After examining the various actors within the Malheur Occupation, we gathered a collection of primary source information to analyze using Voyant Tools. Voyant Tools is a “web-based reading and analysis environment for digital texts,” that makes it possible to produce word clouds and graphical representations of word trends within a certain text. I decided to analyze three different statements that Ammon Bundy released from jail, dated January 28th, February 4th, and February 6th. The texts from two of the statements are available here.
Ammon Bundy is one of the main leaders of the Malheur Occupation, which he began leading after receiving a divine message that told him to do so. He is also the son of cattle rancher and anti-government protestor Cliven Bundy.
After running a Voyant analysis on these combined texts and eliminating stop words (i.e. the, and, you, etc.), I came up with these visual representations.
As seen in the word cloud, the words people (17 times) and government (12 times) appear the most, while freedom, force, and officials are tied for third place, each appearing eight times. While freedom and force show up most in the earlier statements he released, people and government dominate his later statements. Based solely on these occurrences, I think it’s an interesting shift from more passionate big words that spark a sense of action (freedom and force) to big words that are more general (people and government). This makes sense to me since Bundy was arrested on January 27th, so his first statement (January 28th) was a fresh take on his recent arrest and the killing of LaVoy Finicum, while his later statements were released after several days in solitary confinement.
After reviewing this text analysis, I decided to delve deeper into the usage of the word “people” in the Oxford English Dictionary. Since the word “people” is used so generally, I found several of the conflicting uses interesting. One entry said it was used in “emphatic use: human beings, as opposed to animals, spirits, etc.” while another said it was used in “extended use: animals, living creatures (applied (chiefly poet. or humorous) to animals personified).” I thought this specific contradiction was interesting in terms of the setting of this occupation — we hear a lot about people’s rights, but the whole issue was born from ranching and people’s right to hunt animals. Although I have a feeling he didn’t intend this meaning for his use of the word people, thinking of Bundy’s statements in terms of animal rights sheds an interesting new light on the issue.
Another contradiction I found was the idea that people referred to the “mass of the community as distinguished from the nobility or the ruling classes; the populace” versus “the whole body of citizens of a country, regarded as the source of political power or as the basis of society; esp. those qualified to vote in a democratic state, the electorate.” These two entries contradicted each other in that one separates “the people” from the idea of power, while the other says that people are the source of power, probably in the case of a democracy. I think Bundy was probably using “people” as a way to juxtapose with government, which falls into the first definition.
I think a larger takeaway message I got from this analysis of the Malheur Occupation’s Big Words is to be intentional about the big words you use. If there are big words that have layers of meaning to be conveyed then they have the potential to be really powerful. If the words are sloppy and not thought out properly, they get diluted when used too much and their meaning gets washed away.