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.

Education factory

Education factory

Reproducing “education” within the occupy movement: How mainstream media reproduce and reflect the changing and contradictory nature of “education” in current society



In 2007 the United States economy was well on its way to a historical down turn and was quickly heading to reach record highs in individual states along with national unemployment rates not seen since the Great Depression. Corporate America quickly began seeking ways to control this situation. In the beginning companies began restructuring benefit packages, freezing pay, and limiting hiring. As financial analysts continued to report that the future would continue to look bleak for several more years to come, many employers had no other option than to begin reducing their workforce. At the same time, a record number of young adults (18 to 24), about 40% of high school graduates, were enrolling in colleges and universities nationwide (USA Today, 2009). In September of 2011 many American college students enduring extreme economic woes, mounting educational debt, and no hope of finding gainful employment even after obtaining a college degree, organized and joined the ‘Occupy Wall Street Movement’. During this period of time, we began seeing various modes of dialogue that is reproducing and transforming how our society is now portraying education. This has led to interesting and diverse power relations that is proving to be very prevalent in the midst of our country’s unemployment status, specifically within the discourse surrounding the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Accordingly, although education has been commonly prophesied as a means to success and greater opportunities, through the analysis of the language use within USA:Today news, as a widely popular news media throughout and around the U.S. (“Gannett: 2011 Annual Report”, 2011), we see an interesting dichotomy forming where education is affiliated with the opposite results; hence the importance of deconstructing, and re-examining influences of public and personal values, ideologies, and sentiments about this issue. (E, G. P., 2000) Consequently, a critical discourse analysis of these texts seems to suggest a mutual negative sentiment of students as participants in the Occupy Movement, in association with the financial demise and the betrayal of the promise of “education”. Here, we will discuss the ways in which education is represented through language, in the context of varying elements such as finances, which help us to understand its nature, value, and meaning within our current society.


Discourse analysis is increasingly referred to as a cross discipline composed of many methods quantitative and qualitative, rather than a single method of research. This is due to its interdisciplinary and eclectic nature as a postmodern “school or paradigm” utilizing a problem-oriented approach characterized by an interest in “demystifying ideologies and power through the systematic and retroductable investigation of semiotic data (written, spoken or visual)” (Wodak and Meyer, 2009). This view of discourse analysis assumes that texts are socially constitutive and produce varying power relations as a result, also emphasizing rigorous self-reflection on the part of the analyst due to its constructivist nature. Additionally, we took a mostly retroductive approach to this analysis moving between theory and patterns according to our topic of focus. For this analysis our group decided to focus on “USA Today” news genre known for condensing new stories down to an easy-to-read and easy-to-comprehend format. It remains the most widely circulated daily, print newspaper in the United States (“Gannett: 2011 Annual Report”, 2011). We feel that by directing our focus to “USA Today,” and “USA Today: College” specifically, we will be able to better understand how education is being portrayed in the Occupy Wall Street Movement through a very dominant, widespread, and easily accessible source. This may reveal how popular media intended for the general public is constructed and its potential influences on our perception of events, subjects/topics/issues, categories of people, and our social position or role in society. Our group collected the data through the “USA Today: College” website using the keywords (“occupy movement” or “99 percent movement” or “the 1%” or “OWS”) and (“student” or “education” or “college”), we included all the articles that we found separately according to the date ranges September to October, November to December, January to February, and February to present using the above search parameters as data in this corpus. We approximately used about 120 articles for this corpus which summed up to 91,152 words. The type-token ratio was .1104085. These parameters helped us assess specifically how “education” is associated in the current occupy movement as centered in the U.S. We believed that the words that we used in our search criteria encompassed all terms generally used in newspapers such as USA Today to indicate discourse related to education and the occupy movement. The date ranges were chosen so that it covers the time period the present “occupy movement” was and is taking place. According to the number of articles and the number of words, the size of the corpus seems average and is consistent with the readings we have read so far. For example a very small corpus, according to Baker et al. (2008) is about 2500 words. Furthermore, we could use the type-token ratio, calculated by dividing the number of tokens by the number of types (Adolphs, 2006), which is, in this case, .1104085, indicating that this is a fairly complex or dense corpus, also considering that certain symbols which did not seem to have any semantic function within the corpus were counted as different types as well. Accordingly, in analyzing our corpus of “USA:Today” articles we use word lists, concordance tables and collocation through the program KWIC to find out frequency of word occurrence, collocated words pointing to semantic preference or semantic reversal, as well as their cotext. For this purpose, we focused on words that related to education within these articles talking about the occupy movement and found useful to examine the words “student(s)”, “college” and “education”, “graduate”, “degree”, “(un)employment” or “job(s)” because they occurred most frequently (students – 314 times; college – 284 times; student – 227 times,education – 103 times, and jobs – 97 times etc…) within the corpus; as well as the overall structuring of the texts drawing upon methodologies of paradigmatic choices, syntagmatic choices, semantic reversal, legitimation and pragmatics, constituting them in theories of structuralism and functionalist structuralism, as we found applicable to this corpus.


Drawn from the data that KWIC derived, the word “college” was often used in the perspective of students, as active participants in the movement, which was a noticeable and re-occurring pattern within the corpus of “USA Today: College” articles. However, we also found that these students were also being framed as passive recipients of this information, outside the movement (also outside the text), and thus assigning a specific role encompassing attitudes and behaviors used to convey who is considered a student and what characteristics define a student in relation to the occupy movement. Not only did we find that college students were given a strong voice within the movement, but we were also able to identify a specific research topic, and specific audience. The triangle of communication looked like this: College students and college graduates, as speakers, encompass a large number of the protesters of the Occupy Movement, speaking on the topic of education, spoken to those who are interested in college. This insight allowed us to interpret what the students themselves, as portrayed here, had to say about education, within the Occupy Movement. With this pattern, we were able to be more specific about what exactly was being spoken about. Digging deeper into the texts we were able to notice several patterns that reflected the portrayals of education through student experiences and the positioning of the student in particular ways within the discourse.

The contradictory nature of the value of education as constructed throughout the corpus in relation to popular beliefs

Through meso-analysis of our texts, we were then able to focus on the trends within our corpus regarding our particular topic of study and bring to bear additional patterns (Fairclough, 2003). In some instances, college was being described as a positive and highly recommended means of success in the job market, as represented in one article stating, “Yes a college education is worth the costs.”  In other instances, the word “college” was described as resulting in a pit of debt, represented in an article stating, “I can’t find my future. I looked in college. I found debt.”  The Occupy Movement, being about the movement of the labor industry, the prominence of education proves that financial inequalities that result from college are a driving factor in the dissatisfaction with the structure of society. Regardless of the fact that the semantic preference in bigrams such as “college graduates” and “college education” that carry a connotative meaning of accomplishment and success, in the context of the Occupy Movement, “college” was frequently being presented in collocation of lexical bundles such as “college debt,” “college loan,” college tuition,” and “ college costs.” (Sinclair, 1998)

#1 “Go to school, work hard and get ahead or your money back, is what the popular conception of American opportunity might have been. Instead, millions of Americans find themselves unemployed and underemployed . . . this feeling of betrayal is expressed in backlash towards the system and towards an investment of which they have yet to see a return.”

#2 “The Occupy Wall Street movement has found support on college campuses across the country. Many of these students feel that the crushing rise in student loan debt and a weak job market makes the promise of success offered from their degree worthless.”

