Joseph Overton describes how completely foreign ideas are gradually accepted and accepted as normal and finally enshrined in legislation. Overton describes a technology that makes it possible to legalize absolutely any idea (as we will see from the example below). This is not just an idea of his, which may sometimes work, but a working technology - a sequence of actions, the implementation of which invariably leads to the desired result. As a weapon, this manipulative technology can be quite effective among human society if used by rulers.
According to the Overton Window, for every idea or problem in society, there is a so-called "window of opportunity". Within this window, ideas may or may not be widely discussed, openly supported, propagated, and attempted to be normatively entrenched. The window moves, changing the possibilities from the stage of the "unthinkable", completely alien to public morality, completely rejected - to the stage of "norm", that is, to something already widely discussed and accepted by the mass consciousness.
Now we will give an example of how the technology works. Let's take for example something completely unimaginable. Let's assume that cannibalism is legalized, that is, the idea of legalizing the right of citizens to eat each other.
Is the example horrific and unimaginable enough?
It is obvious to everyone that it is now impossible to spread propaganda about cannibalism - society will crucify anyone who dares to try. Such a situation means that the problem of the legalization of cannibalism is at stage zero in the window of opportunity. This stage, according to Overton's theory, is called "THE UNTHINKABLE." Let's trace how this "unthinkable" will be realized, going through all the stages of the window of opportunity.
STEP ONE - But how is it possible?
The topic of cannibalism is still disgusting and totally unacceptable in society. For now, this is an unthinkable, absurd, forbidden phenomenon. Accordingly, the first movement of Overton's Window is to move the theme of cannibalism from the realm of the "UNTHINKABLE" to the realm of the "RADICAL."
We do have freedom of speech. Well, in that case, why not talk about cannibalism?
The Overton window has now moved. That is, it is already in the "viewing positions" sector. In this way, the transition from the irreconcilably negative attitude of society to a more positive one is guaranteed. To begin with, it is enough to publish accounts of what various foreign and local scholars think about the subject.
The result of the first movement of Overton's Window is that the unacceptable subject is brought into circulation, the taboo is declassified, the unambiguity of the problem is destroyed - "shades of gray" are created. All kinds of competent authorities speak out on the matter, and there are always such radical movements and specialists who, seeking sensation, will advocate for the new.
STEP TWO - Why not?
The next movement of the Window brings the theme of cannibalism from the "RADICAL" into the realm of the "POSSIBLE or ACCEPTABLE".
At this point, we continue to quote "the scientists". We shouldn't turn away from knowledge! About cannibalism. Anyone who refuses to discuss this should be branded a bigot or a non-puck outsider to human problems.
While we are on the subject of bigotry and racism, we must come up with an elegant name or euphemism for cannibalism.
Attention! The creation of a euphemism is an extremely important point. To legalize the unthinkable idea, it is necessary to change its real name. The purpose of inventing new names is to take the problem out of its name, to separate the form of the word from its content. Cannibalism, which is called anthropophagy, will now be called anthropophilia. As the criminal changes his surname and passport...
Parallel to the name game is the creation of a supporting precedent - historical, mythological, current or simply fictional, but most importantly - legitimizing. It will be found or invented as "proof" that anthropophilia can in principle be legitimized.
The main task at this stage is to at least partially decriminalize eating people. At least in some particular case and at a certain historical moment.
STEP THREE - Maybe it's not so bad?
Once a legitimizing precedent is presented, an opportunity arises to move the Overton Window from the territory of the "POSSIBLE" to the realm of the "REASONABLE." This is the third stage. It ends the cycle of crushing single problems.
At this stage phrases like:
- "The desire to eat people is genetic, it's human nature."
- "Sometimes eating a person is necessary, compelling circumstances exist."
- "There are people who want to be eaten."
- "Forbidden fruit is the sweetest!"
- "A free man has the right to decide what to eat."
- "Don't hide the information and let everyone decide what they are - anthropophile or anthropophobe."
- "And is there a danger in anthropophilia? This has not been proven.'
A "battlefield" for the problem is artificially created in public consciousness. The extreme flanks are occupied by the so-called "scarecrows" - specially created groups of people from radical supporters of cannibalism, but under the guise of posing as radical opponents of it, with the sole purpose of joining the group of anthropophobes. And then these "scarecrows" actively create on the image of anthropophobes the image of crazy psychopaths - aggressive haters of anthropophiles, poorly educated, calling for people to be burned alive, for example, just not to be eaten, etc.
And the media, which is necessarily present at the riots of the anthropophobes, to present all the things listed above, just not the real opponents of legalization and their real, normal, moral views. And so these opponents of the legalization of the idea are presented to society as abnormal, rebellious, dangerous. And they usually make them so poorly educated that, against the background of the statements of "scientists" and "specialists in the field", they look like fools and still don't know what to do.
The Overton window moves further.
