Propaganda generally is thought of in a bad light, as a means of manipulation and deception by people in power, but it is used by organizations who do great work as well, like the Women’s March, as a technique to garner support and empower people. Glittering generalities is a type of propaganda that uses an emotionally appealing phrase that is so closely related to highly valued concepts that it convinces people to believe it without evidence or reason.
George Orwell’s 1984 follows Winston Smith, who lives in a totalitarian dystopia where all action is heavily monitored and the population is fed massive amounts of propaganda to keep them in line with the government and prevent rebellion. He begins to question the validity of the Party’s statements, particularly as it relates to to the manipulation of the past, by starting a diary and questioning the logic behind the glittering generalities and other information he hears on the telescreen that are blatant contradictions.
His mental rebellion, or thoughtcrime, puts him in danger and eventually leads to his torture and re-education by the Party. The Women’s March and their “Reflect and Resist” campaign (which is apart of their 10 Actions, 100 Days campaign) is an current example of a glittering generality, though not nearly as sinister as the propaganda put forth by the Party in 1984. These use attractive words with powerful, positive connotations to convince the audience that what is being said is of great importance.
The words and composition of the website appeals to people’s emotions and makes them feel that by following what is being said, they are apart of something bigger than themselves and that they are doing what is right, which is a technique the Party in 1984 uses as well in their own propaganda. When you go to the Women’s March website right now, the homepage has “REFLECT AND RESIST” written in the center of the screen with small icons of fists held up in protest, bubbles of dialogue, and an open book, while the organization logo and menus to navigate the site are at the top.
The color scheme of the whole website is a sort of play on the colors of the United States flag (red, white, and blue), though slightly more muted and toned down compared to its bright, patriotic counterpart. Everything is written in capital letters in a block font, with the rounder letters like “R” and “S” having cut off corners. They use powerful words like “resist” and “action” with strong ideas attached to them, along with capital letters, to give their campaign a sense of weight and to make the audience feel like they are apart of a greater cause. Reflect” feels a lot gentler in comparison to the more dramatic words mentioned previously, but the composition of the piece ropes it in with the word “resist” and links the semi-contradictory words together, demonstrating the importance of how you can’t have one without the other. The color scheme works alongside the content of the words, since both of them take on a darker, more serious tone that contrasts the bright colors of the US flag, implying that the organization will tackle more serious topics that the United States likes to ignore.
All the images are really only silhouettes that stick to the color scheme and lack any real detail, sticking more to a minimalist style. The logo of the Women’s March is made up of three profiles of women of different races (and different colors which is clever). This is symbolic of how the Women’s March aims to recognize and celebrate the differences between women, while maintaining the idea that we are all in this together and must support one another.
The small images surrounding the “Reflect and Resist” each have their own meanings attached to them: the open book represents education; the bubbles of dialogue represent communication, listening to people with different perspectives, and sharing your own experiences; the fists held up in protest represent the need for us to stand up for what we believe in and fight for the change we want to see in the world. Looking at this, the viewer feels like this organization is doing important, necessary work and is compelled to take part.
It gives off a sense of power and strength and unity that goes with the feeling of rebellion and resistance they encourage. The purpose of this piece is to act as a call to action for the viewer, to compel them to take part in fighting the good fight and support women’s rights. The audience is probably younger people, who want to find something to be passionate about more than older people and who tend to care more about these sorts of things. 984 is filled to the brim with propaganda and policing people’s thoughts, which is a complete 180-turn from the supportive, empowering nature of the Women’s March, but still uses the same techniques, including glittering generalities, to convince the viewers to believe in them. Some of the earliest and most iconic pieces of propaganda that are introduced in the first chapter are the 3 mottos of the Party, “WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. ” that are engraved in the glittering surface of the pyramidal structure of the Ministry of Truth, which regulates news, entertainment, education, and fine arts. 4)
These set the stage for Winston’s explanations of all the different Ministries and how their work contradicts their names (The Ministry of Love was large and frightening, the Ministry of Peace deals with war, etc. ) as well as preparing us to understand the idea of doublethink, which means holding two contradictory ideas in your head at the same time (7). These are great examples of glittering generalities because they are emotionally appealing phrases that appeal to highly valued concepts (peace, freedom, and strength) so much that they convince people to believe it without reason (even if it clearly makes no sense).