#3 “With so many of my peers under the chokehold of chronic student loan debt and a youth unemployment rate that nearly triples the national average, how can we not feel that our generations shot at the American dream is slipping away?”

In nearly all of the cases student protesters have voiced their concern about how the value of a college education has been or continue to be more of a burden than as a path to a better future.These findings were of particular interest because higher education has been portrayed as a road to a wealthy future, but what we were finding was a pattern of education as a contributing factor towards much of the country’s financial inequality which is associated with poor well-being. With this knowledge, we discovered a new and interesting meaning that “college” takes on based on how it is used, since meaning is contingent on shared cultural knowledge.

Positioning of students as one of the large number of competitors to limited resources or benefits available in society

Within the above pattern we see a particular reproduction of the role and position of the “student” in society. It is the construction of the student as recipients of the benefits created by the economy or by authorities constituted within social institutions. They are also portrayed to be competing for limited resources in the society with a heterogeneous group of other people. The following excerpts exemplify this pattern:

#1 Graduates are vying for jobs not only with fellow classmates, but also with workers who already have two or three years of experience, returning retirees shocked by an instability in savings and even stay-at-home moms returning to the workplace for financial purposes.

#2 Going beyond your course requirements and leaving the lecture hall can give students an added bonus when it comes to their education and their post-college job perspectives. It is no longer good enough to simply have your resume state that you received your degree. Employers are looking for workers who will stand out amongst the other applicants; they are looking for employees who know who they are and what they are good at.

#3 In order to maintain in this super-competitive world, young people have to find ways to separate themselves from applicants with more experience and more polished resumes. This is where advanced education becomes an area that gives young people a trump card. Everything from a master’s degree to a doctorate to a JD enables students to achieve employment in a field they desire.

#4 The point is, in a job market plagued by high unemployment, one sure-fire way to catch the eye of potential employers is pursuing higher levels of education.

This pattern of representation can be seen as demonstrating the socially constitutive-ness of discourse (Gill, 2000) as well as providing and establishing a certain number of positions for the audience to situate within (Blum-Kulka, S., & Hamo, M., 2011). In this case there seems to be only a very limited set of choices which all fall under the category of “one-pitted against the other”, whether it is among employed or unemployed individuals seeking to earn a decent living under limited employment opportunities or whether it is among the top 1% of the world’s wealthiest or the rest of the 99 % seeking for a fair share of the wealth. These positions can also be seen as constituting what Stuart Hall (1997) calls the relational quality of meaning, where binaries are always valued as a way of establishing meaning or identifying one from others.

Social positioning of students in opposition to established social structures or institutions.

Although, words such as “solidarity”, “non-violent”, or “peaceful”, are used to characterize the movement, this is almost always contradicted when describing actual actions of the students within the movement. For instance, the metaphorical usage of words such as “mobilization”, “stampede”, “fight”,“demand” to describe the actions of students in the movement, very often in the corpus, conveys a militaristic or violent environment where certain groups or individuals are polarized against each other. This polarization is mainly constructed in relation to established social structures or institutions (including their enforced ideologies); also creating a polarization between individuals or groups as either for or against these institutions and their hegemonic influences.

#1 In solidarity with UC Davis , UC Berkeley, CUNY Schools and all students who are defending their right to protest against rising tuition cost and out of control student debt. We ask you to STRIKE! No work, no school ¨please join together in a central area of your choosing and stand up against the VIOLENCE and SUPPRESSION that is happening in our schools,¡± the website states.

#2 For most of Wednesday, peace prevailed at the rallies in Oakland, even attracting families, some taking their children along in strollers.

#3 Occupy Wall Street protesters in cities across the nation have taken to the streets as part of a nationwide show of solidarity.

#4 The protest Friday was held in support of the overall Occupy Wall Street movement and in solidarity with protesters at the University of California, Berkeley who were jabbed by police with batons on Nov. 9.

#5 Elsewhere in the U.S. on Saturday, protesters assembled in Albuquerque, N.M., Boston and Los Angeles to express their solidarity with the movement in New York, though their demands remain unclear.

#6 “In a country that has been plagued by misguided bipartisanship, we are, and have been for many years now, in desperate need of something that surmounts party lines and quite literally brings us together,” a staff editorial notes in City on a Hill Press, the campus paper at the University of California, Santa Cruz. “And Occupy Wall Street has done just that. The sheer quantity of individuals in the mobilization shows the American people feel like there is something worth fighting for.”

#7 Occupy Wall Street: College media join the coverage stampede

#8 With so many American students facing the uncertainty created by greed and political corruption, we must now make a choice. We can either continue partying like we just don’t care, or we can stand up now and demand a better future.

Consequently, this pattern of representation can be seen as reproducing capitalist sentiments (structuralism) of an unrelenting competition; also reconstituting the positions audience can take ( functionalist-structuralism) in relation to these circumstances (Gill, 2000). These would be to either agree with and actively engage in the occupy movement accepting all of its characteristics as represented including its violent actions framed as non-violent assembly as constructed within these texts or go against it and embrace the consumerist competition. This positioning of the audience in this particular way in the context of this movement can also be seen through the lens of pragmatics which says discourse can be realized as a social act (Blum-Kulka, S., & Hamo, M., 2011).


In conclusion, our group agrees that this analysis allowed us to see certain contradictions to how education is portrayed; specifically through the reproduction and positioning of students through the language used to represent their views, actions and role or status in society.  To be more specific, education is traditionally made to mean as a means for knowledge production which was later (historically) associated with higher status in society due to the exclusiveness of its institutions to those individuals from privileged backgrounds. However, as time passed with the emphasis on democracy and individual rights education became associated with equal opportunity, hope and justice. Although the nature and goals of education changed overtime, and with it, its curriculum and ways of instruction, these historical conceptions of education seem to have somehow accumulated through time without really adapting to its current structure. This may be attributed to its current competitive nature (especially in the U.S.) which tries to market its institutions appealing to the public, reproducing its “nostalgic” conceptions. Notwithstanding, American college students enduring extreme economic woes, mounting educational debt, and no hope of finding gainful employment even after obtaining a college degree have joined hands to  reveal, and re-examine the true nature of education (as produced by social institutions). Therefore, through a sample of texts, i.e. USA Today: College, we are able to see an emergence of an interesting new power dynamic in the portrayals of the actual participants of education, i.e. students, within a socially constructed movement, i.e. the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

This emergence could be seen as, within the context of this movement, the 99% acquiring a change to speak up against the 1% in regards to the lack of progression in the labor industry. The mere fact that college students inhabit a large number of the participants within the movement enables us to recognize that college students are struggling in the job market. After qualitatively and quantitatively analyzing the sample frame, we are able to move beyond individualized levels of understanding and provide detailed documentation of the correlation between college students and financial inequalities. The quality of this interpretation can be upheld because not only were we, as critical discourse analysts, immersed in the data on a daily basis, we were also living in the words, in reflective ways as college students ourselves. Since we experience life through “transversals,” specifically through economic and cultural ties, our personal materialized settings offer authority to our findings. As analysis with insider status’s we can resonate with what is being said and bring contextual knowledge to the interpretations. Not only in the context of the Occupy Movement, but in the context of our daily lives, we are able to validate the fact that education is proving to be a roadway to the worsening of our financial situations, rather than the betterment of.

