Tue, 01 Nov 2016 pic.twitter.com/FeXzCHI1Aa
— overton window (@overtonbot) November 1, 2016
The Overton window, also known as the window of discourse, is the range of ideas the public will accept.
The ‘fitness’ of a political idea is dependent on the mood of the population. However, political ideas are rarely presented in an unbiased manner. Stories are spun and sensationalised, dependent on the political leanings of the media owner. The Daily Mail contains stories that would never be printed in The Guardian, and vice versa.
Political ideas can be made more palatable if the prevailing narrative of the media outlet supports them. For example, stories about ‘benefit cheats’ and ‘welfare queens’ support the notion of curtailing welfare budgets without ever explicitly mentioning Government policy.
As more extreme views get discussed, the Overton window shifts, and previously unthinkable ideas become normalised and accepted. In many ways, the media influence the Overton window even more than politicians.
Play School was BBC children’s programme which ran from 1964 to 1988. Part of the show featured a section where the audience were invited to look through the window at a scene filmed outside the studio. Often a factory or a domestic scene. A literal invitation for children to explore the world of adults.
It struck me that the Play School window could offer a glimpse of what’s through the conceptual Overton window.