What Is The Overton Window?

Hey there!

We live in an age of stark political and social division, nearly instantaneous conflict on social media, and polarizing issues that are hard to find rational discussion.

Whew! And you wonder why some people don’t even want to crack a browser and see what’s going on in the world.

I may have a partial explanation as to why things are so raw these days: we may be spending too much time in the extreme edges of the Overton Window.

Let me explain.

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Raw YouTube Captioning

hey there it’s David H Lawrence the 17th
and I don’t get political in this video
series or with Nami videos
but I am fascinated with the environment
that we’re all living in and how divided
we are and how tribal we are especially
over certain issues more and more issues
these days are very very divisive it
used to be the hot-button issues were
gun control and abortion and drugs and
you know they remain hot-button issues
but there’s so much more the environment
capitalism versus socialism you know
Republican versus Democrat I mean
there’s always been divisions in the
party but it seems like lately the
rhetoric and the the you know it’s
fueled by social media and the internet
just you know everything’s kind of amped
up and I went looking online to try and
figure out if there was some way to
describe this whole framework as to why
things are so you know at odds these
days we’re at odds with each other if we
disagree with something we can’t do it
respectively we we we have to like you
know demonize everybody who doesn’t
agree with us and it’s interesting
because a long time ago a guy by the
name of Joseph Overton created a
something called the Overton Window and
the Overton Window describes the the
range of of acceptability of an idea and
the way it’s presented by a politician
and how that level of acceptability or
unacceptability actually colors how the
public views their position and whether
or not they actually want to reelect
them back into office and it goes from
the very outside of the range of
acceptability of unthinkable to radical
acceptable too sensible too popular
too policy so it goes from absolutely
not not over my dead body all the way to
actual policy and then it goes in the
other direction as well to the people
that you disagree with and it’s a really
interesting way of looking at things and
you can see it in the way both sides of
the aisle here in the United States and
overseas present different ideas we see
people who are going to be divisive they
demand to be divisive because it’s their
right to be divisive or it’s their
mission they’re calling to be divisive
and they’re gonna do it by presenting
unacceptable and absolutely radical
things and if you don’t like it too bad
you know I think about a lot of the the
things that have been happening with
some of our freshmen Congress people and
of course some of the things that have
been happening with people on the right
as well
they’ve been faced with the idea that
they may have some very revolutionary
radical ideas but because they’re so far
to the top or bottom of the Overton
Window it’s hard to get people on board
with them so it’s worth knowing that
this is the case and it’s also worth
knowing that when you discuss anything
even in our IC applications to this in
our Union you know we’re about to have
elections in our Union and already the
partisan issues are starting people are
being egregiously dramatic about this
sort of thing and you know part of it is
actors love the drama but the attacks
that happen the the misinformation that
is spread in the effort to get things to
a position that you believe in rather
than what your opponents believe in you
know I happen to be a centrist when it
comes to the Union I’m part of the unite
for strength party we kind of like want
to be able to talk about things and not
be arrogant about our position as actors
and there’s a faction within the Union
that is just vehemently opposed to any
sort of conversation like that they are
they want to go back to the days where
actors had their own Union and nobody
else was a
in you know it happens in all points of
life I mean you know you can have
personal relationships with people that
go sour because what you believe in is
unacceptable or is unthinkable or is
radical and even though there are some
things that you have with other people
that are very acceptable and popular and
sensible and in fact you agree totally
on them so it’s just an interesting way
of looking at things and it’s the kind
of it’s the kind of thing that makes you
understand that if people were able to
reframe issues in a way that made those
across the aisle from them or in
disagreement with them a little less apt
to consider those things unthinkable or
radical but more worth cunt worth
conversing about we might have more calm
and reasonable conversation I don’t know
but it was interesting to read about the
Overton Window I wonder when you look at
some of the things that the people you
don’t agree with have proposed or that
politicians that you don’t agree with
have proposed or that members of our
performers community get involved with
that you don’t agree with how do you
react what is it that you look at and go
no way no way or yeah we can talk about
it we’ll see does the Overton Window
make sense to you let me know in the
comments below if you’re watching this
anywhere but on V o to go go comm I’d
love for you to go over there and make
your comments and if you if your ear
already great leave a comment below let
me know what your thoughts are on this
if you’d like to subscribe to my youtube
channel go ahead and click on my face
there if there’s no face look for a
subscribe button below this video and if
you’d like to see the latest video I’ve
done click on that frame YouTube will
play it for you I’m David H Lawrence the
17th I thank you so much for watching
and I will talk to you tomorrow.

2 Responses to What Is The Overton Window?

  1. ed waldorph June 8, 2019 at 6:41 am #

    As a political junkie I of course find this topic irresistible. The Overton Window is new to me, though as most pundits today describe our politics, they describe an ever widening window without naming it as such.

    I was also intrigued by the example you offered about SAG-AFTRA. Since I am not in the union I have not been privy to the internal debate. Many would think that because I am not that I do not have a dog in the hunt. To me this only points up how widespread and effective the anti-union propaganda has been over the last few decades. It has been going on so long that an entire generation has matured with no practical reference to judge.

    My first thought when you described the debate over re-segregating the union was, “What makes these folks think that making a union smaller could ever make it more effective at bargaining?

  2. Stuart Gauffi June 8, 2019 at 7:04 am #

    “A long time ago”? You’re making me feel old, David. Joe Overton would have been 59 this year, had he not died in a plane crash in 2003.

    Regardless, I think the value of the Overton Window is not in using it to explain the heat of political division, but in using it to recognize the spectrum of viability of public ideas. More importantly, recognizing that spectrum allows one to use carefully designed rhetoric to “move the Window”–that is, to influence public opinion in the direction of the proposed policy. Ironically, the most effective way to do so is through reasoned civil discourse–the public tends to respond positively to violent protest only the very short term, as in thinking “someone should do something”, whereas civil discourse tends to influence opinions–and ultimately, attitudes–in the long term.

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