Or these patterns of data can also be seen as establishing what is educationally possible within the confines of what is viewed to be politically and economically possible. This is understood through the consistent establishment of education as merely a path for economic advancement, while simultaneously privileging the discourse rhetoric of a consumer-driven capitalist culture through the positioning of students as one of the large number of competitors to limited resources or benefits available in society in a large portion of the corpus; also due to the positioning of students involved in the occupy movement as in opposition to established social structures or institutions in a way that constructs the power of the educationally possible as inferior to what is economically possible. Overall, this analysis seems to demonstrate discourse as socially constitutive, reproducing and reestablishing ideologies and hegemonies of the wider social structure/order that it is situated within (pragmatics and structuralism), also acting socially ( discourse as a social act) to reinforce or to re-confine social actors or participants into positions/roles already available in social structures (Wodak, 2009). This is especially true of a market-driven genre like “USA Today” regulated by a centrally regulated agency that seeks to produce objective truths about the world. Finally, in keeping with the basic premises of discourse studies, these interpretations are by no means a final word about the nature of this data; but rather a specific set of observations, that may be interpreted differently, given the same data, in a way that is consistent with the value placed on specific information, within the corpus, by the observer or analyst. However, the hope is that this would urge the reader to be critically aware of such elements and patterns within daily discourses in order to act in a critically informed way.


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Waging War against the Poor: Representing Wealth in Activist Blogs

Group 17: Jessica Heinmiller, Ali Ladoba, Eric Leung & Erika Samson

Photo By Gretchen Robinette


Our topical focus looks at the phenomenon of wealth, which is an important topic to explore because economic inequality is directly tied to other forms of social inequality. Wealth produces many of our common views and stereotypes about social character, power and prestige. Above all, wealth affects everyone. We are mainly interested in the strategies activists use with language to construct representative identities of members of both the 99% and 1% groups, as implicated by wealth. We examined the strategic use of language by activists to position supporters of the Occupy movement in a way that helps them understand who they are and who they are against.

One of the main themes that we found was the activists’ construction of meaning by classifying specific positive or negative attributes to one of the two separate wealth groups. Activists seek to legitimize the 99% by selectively emphasizing differences between the 99% and the 1%, however, they inadvertently reinforce and effectively reproduce dominant institutionalized ideologies of power and wealth, thereby creating vast differences amongst people, perpetuating stereotypes about people of certain classes.

We begin by first looking at the discourse genre of activist blogs and website, and reviewing the strategies that we used in our analyses of the texts. We will then be able to further our examination with a more comprehensive analysis of the patterns that we considered to be the most significant to our thesis.


Generally, discourse analysis methods are ways for us to understand abstractions and the “reality” of which we live in through language use. We are able to read things through a different lens, as well as on different levels (micro, meso, and macro analysis). The Occupy movement is about how the majority of this country, the 99% middle-/lower-classes, are wanting to close, or at least minimize the class-/income-gap more between them and the nation’s wealthiest people, the 1%. By using discourse analysis methods we are able to take a step further and expand our understanding of the movement by looking at how and why articles and essays are written the way they were, and how those certain strategies connect to the movement.

One strategy we used extensively was qualitative coding, which is the process of constructing “meaningful patterns of facts by looking for structures in the data” (Kelle, 2000). This strategy of coding was the basis for our research. Qualitative coding allowed us to foreground the patterns that came up repeatedly throughout our discourse texts. We also used the strategy of critically viewing the representation of social actors, in order to determine the “socially significant choices in representation of social actors” (Fairclough, 2003). Throughout our research, we were able to find instances where the 99% would represent themselves as the in-group and the 1% as the out-group, emphasizing themselves as the main focus for the movement. Another part of our analysis was to see who was written about through a more personal standpoint, who were active participants in the movement, and who weren’t. This has helped us look further into how wealth has created and enforced characterizations of the upper -and middle-/lower-classes and how it is shown throughout the Occupy movement. We enhanced this strategy by also examining equivalence and difference, which recognizes that “the ‘work’ of classification is constantly going on in texts, with entities being either differentiated from one another, put in opposition to one another, or being set up as equivalent to one another” (Fairclough, 2003). Since we are interested in how activists use language to represent the two different identities of the 1% and the 99%, I employed these two strategies together with the goal of exposing the hidden ideologies that seek to legitimate social inequalities (Rose, 2007).

Since many activists claim to be misrepresented by national and local news media, we wanted to see how the activists represent themselves and their opponents in activist blogs and websites. Activist blogs are extremely important to look at because not only are they politically important, but also they are influential on activists worldwide. Activists are able to express their thoughts and opinions candidly, without anyone from “the outside” to filter their words, showing the public who may be seeking more information what their objective is of this movement. Other activists and supporters of the movement use these texts to understand who they are and who their opponents are.

Our specialized corpus includes texts from a variety of activist blogs and websites, namely, Occupy Everything, Occupied Stories, The Occupied Wall Street Journal, The NeoConArtist. In addition, our group looked at texts from Occupy Seattle, Occupy Oakland and Occupy Boston. We collected a total of 232 texts. All of the texts were produced by activists from September 2011 to May 2012, allowing us to see how the articles have evolved or remained about the same with their language choices. There are a total of 155,960 words in our corpus and a type/token ratio of 0.0842. Our search parameters included the words: Occupy, activist, 1%, 99%, inequality, income and wealth. By having a diverse set of articles that share a common theme of being from activists part of the 99%, we were able to find patterns as to how the activists represented themselves differently from their opponents.

Although activist bogs and websites strive to empower members of the 99% by embodying a call to action, these texts actually reflect the dominant ideology that more wealth is better.

Pattern 1 – Activists use activation and passivation by portraying the 1% as the actors and the 99% as the beneficiaries of the act.

The first pattern that we observed is the activists’ portrayals of the 1% as the actors and the 99% as the beneficiaries of the act. As a result, readers perceive the 1% as the ones with power and the 99% as the powerless ones. I will explain three kinds of activation and passivation techniques which I found to be prevalent. The following is an excerpt that emphasizes activation of the 1%:

(This article, “Why We Need Free Media”, was posted on Occupied Wall Street Journal on April 11, 2012).

“Minneapolis police charged a peaceful march, beating protesters and arresting a dozen people. As described by Occupy Minneapolis: Videos show officers pulling several people off public sidewalks, slamming one violently into the street and deliberately censoring the mainstream and independent press. […] We had hoped to reestablish an occupation to bring attention to social and economic inequality, corporate greed, and the foreclosure crisis, but instead were met with a crackdown by the Minneapolis Police Department.”

In each clause, police are the social actors who are acting by beating, arresting, pulling, slamming, and censoring the activists. Here, the police, representative of the 1%, demonstrate their “capacity for agentive action, for making things happen, for controlling others” (Fairclough, 2003). The 1% have the power to act, in contrast to the 99%, who are depicted as powerless. Now, consider an excerpt that portrays passivation of the 99%:

(This article, “Occupy Turns Up The Heat”, was posted on Cynical Times on March 25, 2012 by Victor Epstein).

“A cop grabbed Messiah and dragged her to the sidewalk by her arm, and then I was pushed on top of the cop who was cuffing her. Another cop was holding on to her by her shirt and then dragged her away, which is when her shirt ripped open, exposing her to the crowd.”