It’s a method the Party uses to rally support for themselves, increase loyalty, and maintain their stronghold on the people’s minds. These ideas obviously are complete opposites, but the ideas of peace, freedom, and strength are so appealing and the thought that they could so easily be achieved by following the Party leads people to follow it blindly even as it goes against all logic. It’s made even more effective by putting it at the end of the Two-Minutes Hate, which is a mandatory event everyone takes part in to shout and scream at an image of Emmanuel Goldstein who is the enemy of the state for his traitorous rebellion.
Just as the Two Minutes-Hate ends, the crowd is comforted from their overwhelming feelings of hatred and anger as Big Brother, the face of the Party, appears. But in the same moment, drawing a deep sigh of relief from everybody, the hostile figure melted into the face of Big Brother, black-haired, black-mustachio’d, full of power and mysterious calm, and so vast that it almost filled up the screen. Nobody heard what Big Brother was saying. It was merely a few words of encouragement, the sort of words that are uttered in the din of battle, not distinguishable individually but restoring confidence by the fact of being spoken.
Then the face of Big Brother faded away again, and instead the three slogans of the Party stood out in bold capitals: WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. (16) After being in a heightened state of emotional chaos or “in the din of battle,” words that offer peace and strength are super comforting to the crowd, and makes them even more accepting of the slogans they’re presented with. The Party masterfully uses glittering generalities as a form of propaganda to get people to follow them, taking advantage of their emotions and getting them to associate contradictory ideas with each other as it benefits them.
The Women’s March uses the same technique to rally support for their Reflect and Resist and also links two almost contradictory words together in order to appeal to people’s emotions. The whole website is filled with words like “action” and “resist” which give the reader a sense of strength and hope, like they can change the world. Even “march” gives off the sense of strength and unity, like soldiers marching into battle. (oh look, “in the din of battle” and “march” hmm) However, the word “reflect” is interesting because it seems much softer and contrasts the power behind the other words and the colors of the whole site. Reflect” sounds like quiet, peaceful contemplation compared to the strong moral conviction related to “resist,” yet they are still put together. They almost contradict themselves, but it’s clear that they are intended to be together and that we are meant to draw that they cannot exist without one another in order to be effective.
The linking together of the two contradictory ideas here is similar to the slogans of the Party; they are asking the audience to believe what they say is true even if it doesn’t make immediate sense. (The Women’s March does explain why they are related ideas, unlike the Party who expects people to believe blindly. Additionally, the Women’s March appeals to people in times of turmoil. Like how the Party uses the motto to feed off of the strong emotions of the crowd after the Two-Minutes Hate, the Women’s March uses people’s emotions and their own slogans to rally people together. After the 2016 election, people were angry, confused, and wanted to do something. (in the din of battle maybe? ) The Women’s March uses that energy to their benefit. After seeing the political climate, people wanted a change and the Women’s March presented them with encouraging words and empowering messages, so more people gravitated to them, which was their goal.
The Women’s March uses glittering generalities just like how the Party did in 1984, though their use of it is for good. After analyzing glittering generalities as a propaganda from, I learned that it is easy to play off of people’s emotions and is probably more effective than logic, though that helps. If the Party explained their reasoning being their slogans, (using logic and foregoing the emotional strategy), they would easily have lost support.
The Women’s March did explain themselves, but used emotions first to gain people’s attention, which is smart. I also learned that it is a little sneakier than other types like direct order. It uses your feelings and you believe in it with your heart, before your mind really catches up, which is probably the point. If leaders use this type of propaganda, they can easily bank off of people’s fears and get them to believe in completely unreasonable policies that benefit the politicians and harm the rest.
People will believe anything if they are afraid (Winston admits 2+2=5 at the end of the book to end his torture), and that can easily be taken advantage of, especially by someone in a position of power. The best thing people can do to prevent themselves from being manipulated by propaganda is to inform themselves from multiple perspectives and to remain skeptical of anything presented as if it is easy as pie. Maintaining a sense of objectivity is crucial to be sure you are not being swayed by someone with ulterior motives.