In some contexts, what I have in mind could potentially be referred to as a manifesto or a party platform or a creed. In such cases, a list of statements covering various topics is crafted through debate and revision and ultimately those who are satisfied will sign on and those who are not won't.

But I have observed something different lately and I feel that there's a word for it which is just beyond my tongue. I have noticed yard signs popping up around my city with a series of slogans covering 8 or 10 hot-button political topics. Each of the slogans represents, more or less, the most prevalent view among American liberals, particularly as expressed on social media. There are not multiple versions: somebody compiled these slogans and printed up a sign and those who wish to identify as part of the movement buy it. I live in a liberal area but you could easily imagine a parallel sign with conservative slogans.

I personally disagree with few if any of the slogans, but the sign still stirs up some discomfort. It feels like a slate of litmus tests. The sign is a way to signal membership in a social group, and responding "Yes, but..." to any single item would disqualify you. This impression is strong especially since these are slogans with loaded language rather than carefully composed statements.

Regardless of whether my apprehension is misplaced in this particular example, what words could describe this notion? A litmus test fits but is just for a single issue, whereas I have in mind a collection of such tests, the effect of which is to discourage critical reflection.

  • It is the product of groupthink.
  • It is something you are asked to accept wholesale.
  • What is it?

I'll accept either a noun or an adjective. A noun could be a standard metaphor, like Rorschach test.

  • Sloganeering--might that cover part of what you're looking for? But this is sloganeering with social pressure--if you disagree or express objection, you are considered unacceptable. Propaganda through slogans may also be relevant.
    – Xanne
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 23:55
  • Check out definition 2(b) of hive mind on this Dictionary.com page, and see whether it suits your purposes.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 6:00

4 Answers 4


One term that has come to be used for this kind of thing recently is shibboleth. Especially in the US, the word is now often used to refer to

[A] motto or catchphrase that members of a group tend to say . . . . Shibboleth comes all the way from Hebrew, and originally meant a special word that helped you find out if someone was part of your group, almost like a secret handshake. It still has that sense of identifying someone as a member of a group. (Vocabulary.com)

A typical example of this usage:

[W]henever the shibboleth is uttered, all must agree, since to disagree might invoke sanctions as strong as expulsion (temporary or permanent) from the group. . . . [T]he faculty member who sounded the shibboleth had the others on the defensive: they had to acknowledge the universality and unchallengeable truth of the shibboleth; they had to declare their own acceptance of and allegiance to the shibboleth . . . . (Stephen Abramson, Essays on Medical Education, 1996)

This term would apply to the individual slogans you describe; you might call the entire collection some [collective noun] of shibboleths, such as

a melange of conservative shibboleths (source)

a slew of liberal shibboleths (source)

a catechism of shibboleths (source)

a litany of shibboleths (source)

  • Thank you, this is very much what I had in mind. It captures the notion of a test very well. Thanks! Commented May 16, 2017 at 15:03

Propaganda through sloganeering:

[Propaganda ][1]

Wikipedia has a fairly good article with history and references on this topic, providing a few definitions:

Garth Jowett and Victoria O'Donnell have provided a concise, workable definition of the term: "Propaganda is the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist."[12]

More comprehensive is the description by Richard Alan Nelson: "Propaganda is neutrally defined as a systematic form of purposeful persuasion that attempts to influence the emotions, attitudes, opinions, and actions of specified target audiences for ideological, political or commercial purposes through the controlled transmission of one-sided messages (which may or may not be factual) via mass and direct media channels



I would suggest the word Doctrinaire

I am including a number of the dictionary's examples as I think they express the use of the word better than I could.

first the word Doctrine (which applies to your title question's search for a noun).

doctrine at Oxford Living Dictionaries NOUN

1 A belief or set of beliefs held and taught by a Church, political party, or other group.

‘the doctrine of predestination’

1.1*US* A stated principle of government policy, mainly in foreign or military affairs.

‘the Truman Doctrine’

Doctrine is a fairly neutral word with regard to whether it's content is rational and can be applied to liberal or conservative alike.

In the non foreign policy sense, it suggests a rather strict set of rules and definitions.

Now, understanding the word doctrine, you can apply it to the way it is used as an adjective

doctrinaire from Oxford Living Dictionaries ADJECTIVE

Seeking to impose a doctrine in all circumstances without regard to practical considerations.

‘the administration's doctrinaire economic policy’

‘In those days of doctrinaire communism, vanity was regarded as a form of capitalist decadence.’

‘Yet doctrinaire democrats don't seem to give a tinker's toss about placing limits on what a legislature (local or global) can divvy or decide.’

‘It may have been written by a wildly doctrinaire author, whose ideas would be revealed as utterly left-field if placed in a context.’

‘What impressed me most was his refusal to be doctrinaire, his openness to sharp ideas no matter where on the political spectrum they came from.’

‘The markets don't believe it is credible for countries to immolate their economies simply to meet the pact's doctrinaire terms.’

‘They are also two of the body's most doctrinaire conservatives.’

‘What advice do you have for conservative students taking non-science classes taught by doctrinaire liberals?’

  • This is a great term, which I don't typically think of. I am accepting shibboleth instead, but thanks for this answer. Commented May 16, 2017 at 15:02

Another word that could answer the question is Dogma

  • I believe dogma carries a strong pejorative taste with it
  • as popularly used today, suggests opinions are both blindly adhered to and questionable in themselves

The word is so frequently used in a dismissive sense that it carries with it a suggestion that the tenets of the dogma are untrue, fanciful, or able to be dismissed

Note the word opinion in 1.a and definition 1.c with it's description "without adequate grounds"

dogma from Merriam-Websters online


  • a : something held as an established opinion; especially : a definite authoritative tenet

  • b : a code of such tenets pedagogical dogma

  • c : a point of view or tenet put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds


  • : a doctrine or body of doctrines concerning faith or morals formally stated and authoritatively proclaimed by a church
  • I think describing the sign as dogmatic would work very well, thanks. Commented May 16, 2017 at 18:34

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