Here, 16-years-old activist Messiah is shown in passivation. She is acted upon by the police, who grabbed, dragged, pushed, and cuffed her; her shirt even ripped by itself, further subjugating her. Her subjection to the processes and eagerness to be affected by the actions of others is accentuated so much that she resembles a victim (Fairclough, 2003). Next, is an excerpt that demonstrates simultaneously, activation of the 1% and passivation of the 99%:

(This article, “11/15 And Moving Forward”, was posted on Occupied Stories on November 18, 2011).

“This man demanded, repeatedly and very clearly, to speak with their supervising officers about the actions they were taking. I saw that man pushed by an officer behind a riot shield, and I caught him before he could fall over a fire hydrant and seriously injure himself. I saw that man bent over a nearby car and arrested with zip ties, and then I saw a woman chanting in defense of the Occupation pepper sprayed in the face.”

The strategic use of activation and passivation reveals the power dynamic of the relationship of the 1% and the 99%. As seen in the excerpt, one activist tries to act, but instead receives a push from the officer. Another activist displays her support for the movement, only to be pepper sprayed. Every action from the 99% prompts a reaction from the 1%. And the reaction appears to be justified merely on the basis of possessing more wealth.

Pattern 2 – Activists create a clear separation among the two wealth groups by categorization.

A second pattern that we saw is activists placing people into different categories within the social world, in this case the categories of wealth, in order to create meaning. Meaning is made through classificatory systems. Examine the following excerpt, which exemplifies categorization:

(This article, “Blogging Occupy USA, for October 1-2: Over 700 Arrests in NYC, Protests Spread Elsewhere”, was posted on The Nation on October 1, 2011).

“2:45 Thanks to @DhaniBagels for noting this, which unites my two current main issues, a sign at protest yesterday in NYC:   “I won’t believe that corporations are people until #Texas executes one.”

Here, an activist claims that corporations are not people because they cannot be executed. This statement visibly differentiates the two wealth groups into two categories. In one category, there are the privileged 1% corporations who cannot be executed by Texas’ laws. In the other category, there are the 99% people who unfortunately can be executed by the laws. The process of categorization shows that the wealthy are more advantaged than the poor. Next is an instance of categorization with a similar classification scheme:

(This article, “November 17: Historic Day of Action for the 99%”, was posted on Occupy Wall Street on November 18, 2011).

“Tens of thousands took action Thursday, November 17 to demand that our political system serve all of us — not just the wealthy and powerful”

Classification and categorization can have a great influence in shaping how readers think and act as social agents (Fairclough, 2003). Like the previous excerpt, this excerpt provides a clear separation of the two wealth groups; it says that our political system serves only the rich and not the poor. Thus, it is better to be wealthy. When activists make demands for equality, like in this excerpt, the result is an emphasis of differences between them and their opponents. And the differences usually reflect the institutionalized ideologies of power and wealth.

Pattern 3 – Activists often portrayed themselves in an impersonal way, disregarding the ideological square.

The following excerpt demonstrates the strategy of personal/impersonal representation:

(This article, “Deep in the Heart of Occupy Austin: Chapter 1”, was posted on Occupied Stories on January 4, 2012).

“The occupy group was as serious as any I’d ever seen, and true to Austin’s form, the homeless alcoholics who peppered the crowd were being surly and uncooperative. When a list went around for people to sign up and speak, a shirtless bum named Tommy signed up, but when his name was called to speak-at least five times-he awoke from a drunken slumber, and then slowly and clumsily sat upright. He wiped the slobber off his chin with the back of his hand and mumbled, “You gonna have to give me a minute,” then he fell back and passed out again. His hairless white beer belly was aglow in the slanting afternoon sun. He looked like a dead goldfish floating belly-up in an old fish bowl, dusty and forgotten on the bottom shelf of humanity.”

Here, the 99% occupiers are associated with the terms: homeless, alcoholics, surly, uncooperative, shirtless bum, drunk, slow, clumsy, beer belly, dusty and forgotten, all of which are negative and impersonal descriptors. As a result, the 99% group gets delegitimized. It becomes hard for readers envision themselves in these representations. The following excerpt shows a similar representation of the 99%:

(This article, “Occupy Wall Street Protesters Win Showdown With Bloomberg”, was posted on The Nation on October 14, 2011).

“We don’t win! We’re the ones who get the shit kicked out of us!”

In this excerpt, 99% occupiers are depicted in an impersonal way. This impersonal representation reduces legitimacy for the 99% by drawing focus on them in a negative way. The impersonal representation dehumanizes the 99%, removing the focus from them as people and representing them as elements of institutional structures (Fairclough, 2003). It is important to note, as well, that the excerpt uses the strategy of in-grouping to make readers feel a part of the 99%. But since the 99% group is represented in an impersonal manner, it makes readers less willing to join with the 99% in-grouping.

Pattern 4 – Activists separated the 99% and the 1% through the strategy of in-group and out-group by using pronouns.

The following excerpt demonstrates an instance where activists refer to themselves as part of the in-group, using the pronoun “we” and the 1% as a part of the out-group by using the pronoun “they”:

(This article, “The Unwinnable War on Dissent”, was posted on Occupy Wall Street on March 20, 2012).

“They want to prevent us from making this spring huge. We won´t let them. When they evicted our encampments, we merely went elsewhere, delved deeper into community organizing, perfected our tactics, and built-up our infrastructure. The police use violence to preserve economic inequality, but this will backfire. Every time they attack us, we grow. With every bloodied Occupier and evicted peaceful protest, the number of people who are disgusted with the status quo rises. The war on dissent is inherently unwinnable. Through sustained nonviolent resistance in the face of escalating repression, their legitimacy wanes and our power grows. The whole world is watching. Spring is coming. We are getting ready.”

The activists tended to refer to the 1% with a negative tone attached whereas referring to themselves as peaceful and innocent in comparison. For example, “Every time they attack us; we grow”. The clear use of ‘they’ and ‘we’ represent the in-grouping and out-grouping along with paradigmatic choice by using words like ‘attack’ when referencing the ‘out group’ (the 1%) portrays them to be violent and malicious. This pattern represents how the 99% portray themselves as to be a part of the in group by referring to the 1% as ‘they’ and themselves as ‘we’ or ‘us.” Additionally, this excerpt displays the strategic use of activation and passivation explained earlier, in which the 1% evidently have agency in the excerpt and the 99% are subjected to that agency. This juxtaposes the image of the two groups, where the 1% are violent and capable of acting, and the 99% are peaceful and only receive the effects of acts. Consider the next excerpt that ties paradigmatic choice with in-group and out-group:

(This article, “Occupy Wall Street and the Importance of Creative Protest”, was posted on The Nation on November 21, 2011 by Allison Kilkenny).

“And the one percent find such evolved protest—this kind of global awakening—absolutely bone-chillingly terrifying. If the elites can no longer exploit xenophobia, red state–blue state civil war, racism, sexism or homophobia, how will they keep the underclass bickering while they run off with the country’s wealth?”

Based off of what Wodak and Mayer said about paradigmatic choice, the fact that in this example the 99% was questioning the out-group’s intentions and thoughts, leads you to believe that they are bad and that they plan to act on it. You as the reader are led to this idea by the discourse around the specific words and text we are analyzing, unaware that this language is allowing you to paint a picture in your mind generating ‘they’ as the “bad guys.” In the excerpt, “they” are also marked by the descriptor of “elites”, while the 99% are distinguished as “the underclass”. This was a paradigmatic choice by choosing to portray the two wealth groups in these particular terms. It also reveals which group is valued by society and has power. Once again, the 1% are depicted as the actors with agency in this excerpt. The in-group and out-group clearly show that the two groups are separated by wealth.


