The Overton Window: What It Is & Why It’s So Important
Over the last few years, I’ve become increasingly concerned about the SJW assault on free speech and how their lunacy is becoming respectable, while common sense is becoming ever more “problematic”. To understand just WHY this is happening, I’ve found that it makes the most sense to examine something called the “Overton window”, also known as the window of discourse. When talking about the Overton window we’re talking about the range of ideas that are deemed palatable in public discourse, and how mainstream they are – ideas can range from “Unthinkable” and “Radical” (completely outside the window of acceptable discourse) to “Popular” and “Policy” (firmly inside of it). What’s really interesting are the implications of this – as the Wikipedia article summarizes:
Proponents of policies outside the window seek to persuade or educate the public in order to move and/or expand the window. Proponents of current policies, or similar ones, within the window seek to convince people that policies outside it should be deemed unacceptable.
Of course this simplifies things (for starters, plenty of actual policies are unpopular and can even perceived as Radical by large groups of people), but from the simplification we glean an important insight: Politics often is not just a gentlemanly battle of ideas, but a vicious struggle to suppress/de-legitimize certain points of view and/or sell the public on ideas it previously either rejected or failed to consider. In this context, it’s unsurprising that many Leftists constantly hurl terms like “racist” and “sexist” at people they disagree with, or that many right-wingers seek to label dissenting opinions as for example “unpatriotic” – in this reading of the political game, demonizing opposing views isn’t an aberration, it’s the whole point.
This interpretation would certainly help explain how SJWs, despite the True Believers being just a fringe minority, have been so effective at making their bullshit go mainstream – and they have been quite successfull: Calling a biological man “he” can net you a huge fine in New York City. White girls daring to try on Kimonos has become highly controversial – and even simply affirming that there are no more than two genders is increasingly being portrayed as Bigotry worthy of being met with violence (there’s even a term for this offense – Genderism).
How could SJWs succeed in so quickly rendering common sense and/or harmless actions so controversial, while making the telling of lies (like calling biological males “she”) the social norm? Because they’ve been extremely aggressive in pushing for acceptance of their views (about gender, race, Privilege etc) while shamelessly berating, bullying and shaming people expressing conflicting views, gradually making even popular viewpoints seem like they’re outside the window of discourse, simply due to the social costs SJWs impose on people expressing them. Think of the various female celebrities who have been publicly shamed for simply saying they’re not feminists. This is fairly bizarre once you consider that’s a majority view among American women.
That’s the thing with the Overton window, it isn’t necessarily shifted through factual, reasoned debate – smear campaigns and emotional blackmail can in theory be just as effective, if not more so. Of course it helps immensely that academia and the mainstream media is in lockstep with the SJW cause – that makes it much easier for this loud minority to create the perception that popular views are radical, and that radical views are popular. However, another thing that has helped the cause of the SJWs is how many of their opponents have acted.
Instead of trying to delegitimize or dismiss SJW arguments, or ruin the reputations of the SJWs themselves, many supposedly Anti-SJW people instead try to engage SJWs in dialogue, and even find common ground or room for compromise. I’ve certainly seen this time and time again in GamerGate, people acting like SJWs can be reasoned with, or insisting that the non-confrontational approach is the one we need to take – all while SJWs relentlessly pushed the narrative that GamerGate was a misogynist harassment campaign. If one side aggressively pushes to make their viewpoints the only acceptable POV, demonizing dissenting viewpoints in hysterical terms, while the other side tries the patient, tolerant, persuasive approach, don’t be shocked when the former manages to fundamentally shift the Overton window first.
Sometimes it’s even worse than that – the virtue signalling many in GamerGate have fallen victim to actually does the job of SJWs for them, by having GGers explicitly or implicitly affirm the importance of SJW Causes like “Diversity” (which helps justify all sorts of quotas and discrimination against white males), or the idea that online “harassment” is a real problem that needs addressing (opening the door to all sorts of Censorship). The idea of GG virtue signalling is basically that by making us “look better”/improve our PR, it gives us more credibility, which in turn puts us in a better position to shift the Overton window in our direction – however, since that credibility either fails to materialize (how many times has the MSM actually given GamerGate credit for its prominent female and minority voices, or its funding of women’s charities?), or will directly hinge on continuing to embrace watered down SJW ideals, it never actually ends up producing real, positive change.
Same thing with trying to distance ourselves from and condemn “extremists” on our side – not only are such denouncements usually the product of False Equivalence, but what we are in effect doing is helping ensure that more and more Anti-SJW stances become socially unacceptable. Not only does this not help our cause, it actively hurts it, since SJWs as I have explained always seek to shift the Overton window, demonizing viewpoints contrary to their own, rendering them Unthinkable. If we actually help them define all Anti-SJW viewpoints more hardline than our own as beyond the pale, they’ll just reward us by in turn making OUR viewpoints socially unacceptable – after all, our viewpoints might at that point very well have become the most hardline non-Unthinkable anti-SJW POVs left. Never assume that your position is too reasonable or moderate to be demonized – these are the people that made saying that there are only two genders a borderline hate crime. Consider this: you might not be a fan of what someone like Roosh has to say, but every moment SJWs are forced to spend demonizing him is a moment they’re NOT demonizing someone you actually do like.
One nice thing however is that we DO have a great Anti-SJW example of how to quickly and effectively move the Overton Window – and it’s provided by Donald Trump. Trump’s approach to shifting the Overton Window differs greatly from the approach of the SJW Mob, and takes full advantage of his celebrity status – but there are still lessons to be learned for GamerGate and other Anti-SJW groups. Trump’s approach, in short:
2: Refuse to apologize when the MSM and the Establishment attempts to Shame him.
3: Humiliate them by polling extremely well in spite of, and sometimes even directly because of, the stances people tried portraying as beyond the pale.
4: Victory after Victory until his ideas become Policy
What this tells us is that even loudly advocating viewpoints you’ve been told are so “toxic” that they will instantly discredit you and your cause can actually be to your benefit, if you just do so boldly, fearlessly. By simply not apologizing for saying the Unthinkable when they tell you to do so, you make it slightly less Unthinkable. And if by saying that Unthinkable thing out loud you inspire other people to do so as well, it might suddenly no longer seem so Unthinkable anymore. Hell, you might find out that what you did was wake up a silent majority!
That’s the flip-side of SJWs having shifted the Overton window so far, so fast – a lot of views suddenly deemed Unthinkable actually still have strong public support, and a lot of positions they’re trying to turn into Policy are deeply unpopular. This means this new consensus they’ve helped create is actually extremely fragile. If normal people start asserting their opinions half as aggressively as SJWs do, and actually do their part to marginalize SJW viewpoints as the retarded, fact-free bullshit that they are, rather than trying to compromise with them, I suspect the public discourse would become very different, very quickly.