The term “Overton Window” is a way of describing how and where political ideas fall in the spectrum of acceptability and how the overall window moves through time. Ideas that once were considered “outside the window of possibility” become possible when the window shifts in one direction or another. A great example is the idea of alcohol prohibition which was once the law of the land (indicating that when it was proposed and backed by politicians it was well within the window of acceptability at the time,) but is now considered absolutely impossible and would be widely unacceptable in the current political climate. The legalization of marijuana has moved in a similar direction. Likewise, political ideas and concepts that would have once been considered absolutely impossible in America, are now discussed seriously as political aims by politicians.
Emergencies, real or manufactured, are often the mechanisms of introducing ideas that would naturally be outside of the Overton Window and implementing them using “emergency powers.” Doing this alone – that is, without any ground preparation – would be a dangerous thing for politicians. So if you have the talent for pattern recognition, you can often see the ground being worked in preparation for outside the window policy implementations that become handy during “emergencies.”
The Overton Window (or, the concept of understanding the phenomena) works in areas outside of political ideas. Mental concepts, moral issues, language degradation, and cognitive biases can often be better understood by studying how the Overton Window moves (and is moved) by intentional cultural and social pressures. In its primary usage, the Overton Window describes the acceptability of political ideas but it is now understood that politicians do not move the political Overton Window. They react within the window, staking out their positions within the window based on the social, cultural, and moral leanings of their constituency or power groups. On rare occasion politicians may propose ideas outside of the window, but this almost never results in enough support to move the window. Rather, the window moves by increasingly less subtle manipulations of the media and cultural engines by think tanks and political power organizations, utilizing ground forces in media, education, and governmental organizations. This process, in the past, was often very slow. We’ll come back to that.
Individuals are also often operating within a personal Overton Window that can be entirely unobjective and influenced highly by pressures outside the realm of reason. It is valuable, then, to study how we ourselves are influenced so that our personal Overton Window can be shifted to allow for ideas we once would have considered unthinkable.
The Overton Window can be used to describe language and how artificial forces can begin working at these “grass roots” levels to degrade the descriptive power of words, or to change their meaning in ways that can have seemingly unconnected effects down the road. Redefining words, or demonizing their usage by shifting shades of meaning can be a tool of shaping mental realities in the future. Opinions are now concocted and shaped by memes produced by massive meme-mills being operated by political interests (some of them foreign,) and are a way of creating an AstroTurf “movement” of the Overton Window. Many of these memes are very subtle mental tweaks using fallacious reasoning, emotion, and playing on mass sociopathy and narcissism to demoralize and create angst that can then be used to move formerly unacceptable political ideas into the Overton Window more freely.
Where it used to take decades to move the Overton Window, it can now be done very quickly – sometimes instantaneously – by timing the narrative to fit manufactured news cycle events. Computers, AI, bots, and machine learning mechanisms can be enlisted to produce an artificial supposition of the opinions of the people (the tale wagging the dog) that can then produce the results as individual Overton Windows are moved by these manipulations.
A concept foreign to a national culture or morality may be privately harbored by a significant number of people. However, due to the idea being “outside the window” of acceptibility, that idea or concept remains hidden. Political or national organizations and agencies may have a vested interest in seeing that idea moved into the mainstream by manipulating it into the Overton Window. Using the massive reach of social media, meme-mills begin a process of “aculturation” whereby the idea is seeded into a wide variety of memes (comedic, serious, etc.) “Influencers,” blue-checks, and Hollywood types are paid or rewarded socially for pushing the idea and eventually it begins to look like a groundswell or a grass roots concept within the zeitgeist. Now those who once secretely or privately harbored this idea are now empowered and activated to openly support it. This can happen very rapidly, and if a national or international crises can be utilized or manufactured, such an idea can be adopted by the tech giants and pushed around the world almost instantaneously. Now, pressure is applied to silence opposition. Shame, political and economic penalties, etc. can be implemented to dampen opposition. The Overton Window is moved rapidly and an idea or concept that was completely unthinkable can become policy in just a few news cycles.
It is for this reason that some forms of government were designed to be immune to influence by the masses. Democracy as a concept is the perfect seedbed for manipulation of the Overton Window by monied and power interests. The more direct the democracy, the more power is wielded by these opinion manufacturers. The concept of constitutional government was designed to thwart mass manipulation techniques and to prevent politicians and government from using the mass man to rob freedoms from minority interests. Part of becoming aware of what is happening to you is becoming acquainted with the concept of the Overton Window and how opinions are manufactured and distributed to the masses.