Although activists try to legitimize the 99% by emphasizing certain differences between the 99% and the 1%, they unknowingly reproduce the dominant institutionalized ideologies of power and wealth. Each of the patterns that I explored throughout the essay supports this notion. First, wealth enables actions: the 1% are activated, while the 99% are passivated. Second, wealth justifies social groups: the 1% are classified as a privileged group within the system, while the 99% are classified as an excluded group from the system; the 99% in-group is overlooked by the system. Third, wealth legitimates social groups: the 99% are shown in negative and impersonal representations. Now, we must consider the implications of these claims on a broader scale.

We come to understand the phenomenon of wealth by viewing its representations in media. As with any phenomenon, our understanding of wealth is cultivated over time, by our repeated exposure to the same messages. If we continue to see typical representations that mirror the dominant institutionalized ideologies, from traditional news media as well as activist blogs and websites, sooner or later, we may unintentionally adopt those belief systems and come to believe that the wealthy are better than the poor. This study reveals how activist blogs and websites serve as an instrument that conversely strengthens the status quo by positioning readers to embrace the institutionalized ideologies.


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

Hien, D., & Honeyman, T. (2000). A closer look at the drug abuse-maternal aggression link. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 15, 503-522. Retrieved from

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

Nielsen, M. E. (n.d.). Notable people in psychology of religion. Retrieved from

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

Robinette, G. (Photographer). (2012). Retrieved from

Rose, G. (2007). Chapter 5: Semiology: Laying bare the prejudices beneath the smooth surface of the beautiful. Visual methodologies: An introduction to the interpretation of visual materials (74-106). Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.

Wodak, Ruth, and Michael Meyer. “Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis.” Version Second Edition. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 May 2012.

Class Struggle: Education and Social Class in the New York Times, USA Today and Los Angeles Times

Group 4: Chelsea Alfano, Vinly Phetsoumphou, Bunsong Phe, Sarah Chhoukdean, Stella Koh


While studying the Occupy Movement, our group focused on both social class and education to determine how belonging to different social classes change the way in which a person is feels about the Occupy Movement. We knew that there is a correlation between social class and education, so we knew that by looking at the highest level of education attained and comparing it to how active of a participant a person was within the Occupy Movement, we could be confident that this reflected the way in which each social class felt about the Occupy Movement.

This is important information to have when studying the Occupy Movement because it is a good starting point for figuring out who is or is not involved in the Occupy Movement. When we are able to figure out demographics, we are then able to move into more specifics about who is being heard within the movement and who is not being heard from at all. We wanted to figure out if people with different education levels were being represented differently within the texts. We analyzed texts to see who was being heard from and who was only being represented through the journalists. If there is a difference in involvement levels in the Occupy Movement between more educated and less educated people, then there will be a difference in who is speaking for themselves and who is being spoken about within the texts as well.


Our group collected data based on Newspaper reports from New York Times, USA Today and Los Angeles Times by looking at different regions of America. Specifically, We focused on the East and West coast. The date ranges we are gathering our articles from are between January 2012 and the present. We drew a sub- sample from all the newspaper coverage on different levels of social class. We feel that this is an important set of public texts to look at because we are interested in looking at how the language was used based on the words: Education, poor, wealthy, social class, and power struggle. Not to mention, these three news sources are well established and can be viewed almost anywhere in both print and online.

Discourse analysis is a method used to analyze written, spoken, or signed language. This form of analysis was helpful in looking at news articles pertaining to the Occupy Movement because articles surrounding the movement run the gamut from violence to changes people hope to see in the near future. The two main methods for such analysis are corpus linguistics and qualitative coding; under these methods are tools for more in-depth research. Corpus linguistics includes examining word frequencies, collocation tables, concordance lines, and being able to compare corpora to the entire corpus. Qualitative coding is more general, looking into key themes and language usage relating to a specific topic, in this case, Occupy Wall Street. Discourse analysis allows people to see a hierarchy of language and people.


Mentioned before, our corpus consists of three major news sources, New York Times, USA Today and the Los Angeles Times. At first, we started out with five news sources, but we realized we had compiled too many texts to analyze. From there, we decided to pick three news sources from different regions of the United States giving a better representation of opinions in all of the US. In order to make sure our information was up to date, we decided to analyze articles published from January 2012 and on. Approximately 20 to 60 articles came up for each news source after entering “education” and “occupy movement” into the search engine. The New York Times had the most articles written surrounding these two terms. In the end, these choices left us with a thought-out corpus ready to be analyzed more closely.


First Pattern: Power Struggle

“There is a lot of power struggle going on within the texts”

One big aspect of power struggle happened between the police and the protesters, with examples of the police arresting hundreds of protesters. Most of the time when journalists would talk about the arrests, they would not mention why a protester was being arrested. Rather, they would state the amount of people who were arrested by police officers. This in itself is taking power away from the protestors and giving it to the police because the journalists are criminalizing the protestors by simply stating that they were arrested and not giving an explanation as to why. With the type of linguistics used, it makes the reader feel as if the protesters who are being arrested are guilty since the text fails to explain why they are being arrested (Cameron 124). This goes along with the article Working with Spoken Discourse because Cameron talks about how wording can change the way in which an issue is framed, which can then shape the reality that is being formed (125).

Power struggle came about between the different social classes and whether or not they were able to represent themselves within the text. By choosing to include interviews from some people, mainly those who had graduated college and were now concerned about paying off student loans, and excluding others, those who do not have student loans or never went to college, journalists are creating a power struggle between people. This happens because those people who get to speak are the ones who can give an accurate representation of themselves and how they feel about the Occupy Movement. When people are not able to speak for themselves, they are stripped of that chance to be able to define themselves and how they feel about the Occupy Movement.

“Power struggle came between the upper class and the rest of society”

Throughout the texts, there are numerous examples of people being interviewed that believe we should tax the rich more and that the rich are receiving too much money in the form of bonuses. What people want to do is to put blame onto Wall Street for the economic crises that the United States is facing, so they feel that the solutions presented are ones that will solve the crises that we are currently facing. Both of these examples again go along with what Cameron says about how the wording of text can shape the reality of people (125).

Second Pattern: Social Class

“Those who are in higher social class voice their opinions more than those who are in a lower social class”

Most prevalent was that when there was someone who spoke, he or she was from a higher social class rather than a lower class. For example, in the LA Times Katehi is a chancellor at UC Davis, “As she spoke Monday, Katehi, a Greek-born electrical engineer who became chancellor at UC Davis in August 2009, ignored calls from the crowd for her resignation. But her actions and those of the police are sure to be scrutinized in the weeks ahead; UC leaders, state politicians, the American Civil Liberties Union and national education organizations have decried the incident.” Because she is of a higher social class, she has more power and is able to voice her opinions more.

In the LA Times, there are also no voices of the poor. Rather a person of a higher class is speaking on the lower classes half. For instance, “Daniel Hurley, an official at the American Assn. of State Colleges and Universities, said Monday that many schools nationwide see the pepper-spray incident at UC Davis as a ‘terrible overreaction on the part of campus police.’ Public colleges ‘have a remarkably proud tradition in this country of being venues of free speech and peaceful demonstrations,’ Hurley said.” This shows that they had an official speaking for the student body.

