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.
Institute for Propaganda Analysis