Overton's window is a political theory that describes how the perception of public opinion can be modified so that ideas that were previously considered crazy can be accepted in the long run.
According to this theory, even taboo subjects would not be free from their effectsso that society's general assessment of issues such as incest, pedophilia or cannibalism could be radically changed. This does not require brainwashing or the establishment of a dictatorial regime, but the development of a series of advanced techniques whose implementation would go unnoticed by society. Go further.
The origin of the concept
This phenomenon has been studied by Joseph Overton, who observed that for each area of public management, only a narrow range of political potentials is considered acceptable. This range does not change when ideas change among politicians, but are elected by society as a whole.
Joseph Overton has developed a vertical model of policies ranging from the "freest" at the top of the scale to the "least free" at the bottom of the scale. This is related to government intervention, where acceptable policies are framed within a window that can move within that axis, expanding or decreasing.
The steps of the Overton window
In principle, it seems impossible for society to accept some of these taboos. However, Overton's window theory holds that this can happen. To see what the different stages of the Overton window consist of, we will focus on a particular taboo, for example, cannibalism.
Step 1: From the unthinkable to the radical
In the first stage, cannibalism is lower than the lowest level of acceptance of the Overton window. Society considers it to be the practice of immoral or sociopathic people. This idea is considered repugnant and immoral. At this point, the window is closed and does not move.
To begin with the change of opinion, the idea is transferred to the scientific domain, since there must be no taboo subjects for scientists. Thus, the intellectual community would analyze the traditions and rituals of certain tribes, while creating a radical group of cannibals promoted by the media.
Step 2: Radical to acceptable
After the first step, the idea went from the unthinkable to the discussion. In the second step, it is the acceptance of the idea is sought. With the scientists' conclusions, those who refuse to acquire knowledge on the subject can be described as intransigent.
People who resist will begin to be seen as fanatics who oppose science. The intolerant are publicly condemned because the idea loses its negative connotation, changing even its name of cannibalism in anthropophagy or anthropophily. Gradually, the media would make eating human flesh acceptable and respectable.
Step 3: From acceptable to reasonable
By making the consumption of human flesh a common law, one could go from an unacceptable idea in principle to something reasonable. In the meantime, those who continue to oppose this idea will continue to be criticized. These people would become radicals who oppose a fundamental right.
On the other hand, the scientific community and the media would insist that human history be filled with cases of cannibalismwithout being foreign to these ancient societies.
Step 4: From the reasonable to the popular
At this stage, cannibalism becomes a favorite subject. The idea begins to show up in movies, television series and any other entertainment method as a positive thing. At the same time, historical figures who have been involved in these practices are praised. The phenomenon is becoming more widespread and continues to reinforce its positive image.
Step 5: From the popular to the political
Finally, the Overton window, initially closed, was largely open. In this last step, the legal mechanism of legalization of the phenomenon is being prepared. Supporters of cannibalism form a political group and begin to seek more power and representation.
So, an idea that, in principle, was unthinkable and immoral in all its aspects became a right in the collective consciousness through a theory which can change the public perception of any idea, however absurd it may be.