I mentioned last week that I intended to write about The Overton Window. The time has come to actually circle back to something mentioned in a previous post. On that note, I will eventually return to other topics promised that I’ve been procrastinating on…once the procrastination quota is reached.
The Overton Window is a political concept coined by Joseph P. Overton. An electrical engineer by training who became much more famous for his prescient understanding of the American populace and our collective approach to politics.
The concept is that within the mire of political discourse there is a window of acceptability. It is possible through discourse, messaging, dog whistling, repetition, and other tactics–both overt and covert–to shift the window of acceptability.
One interpretation of where we have been politically since 2016 is that through the viral intentional spread of targeted social media, the Overton window shifted profoundly and opened the door to the extreme division we are currently experiencing. Perhaps more appropriately, the shift in Overton’s Window pulled back the curtain on many underlying trends and social media continues to play an exponentially amplifying role in the way concepts spread and the way the various filter bubbles in current culture – or the cultural current – react.
Wikipedia’s definition of Overton’s Window:
“The Overton window is the range of policies politically acceptable to the mainstream population at a given time. It is also known as the window of discourse. The term is named after Joseph P. Overton, who stated that an idea’s political viability depends mainly on whether it falls within this range, rather than on politicians’ individual preferences. According to Overton, the window frames the range of policies that a politician can recommend without appearing too extreme to gain or keep public office given the climate of public opinion at that time.”
The Mackinac Center’s definition:
“The Overton Window is a model for understanding how ideas in society change over time and influence politics. The core concept is that politicians are limited in what policy ideas they can support — they generally only pursue policies that are widely accepted throughout society as legitimate policy options. These policies lie inside the Overton Window. Other policy ideas exist, but politicians risk losing popular support if they champion these ideas. These policies lie outside the Overton Window.”
“The unacceptable can become acceptable.” ~Richard Rorty and Andrew Marantz
The speed and accessibility of the web coupled with the tentacled insidiousness of social media as an engine of information regardless of truth are in an ongoing process of hijacking the window of social and political acceptability.
I find myself in hyper consideration of the language I use, the concepts I choose to engage, and what reality an idealized window would look out upon.
This week I
am reading Elliott Colla & Ganzeer’s We Are All Things
am listening to a 180 gram repress of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On
am seeking a pair of deep cozy reading chairs.
am wondering what’s going on.
am manifesting the dream of tomorrow, and the window to bring about a new era.
Be well out there. See you on the next go round.