STEP FOUR – In a good way…
"Scientists" and journalists at this stage prove that representatives of humanity throughout their history have eaten each other from time to time, and this is normal. Now the topic of anthropophilia can be translated from the field of "REASONABLE" to the category of "POPULAR".
Anthropophilia permeates the news and talk shows en masse. People get eaten in movies, in song lyrics, and in videos. One of the promotion techniques is called "Side View!"
The authorities also get into action:
- "Didn't you know that a famous composer—whoever you are—is an anthropophile?"
- "And a well-known Polish screenwriter was an anthropophile all his life, he was even persecuted for it."
- "By the way, what do you think of Lady Gaga's new 'Eat me, baby' video?"
Criminals are used to justify supporters of legalization, creating a positive image of them outside of crime-related characteristics:
- "These are creative people. He ate his wife and what?'
- "They genuinely love their victims. To eat is to love!”
- "Anthropophiles have a high IQ and in everything else adhere to strict morality."
- "Anthropophiles themselves are victims, life has made them so."
- "That's how they raised them."
- "We will tell you a tragic love story! He wanted to eat her! And she just wanted to be eaten! Who are we to judge them? Maybe this is love? What kind of people are you to stand in the way of love?!”
STEP FIVE – If everyone thinks so…
The Overton window moves forward to step five, when the subject is warmed to the possibility of moving from the "POPULAR" category to the "NORMAL" realm.
Preparations for the legislative base begin. Lobby groups in power are consolidating and coming out of the shadows. Polls are published to confirm the high percentage of supporters of the legalization of cannibalism. Politicians are starting to release trial balloons with public speeches on the topic - "legislative anchoring of the topic".
During the final stage of the Window movement, society is already broken. His living part will still somehow resist against the legislative enshrinement of the until recently unthinkable thing. But society as a whole is really broken. It has already accepted its defeat.
Laws have been passed, the norm of human existence has changed, the new model of behavior will inevitably reach schools and kindergartens. The new generation will grow up with the "new normal" already established.
Is it possible to oppose the "Overton Window" with which, in the method of the boiled frog, we are often put in the cauldron?
(The boiled frog method is to slowly heat the water, where the frog doesn't know what's about to happen to it, instead of being scalded outright with boiling water).
The technology with which we can make something normal and common out of what was previously impossible or even forbidden according to human morality can be very dangerous and lead to the dehumanization of people. Because it appears as a powerful weapon in the hands of a group of people, with which they can make society accept and do whatever they want.
This technology is mainly based on the weaknesses of each personality, which are used as and when convenient. Usually the manipulation stops working when its hidden meaning is revealed. In the given case, the impact of the subconscious is achieved through basic human needs. Let's take a look at Maslow's pyramid:
In connection with the fact that the last three needs of a person practically cannot be completely and forever satisfied, they easily become the object of manipulation.
Belonging to the herd is a set of needs - safety, belonging to society and the need for respect. Anyone who has stood in front of an audience, presenting something or raising a toast in a large company, knows how difficult it is to hold back those few minutes when all eyes are on them. And now imagine that you have to express your disagreement with all these people - respected and not so much, friends and mere acquaintances, superiors and subordinates. At the same time, the disagreement must be expressed without using euphemisms, otherwise you will not get the point, but the opposite.
The illusion of authority appears again as an opportunity to reconcile your own views with those partly imposed from the outside. If there is disagreement within me, the "authority" will readily hand me the lifeline, taking the responsibility upon himself. And lately "authorities" aren't even personal. More and more often we hear - "scientists discovered", "psychologists claim", "senior statesmen declare", etc., which can also be called a strategy.
Countering the "Overton Window" manipulation technology can be achieved by abandoning harmful attempts to be "normal" everywhere. The moment the "individual" is replaced by the "normal," we automatically surrender our own control into someone else's hands. At best, we strive to be convenient for others, and at worst, we fall under purposeful manipulation.
Here are some more countermeasures:
- The concept of "tolerance", which is often used as a manipulative pad - let's use it only as a concept of tolerance. In other cases, we must protect our individual boundaries and morals;
- Call a spade a spade, not the euphemisms they foist on you. So if you hear some information from the media and want to retell it - use the real unpleasant terms, not the powdered ones they invented to make the information sound softer;
- Avoiding blindly following authority or accepting that information heard on television or in the media, once publicly announced, is necessarily true. One should always think about what one hears and subject it to a thorough internal examination.
The purpose of the Overton Window technology is to go in the desired direction. After achieving the result, people are forced to maintain the illusion of accepted foreign values. People are becoming less and less human, losing touch with their roots and cultures. In other words, man turns from a healthy plant into a withered thorn blown by the wind. Although they have achieved a high standard of living and dreamed of material gains, people are becoming unhappier, more and more silent about their opinion and conscience, and more and more unthinking - it is easier to quietly acquiesce, instead of mobilizing and defending their values.
I will close with the words of Joseph P. Overton:
"But personally you have to remain human. And a person is capable of finding a solution to any problem. And what is not within the power of one - people united by the common idea will do it.