after being struck in the head by what protesters say was a tear-gas canister.  Occupy groups in ot
1735 arged onCodes (110994-111214) Police Aggression e protesters with aggravated assault and obstruction after the
1769 34) Police Aggression ralia, dragged away several protesters Saturday after they refused to comply with an ord
1785 ities will not charge a motorist who struck three protesters Friday night during a demonstration in Washington
1913 staged a good, old-fashioned sit-in,” she said.   Protesters arrested Sunday were released the same day, accor
2007  November 13, 2011 Sunday 10:28 PM EST   Protesters arrested, challenged as police confront Occupy ac
2109 past several days,” KCBS said.  Also Saturday, 27 protesters were arrested in St. Louis after defying an exist
2201 Codes (135476-135657) Police Aggression d evicted protesters from the Occupy Wall Street site. This comes on t
2318 ers who had been given trespassing citations. The protesters had been demonstrating at the state Capitol groun
2336 Monday, but added it could be dismantled later.   Protesters are meanwhile looking for a private space from wh

These two tables help us draw the conclusion that the relationship between police and protesters is not one of peace and tolerance but one of aggression and violence. The following table displays how when analyzing the word ‘police,’ two of the words most associated were aggression and arrested, which furthers my original conclusion.

Word Count L5 L4 L3 L2 L1 Node R1 R2 R3 R4 R5
aggression 28 0 0 0 1 1 police 20 0 1 2 3
arrested 23 0 1 2 1 1 police 11 1 0 4 2

A final way in which our corpus displays these patterns is in The Seattle Times, which shows bias support of the 99% movement and reproduced power relations in their news stories by those that they chose as sources. When covering news on the Occupy Movement, there are multiple times when protesters are able to have the floor and speak for themselves. While running a collocation of the word “protest,” the word “said” and “protest” co-occurred near each other 27 times. In addition, the word “protesters” appeared within these 30 articles a total of 136 times. One example of such inclusion of protesters as sources include:

“Liam Wright, 24, of Seattle, said protesters received word about 10 p.m. there might be arrests. ‘So we called people to defend the occupation,’ he said, ‘but the cops never showed up.’”

The use of the word “protesters” and the representation of protesters as sources in the news articles set up a pattern of inclusion of people who are protesting in the Occupy Movement. Since The Seattle Times is a more liberal newspaper, reproducing power relations of protesters could be a subtle way of producing the ideological viewpoints of liberals. According to Wodak and Meyer, ideology is the representations of the world, which contribute to establishing and maintaining relations of power (Wodak, 2009). Since liberals are for the people and the protesters claim to be “the people” or “the 99%,” then including and representing protesters in a more liberal newspaper is expected.

By using these different methods of analysis catered to each type of discourse genre, we were pointed towards the concept of ideology of power relations and how, by employing such strategies in discourse, the media has a way of selecting, creating, and establishing power relations in the social realm (Fairclough, Mulderring, & Wodak, 2009).


Throughout our research, it was easy for us to see that although conducted in different ways, both mass media reportings from CNN and comical coverage from South Park, SNL, and the Colbert Report dismissed the seriousness of the Occupy Wall Street Movement and kept it from gaining proper momentum while disempowering protesters and subjecting them to the portrayals of being an ‘out-group’. However, our more local news from Seattle Times helped to elevate the protesters by giving them a voice and not belittling their demands.

Our key findings of popular culture’s comical dismissal and CNN’s bug crushing semantics disempowered the Occupy Wall Street protesters which in turn takes away the critical element of the movement’s purpose. It was refreshing, however, to know that our beloved Seattle stayed true to it’s liberal roots and gave it’s occupiers a voice to chant it’s feelings to the world.

A social phenomenon that was disturbing to realize at the end of this research was that those who run mainstream news and profit-driven popular culture have created a discourse surrounding Occupy that make the public not take it seriously. We, ourselves, did not think much of this movement until we were asked to study it in depth in this class project. Knowing that we were subjected to and had succumb to what could be an over arching goal of those considered the “1%”, was quite chilling. It has made us critical thinkers of how and where we get our information while questioning what or whose agenda is behind what is being projected.


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