“Wealth” was used far more frequently than “Poor”

The term wealthy was used in a wide variety of ways, but mainly in use for describing people or regarding those of higher social standing. The words within the corpus most frequently used around wealthy were filler terms such as “the, a, in, to, for”, however, following these words more important words such as “people, Americans, economic, higher, rich” were being used. This demonstrates its popular usage to describe people, specifically Americans. Not to mention, when analyzing the KWIC results we noticed a correlation between wealthy and the best schools/students. Therefore, it re-confirms our assumptions that those with a higher quality education generally are richer; due to this they have a lower interest in the Occupy Movement.

We can see that a person’s education can affect their whole outlook on life; but it also our elicits our flaw as a nation of keeping the poor, poor because they are limited with options of a better life with their less-equipped schools. All of this information gives me a better insight into our topical focus regarding people’s social status and their involvement with Wall Street.

“Those that differ in social class and education level have different opinions of the Occupy Movement”

One way that we can see the distinguishable differences in opinions of the upper class and the middle class can be seen in the discourse provided within the text itself. The wealthy argue that they are job creators and Occupy Wall Street argues that having tax cuts for the wealthy only heightens the inequality gap. We can pragmatically witness this in their discourse. For example, a January 25th 2012 New York Times article about income inequality and the Occupy Movement included the following excerpts:

Others say that this self-flagellation is misguided. Raising taxes on high earners or restricting their pay will do nothing to increase economic growth or to create jobs, said Ben Verwaayen, chief executive of Alcatel-Lucent, the French telecom company.

“If you are standing outside the job market today and you think inequality is the problem, you have an ugly surprise coming,” Mr. Verwaayen said. “If you want to kick the cat, kick the cat. If it makes you feel better, fine. But if the pie is not growing, we’re not, we’re not going to create jobs.”

Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase: “I just think this constant refrain, ‘bankers, bankers, bankers’ – it’s just a really unproductive and unfair way of treating people,” he said. “People should just stop doing that.”

You can see that Mr. Verwaayen and Mr. Dimon are representing the upper echelon of wealth and can be what many consider the “1 percent.” Mr. Verwaayen’s discourse is especially evident of this opposition of the movement with his in-group and out-group dialogue. He constantly refers to the supporters of the movement and the movement itself as “you”; a total of five times. He is clearly not in favor of the movement and believes it is a false cause. This reinforces his social status by referring to the Occupy Movement as the pronoun ‘you’ and experiencing himself ‘Activated’ as job creators (Fairclough, 2003). Mr. Dimon also thinks that the movement is unproductive and unfair to blame the wealthy for The United States’ inequality problem. This is opposed to those who are middle class where there is a different opinion of the movement:

Yet even as Mr. Dimon was speaking, a new wave of anger was welling up, one that, over the last year, would shake up old assumption about the ultrarich, the middle class and the growing gulf that separates them.

Third Pattern: Education

“Participants who have higher education such as a college degree or graduates are likely to participate in the occupy movement”

During the Month from January to Present, New York Times interviewed and covered stories centered on people who are most likely college students or college graduates participating in the Occupy movement. For example, “Having complete college at the University of Illinois and graduated school, decided to devote herself to the moment” or “Occupy groups see a movement struggling… Jesse Klein, a graduate student in sociology at Florida State University”. These students that were interviewed were college or college graduates  who voiced out their opinions on the movement which can be an example of collocation that is used in quantitative analysis because the words next student had the word “graduate”  which a trend of proximity of “co-occurrence of words” are next to each other.

“College students who are in the top 1% have no opinion on the Occupy movement”

Those who are the top 1% are the ones that can pay for expensive college tuition and “majority of the students who attend best schools are likely to be wealthy”. According to the New York Times, in 2010 undergraduate students who graduated from a University or college graduates with $250,000 in student loans and students that were involved in the movement were activist that feel pressured financially. College students and Graduate students want ‘equality in higher education’. The occupy movement is composed of students who are low-income and middle-class individuals that are protesting to denounce corporate greed. Students who have higher education are likely to participate in the movement feeling upset due to the inequities in our economic system and that the American Dream of middle-class living is slowly falling away from them. That means equality through students with lower and middle-class economic standing should share the same footing and opportunities as those who are in 1 percent upper class.

“Majority of students support the Occupy Movement”

By the end of our research we concluded that one of the influential discourse came from students. Students are the future and lifeblood of America. Examining and analyzing the data we see that a majority of students either support the Occupy Movement and some even seem to acknowledge being apart of it. Excerpts in a January 22nd, 2012 New York Times article is an example:

Guido Girgenti, 19, Sophomore, urban and environmental policy Occidental College:

HOPING TO ACCOMPLISH A constitutional amendment banning corporate funding in politics. The most important goal, however, is transforming our society so that our deep commitment to justice becomes our nation’s first priority. Occupy Wall Street is the movement we were waiting for. In a very deep way, young people like me longed for something larger and more transformative.

This excerpt gives insight on student support of the Occupy Movement. It preaches justice in transforming our society and states that Occupy Wall Street is the movement we were waiting for. These are strong opinions concerning our current political and economic landscape. In the same interview we can see that students not only support the movement but some also feel apart of it:

BEST OCCUPY MOMENT When we had our first mass student meeting. It was, like, 45 students and 30 adults. Nobody knew each other, and we had a meeting for an hour and a half about how students can play a role in revitalizing American democracy.

Guido Girgenti is interviewed about his “best occupy moment” which associates him as a member of the Occupy Movement and its goals. The article consists of interviews just as the one given to Mr. Girgenti and all of them have students as activists with similar goals as Occupy. The fact that student interviews about the Occupy Movement have an article all on its own shows how important the student population is in discourse. We can also see the importance the lexical term “student” has in our corpus as it has a word frequency of 340 times. Legitimation is done through words such as ‘justice’ and ‘Occupy Wall Street is the movement we’ve been waiting for’ showing strategies of moral evaluation and mythopoesis (Fairclough, 2003).


In conclusion, the patterns we discovered through our research showed that the people who are a part of the middle class receive the most extensive coverage within the corpus for the Occupy Movement. As education levels increase in the middle class, the more important these people become to the Occupy Movement since they have to take out student loans in order to pay for their schooling. The upper and lower classes are only referenced to in the corpus, but they do not get to speak for themselves very often meaning that they are not able to construct their own reality of what it means to belong to their social classes.

This analysis helps us understand how education affects the way people think about the Occupy Movement. It also helps us to understand the power struggle that goes on within the movement itself, showing us that the movement itself is not unified together; rather it is divided up into education and class levels.


Cameron, D. (2001). Working with spoken discourse. London: Sage Publications.

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

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

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

A Place in Class: The Rising Gap of the Rich and the Poor

Group 7: Starr Burroughs, Ruby Fung, Mathis Jessen, Vanessa Yuan


Income inequality is becoming a phenomenal problem in the United States and is representing the underlying issue of the Occupy movement. Our goal is to understand more about both the cause of the rising gap between the rich and poor in the U.S and how it is talked about in the public. By analyzing how National Public Radio (NPR) represents the Occupy Movement, we can then uncover the ways social categories are portrayed in these texts. We also want to examine how social categories are determined or defined. We are interested in how NPR, being one of the first news sources to cover the Movement, positions its readers to think of themselves and how it places readers in a certain place in society through its discourse. It is important to study the role of mass media outlets such as NPR because they play a key role in how we understand the world around us.

