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Glittering Generalities

 

Techniques Propaganda > Glittering Generalities

Method | Example | Discussion | See also

 

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.

Example

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is with the greatest pleasure that I welcome you to this most auspicious of occasions. We are gathered here on the brink of a challenge to which we must all rise in concert, for not to do so would be to accept despair, which I will never do and I know you will never accept.

Discussion

Generalization is a common process whereby we take one thing and apply it to others. Glittering generalities use this principle in seeking to evoke emotions without making any commitments or putting the speaker in a position where they may be challenged or criticized. If people are taken to a place where they accept vague statements, then suggestion can be used to replace rational argument and clear evidence.

Hypnotic talk puts people into a light trance, where they become carried away by the situation and are more suggestible. When accompanied by comfortable surroundings, darkened rooms and flashing lights, the effect is accentuated further.

Nouns give the sense of substance, but when they are intangible, they lack actual substance. This allows the speaker to credibly apply then to broad domains.

See also

Modifying meaning, Inductive reasoning, Hypnotism

 

Clyde Miller, Propaganda Analysis, NY: Institute for Propaganda Analysis, 1937

 

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