Glittering generalities

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Glittering generalities "was one of the seven main propaganda techniques identified by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis in 1938. It also occurs very often in politics and political propaganda. Glittering generalities are words that have different positive meaning for individual subjects, but are linked to highly valued concepts. When these words are used, they demand approval without thinking, simply because such an important concept is involved. For example, when a person is asked to do something in 'defense of democracy' they are more likely to agree. The concept of democracy has a positive connotation to them because it is linked to a concept that they value. Words often used as glittering generalities are honor, glory, love of country, and especially in the United States, freedom. When coming across with glittering generalities, we should especially consider the merits of the idea itself when separated from specific words." --ThinkQuest Library.

Method

  • "Use attractive, but vague words that make speeches and other communications sound good, but in practice say nothing in particular.
  • "Use linguistic patterns such as alliteration, metaphor and reversals that turn your words into poetry that flows and rhymes in hypnotic patterns.
  • "Use words that appeal to values, which often themselves are related to triggering of powerful emotions.
  • "A common element of glittering generalities are intangible nouns that embody ideals, such as dignity, freedom, fame, integrity, justice, love and respect." [1]

Examples

"'Freedom' and 'Democracy' are notable examples of glittering generalities: vague terms with high moral connotations intended to arouse faith and respect in listeners or readers. The exact meanings of these glittering terms are impossible to define, hence vague generalities. 'We the people' could mean prudent, wise, fair rule; it could also mean repression. It all depends on who the 'people' who rule actually are. Furthermore, one person's idea of freedom could very well be another's idea of slavery. Glittering generalities sound sincere but they really mean nothing. As such they are a logical fallacy. Used by people who sincerely mean well, and also by people who seek to muzzle freedoms and democratic government, whatever these terms may mean." --Unattributed.

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