In our analysis, joblessness is portrayed as the cause of income inequality, which is the driving force of the Occupy Movement.  We argue that NPR categorizes groups of people into social classes regarding income inequality, and that it creates power relationships through binaries. Our findings show us that income inequality leads to classification of social categories; which are defined by money and often expressed as opposing binaries.

We will now examine the patterns we found in our corpus that support our thesis. We will illustrate this claim by using discourse analysis tools from the Corpus Linguistics (CL) and Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) approaches. This approach will allow us to narrow the focus of our large corpus to a more specified and in depth sub-corpus that deals specifically with income inequality.  We will also provide examples and explanations for the patterns and key findings we discovered during our research.


Discourse Analysis is a wide variety of styles of approaches to the study of texts that have developed from theoretical traditions and disciplinary locations (Gill, 1997). Although discourse analysis does not produce broad empirical generalization, the detailed argument and attention to the material produces an interpretation and they influence and shape society (2000). Among different discourse analysis approaches, Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and Corpus Linguistics (CL) will be used in the following analysis.

Corpus linguistics (CL) will give us the quantitative data we need to examine how the text is socially constitutive (texts as organizing society) in the way that NPR classifies and categorizes groups of people into certain social classes (Van Dijk, p. 358). We utilized the CL tools: paradigmatic choice, semantic preference, collocation and concordance, and cotext. Corpus Linguistics helps us analyze concordance lines and what we could learn from the cotext. Word choice around social class labels can tell us what is said about these social classes and how they are defined. We are using collocation to see what kinds of words—the semantic prosody around the texts about social classes and the inequalities around the social categories. Semantic prosody will show us the meaning a word like “middle class” takes based on the company it takes, and how it is different compared to the meaning another class might take. These differences can show us the inequalities between the classes through text.

We then switched towards the Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) approach, which is known to be a more qualitative and in depth method where one takes into account the context surrounding the codes (Baker et al., 2008). This means that Critical Discourse Analysis looks closely at the relation of society and language in order to understand the concepts of power relations (Fairclough, Mulderrig and Wodak, 2011). There is always a relation of power between the poles of a binary opposition as there is hardly any neutral binary opposition.  Binary opposition consists of two poles of matters and can be used to analyze the notation between the rich and the poor. CDA sees discourse as a form of social practice as that it is socially constitutive as well as socially conditioned. Since it’s socially consequential, it gives rise to important issues of power. (Wodak, 2009). Our analysis showed us how much we were influenced in the meaning making process by using the in-depth Critical Discourse Analysis approach.

Our group is focusing on NPR,  National Public Radio. We think that it is an important news sourse to focus on because it is dominant with its position as a national syndicator to a network of 900 public radio stations in the United States. NPR is politically influential, and it stands out among other publications because of its conversational tone – individuals’ words are recorded verbatim, and allow the reader/listener to get a realistic understanding of their struggles and frustrations about the unequal income distribution in our country, as well as first-hand experience in the 99% Movement.  Moreover, NPR is widely accessible for almost everyone. Since it is radio broadcast, one does not need to be able to read, which allows to reach an even larger audience than newspapers could. This means that its discourse can be very influential in its meaning making process across the country regarding the issue of income inequality and the Occupy Movement. We were able to use transcripts to do a discourse analysis on the language that is used in their reports of the Occupy Movement about social class. An in-depth discourse analysis can show us how millions of U.S citizens form their understanding of our current political and economic situation regarding social classes and inequality.

We collected our data using LexisNexis through the library database in the University of Washington. We used “Occupy Wall Street” as our search parameters and have sampled a total of 120 texts from October 2011 and November 2011. There are a total of 185444 words in our corpus. The type/token ratio is calculated by dividing token (185444) by type (9139), which is 20.29. The higher the type-token ratio, the less varied the text in its level of lexical complexity. (Adolphs, 2006) We chose this sampling frame because the 99% Movement really gained momentum and became popular in October of 2011, and we wanted to see if the momentum remained through November, and it did. We also thought that “Occupy Wall Street” is frequently mentioned in the media, and having a broach search term allowed us get as much information as possible.  More specific terms were included in texts that already had our broad search term.  The mainstream genre, NPR, gave us view into vulnerable individuals who are struggling as the 99%.


Pattern 1: Jobs are portrayed as very difficult to get and the cause of income inequality in our society

The excerpts taken from our corpus revealed that the individuals interviewed found many reasons why jobs were hard to come by, and the frustration and anger it caused.  Reviewing the context of those who were interviewed allowed us to more fully understand their point of view, and what they were suffering from.  As the 99%, they were open about their personal lives, and used examples of what they were going through to explain their frustration about a jobless market.  In an NPR article, Jeffrey Sachs said,

“It means that for the typical young person right now who is a high school graduate – but on average will not get a Bachelor’s degree – life is extremely challenging to find a foothold with a stable job, with an opportunity to have a reliable income, health and other benefits, and a chance to have the kind of middle-class life that we once took for granted.”

The high school graduate he’s describing would be part of the 99% because of the degree of difficulty of actually getting a job.  Without a job there is no income, and without a decent job it is likely one would struggle financially, therefore, being part of the 99%. This excerpt reveals how challenging it is to find a job in our society today. We believe Sachs is summing up the nature of our economy and the bleak outlook of our future. By looking at the context in these excerpts we were able to find commonalities.  For example:

“With debt, with joblessness, with living at home with our parents well into our mid-20s, being told that we’re likely to be less better off than our parents, there is a great deal of frustration there.”

Both excerpts deal with the individuals’ views on the job market and how difficult it is to find a good job, or even a job at all.  This excerpt shows us that there seems to be no hope – again, dealing with a bleak future.  Paradigmatic analysis helped us to know that the word choice used, “frustration,” “challenging,” “joblessness,” and “take for granted,” adequately shows their true feelings towards the circumstances of the 99%.  David Chandler (2003) said, “Paradigmatic analysis involves comparing and contrasting each of the signifiers present in the text with absent signifiers which in similar circumstances might have been chosen, and considering the significance of the choices made” (para. 3).  If less emotional words were used then the reader wouldn’t understand how terrible the situations are.  Another commonality in an excerpt we found was:

“And it also seems to be a key part of all this frustration and anger that’s being directed at Wall Street and the big banks. For many people it’s not so much about high finance as it is about just finding a job.”

Finding a job seems to be the cry of the 99%.  There may be frustration directed at the rich, and towards those who seem to be in charge of our economy, but we believe the point behind this particular excerpt is that the 99% simply needs jobs.  The context of these excerpts is all about the difficulty of finding jobs and the frustrating impact it has.  These excerpts are a representative sample of our corpus in that the 99% are overwhelmingly dealing with a jobless economy and/or the difficulty of finding a job.  A lack of jobs has created the gap between the rich and poor and has increased the income inequality of our nation, and these excerpts prove just that.

