America’s Overton window has been blown wide open. What does this mean?
The Overton Window
The Overton window is a concept explaining the range of acceptable public opinions. The premise is that ideas within the window are discussed in public, but any idea from outside the window is taboo for public discussion and not included in the mainstream.
Here’s a visual:
As the spectrum moves and expands, ideas become more or less politically acceptable. A small Overton window means there is very little differentiation between mainstream opinion, and it tends to be popular or policy. A large Overton window is one where ideas all across the spectrum are discussed, and those ideas can be radical, extreme, or previously unthinkable.
The Current Window
The current Overton window in America is wider than I could possible have imagined.
I am currently back in my birthplace of London, giving me a couple days’ respite from the hurricane that is American politics right now. This is a nation still reeling from the impact of the Brexit vote, with its own political problems. Yet as I read the news here, and speak to people, ideas and opinions tend to be the similar to what I saw 7 years ago when I left Europe and came to America.
Even after Brexit, and with everything going on in the EU, European discourse is still proceeding within a fairly similar Overton window to 10 years ago. The window is narrow, but expanding. The election campaigns of Marine Le Pen in France and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands are changing things, but mostly on the topic of the EU and immigration.
What about the US? Here are popular arguments being made, seriously, across the left-right spectrum:
- The FBI interfered in the election to help Donald Trump
- The FBI interfered in the election to help Hillary Clinton
- Russia groomed Trump as a puppet candidate
- Saudi Arabia groomed Clinton as a puppet candidate
- Russia “hacked the US election”
- Wikileaks is working for the Russians
- There is a white nationalist cabal behind the rise of Trump
- There is a globalist cabal funding the Democrats and ‘cuck’ Republicans
- The previous President, Obama, launched a wiretap campaign against a private citizen candidate running for election (Trump)
- The CIA was involved in covert surveillance of practically the entire planet
- Leaks of this CIA activity were strategically timed to deflect attention from Trump’s flagging administration
- The media is an enemy of the American people
Whether or not these allegations are true is beside the point. Can you think of any other developed nation whose politics are being discussed in these terms? By the people themselves, on streets and in bars?
Politics Has Changed Permanently
I’ve been somewhat aware of how ‘unthinkable’ a lot of American political discourse has been, but spending a few days out of the country has really made it stick. The Overton window in America has been changed forever. Once the public is openly discussing CIA espionage, ‘deep state’ action, puppet Presidents, foreign-state hacking, etc., they’re not simply going to forget the mental models underlying these discussions. Increasing partisanship and the information dynamics of the internet have blown the Overton window wide open, and it’s not going to shut.
Think about the following:
- Liberal media is seriously all-in on the idea that Russia is hacking American democracy
- Social media, with more young people, is even more ‘out-there’
- Conservative media is seriously considering the idea that the CIA hacked an American political party, then ‘false-flagged’ it to make it look like the Russians did it
I’m not going to pass judgment on these theories – that’s not the point. But can you imagine returning to the politics of 2005? 2010? Almost no idea seems beyond the American political imagination right now.
Where do we go from here? Let’s face it – the Overton window has intentionally been used by the media monolith to limit contrarian opinion. Real truths have been hidden outside the Overton window. Now that it’s blown wide open, those truths can be discussed in the mainstream, as it moves online.
Smart operatives and cunning entrepreneurs will find plenty of opportunity in a world without information gatekeepers. There is now one less limit on power, and one less bottleneck to the truth. Politics is permanently changed.
The Overton window won’t prevent me from writing. Follow TruthHawkLive on Twitter, where I also post daily.