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Prying Open the Overton Window

The Overton Window describes the spectrum of concepts, policies and approaches that can be publicly discussed without being ridiculed or marginalized as “too radical,” “unworkable,” “crazy,” etc. The narrower the Overton Window, the greater the impoverishment of public dialog and the fewer the solutions available.

Those holding power in a socio-economic-political system that’s unraveling devote their remaining energy to closing the Overton Window so that only “approved” narratives and policies that support the status quo are “allowed” into the public sphere.

Everything outside this narrow band of status-quo-supportive narratives is immediately disparaged as “fake news,” “Kremlin talking points,” or other highly charged accusations designed to close the Overton Window–a process Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman called manufacturing consent: if no “outside” ideas are allowed, people accept the status quo as “all there is and all there can possibly be.”

This narrow Overton Window benefits those in power who are “legally looting” the system.

There is another source of a narrow Overton Window: the cultural, social and political elites have no new ideas and so they cling to doing more of what’s failed, relying on the past successes of now-failing strategies to cement their power.

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