Pattern 2: Social class categories are created and defined by money and economic capital

The second pattern that we have identified is the presence of classification when addressing the middle class in relation to the Occupy movement. The middle class is the major population focus of the Occupy movement in NPR. One way reporters create or reinforce social categories in our society is by speaking about labeling people in these groups, and the cotext around these social classes are all about money and income. The texts labeled people in these social groups such as “lower class”, “middle class”, and “upper class”, and the cotext around these groups reveal to us that money is usually the determiner of who belongs in these groups. For example, one of the Occupy Wall Street articles from Oct. 24, 2011 said:

“The middle class Americans didn’t invent the financial instruments that blew up this economy. Middle class Americans did not make a pile of money on these very strange derivatives. I think that the anti-Wall Street movement is drawing that line because they’re right, that the first and primary cause of this will lay on Wall Street and in the financial community, while a lot of middle-class Americans were trying to do the right thing.”

The middle-class was mentioned three times and the cotext around that social category was all about money, ie. “financial instruments”, “economy”, “pile of money”, “Wall Street”, “financial community”. These paradigmatic choices and the semantic preference around the middle class is all about money, this tells us that social categories are generally defined by money and economic capital. In this example, the semantic prosody, the meaning “middle class” takes on is one about money and capital. Similarly, another text broadcasted on October 17, 2011 said:

“Basically, they’re still in a game of heads they win; tails, taxpayers lose. And they benefit from tax loopholes that in many cases have put people with multimillion-dollar incomes paying lower tax rates than middle-class families. This special treatment can’t bear close scrutiny, and therefore, as they see it, there must be no close scrutiny.”

Once again, the text around “middle-class” is about money, this time about taxes. The pattern occurs over and over again, where we see that the cotext around class categories is usually about money and economic capital. This pattern that social categories are defined by money means that, “In contemporary American society,” class is defined “in terms of positions within capitalist social relations of production.” (Wright, p. 33)

Although there is a pretty representative collection of the category of middle class, it is worth noticing that neither of “upper class” nor “lower class” were present in the corpus when examining the code of “class” carefully. However, the terms “lower middle class”, “upper middle class”, and “working class” sometimes appear. It is worth noticing how the mainstream media neglect the extremes of the class categories in our society when reporting about the Occupy movement, while the “middle class” is represented in more than one form. In some ways, the media is trying to empower the middle class by the presentation of different speakers while critiquing the powerful ones (i.e. the one percent).

“And the percentages if you look, I mean, obviously the middle class, the upper middle class, everybody has suffered in the great recession..”

“I guess, he’s saying to stimulate the economy they should forgive all these student loans because we’re generally creating a working class of well-educated poor people. And I mean, I only make $35,000 a year, which isn’t bad, but I’m never going to be able to pay $100,000.”

Paradigmatic choice is the trends in word choice in multiple texts. From the preceding excerpt examples, we can tell the obvious presentation of inequality with regards to income by the choice among words and phrases used, such as the word “economy”, “percentages” and the usage of numbers.

Classification is used to classify the social world. It places people, processes, events and ideas in categories. (Fairclough, 2003) This has made crucial effects where the relation of the middle class is predominantly represented. This is related to the discourse theory. Our culture gives things meaning by assigning them to different positions within a classificatory system (Hall, 1997). Class is therefore one of the major concepts that classify human society with regards to the economy.

Pattern 3: The binary oppositions: “the rich/wealthy” and “the poor”, are used to describe income inequality.

Binary opposition consists of two poles of matters and can be used to analyze the notation between the rich and the poor. There is always a relation of power between the poles of a binary opposition as there is hardly any neutral binary opposition. (Hall, 1997) In the previous pattern, we did not see a comparison between the dominant and non-dominant poles because only the target population is represented. However, the categories of the rich and the poor perfectly captures this power dimension in discourse, as power always operates in conditions of unequal relations. According to Wodak, power is mostly perceived as a systemic and constitutive element/characteristic of society, as suggested by Foucault, who is one the theoretical ‘godfathers’ of CDA. (Wodak, 2009) The issue of income/economic inequality is perfectly demonstrated by the following excerpts:

“The richest 10 percent control two-thirds of Americans’ net worth.”

“The richest 1 percent of Americans control 40 percent of this country’s wealth”

By looking at the concordance and collocation table again, it is obvious that “the rich and poor” are often mentioned together with the concern of the rising gap in income inequality. The binary opposition of “the rich” and “the poor”, which are also sometimes used as social categories, is used to express the income inequality or income gap that is present in our current economy. This excerpt from a broadcast titled, “Income Disparity And The ‘Price Of Civilization’” on Oct. 18, 2011 said:

“The Occupy Wall Street protests that have spread across the country and around the world have taken up many different causes, but the protests share some common themes, including the gap between the rich and the poor. Once you adjust for inflation, the median income in this country has stagnated for about 38 years – almost two generations, even as people at the top have grown wealthier.”

The critique of the distribution of wealth is deduced down to just two social categories of “the rich” and “the poor”. More specifically, the pattern tells us that in discourses, people often generalize income inequality or income gap with the opposing binaries of “the rich” and “the poor”, thus creating very limiting mental schemas about the social actors involved in this issue. As a result, if this kind of language surrounding social class, such classification is how the society typically categorizes people, with regards to the amount of money and property they are entitled to.


Our jobless economy has greatly influence the widening gap between the rich and the poor.  NPR’s classification and reinforcement of binaries, as well as description of joblessness further widens gap between the rich and the poor. These findings are the driving force of the Occupy Movement.

In our analysis, we have identified three key findings from the categories of social classes regarding income inequality.  The continual frustration and anger expressed by the 99%, as seen in the above excerpts, reveal that our jobless economy has caused many to struggle existing at the bottom of the financial ladder.  The difficulty of finding a job has impacted the majority and has resulted in a rising gap between the rich and poor.   Therefore, the financial struggle of the 99% continues as income inequality widens.  We have found that differences and inequalities between social categories are defined by money and economic capital. Through examining the cotext around social categories, the paradigmatic choices surrounding social category labels proved to be about money and income. Economic capital was the main determiner of who belongs to these social categories. The classification of social class has shown the difference across classes by the lack of presentation of the certain categories such as the upper class and the lower class.  The inequality between these social classes is often expressed as binary oppositions. The income gap is represented through two social actors, “the rich/wealthy” and “the poor”. This generalized social schema reduces the issue of income inequality into only two social groups.

The rich are getting richer, while the middle/lower class and poor are getting poorer.  The lack of jobs and the lack of good jobs are causing this shift in our economy.  The excerpts in this paper are a representative sample of the majority opinion that is the 99%.  Joblessness affects one’s wealth, affecting her place in society, which then places her among the 99% or the 1%.  Jobs, or lack thereof, determine where we lie among the gap between the rich and poor. We have looked at the corpus both quantitatively and qualitatively and have found that the issues of joblessness, money, and income are often coded simultaneously with the classifications labeled. Through corpus linguistics and critical discourse analysis, we were able to find out more about how text can both create and reproduces meanings about social categories in our society. We were able to see that social categories are defined by economic conditions and what kind of social schemas are associated with different social groups (“the rich” or “the poor”) in these texts. The analysis also gave us a deep look into the power relations between the social classes in the context of the Occupy Movement. The relation of power has provided a broad picture of how the media has actually emphasized the gap between classes and between the notation of the rich and the poor. On one hand, power is obviously given to the dominant group (the rich), while on the other hand, the media has also been disempowering the dominant group by critique for the purpose of empowering the other group (the poor), as this is also centric to the goal of the Occupy movement, to fight for equality between the classes, or between the rich and the poor.


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