The Incredible Shrinking Overton Window

Caitlin Johnstone
Nov 4 · 6 min read

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum — even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.”
~ Noam Chomsky

The plutocrat-owned narrative managers of the political/media class work constantly to shrink the Overton window, the spectrum of debate that is considered socially acceptable. They do this by framing more and more debates in terms of how the oligarchic empire should be sustained and supported, steering them away from debates about whether that empire should be permitted to exist at all.

They get people debating whether there should be some moderate changes made or no meaningful changes at all, rather than the massive, sweeping changes we all know need to be made to the entire system.

They get people debating whether they should elect a crook in a red hat or a crook in a blue hat, rather than whether or not they should be forced to elect crooks.

They get people debating violations of government secrecy laws, not whether the government has any business keeping those secrets from its citizenry in the first place.

They get people debating how internet censorship should take place and whom should be censored, rather than whether any internet censorship should occur.

They get people debating how and to what extent government surveillance should occur, not whether the government has any business spying on its citizens.

They get people debating how subservient and compliant someone needs to be in order to not get shot by a police officer, rather than whether a police officer should be shooting people for those reasons at all.

They get people debating whether or not a group of protesters are sufficiently polite, rather than debating the thing those protesters are demonstrating against.

They get people debating about whether this thing or that thing is a “conspiracy theory”, rather than discussing the known fact that powerful people conspire.

They get people debating whether Tulsi Gabbard is a dangerous lunatic, a Russian asset, a Republican asset gearing up for a third party run, or just a harmless Democratic Party crackpot, rather than discussing the fact that her foreign policy would have been considered perfectly normal prior to 9/11.

They get people debating whether Bernie Sanders is electable or too radical, rather than discussing what it says about the status quo that his extremely modest proposals which every other major country already implements are treated as something outlandish in the United States.

They get people debating whether Jeremy Corbyn has done enough to address the Labour antisemitism crisis, rather than whether that “crisis” ever existed at all outside of the imaginations of establishment smear merchants.

They get people debating whether Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren would win against Trump, rather than whether either of those establishment lackeys is a worthy nominee.

They get people debating whether politicians should have corporate sponsors, rather than whether corporations should be allowed to interfere in the electoral process at all.

They get people debating if the US should be pursuing regime change in Iran or Syria, rather than whether the US has any business overthrowing the governments of sovereign nations to begin with.

They get people debating how many US troops should be in Syria, rather than whether that illegal invasion and occupation was ever legitimate in the first place.

They get people debating whether to kill people slowly by sanctions or kill them quickly with bombs, rather than whether they should be killed at all.

They get people debating whether or not some other country’s leader is an evil dictator, rather than whether it’s any of your business.

They get people debating the extent to which Russia and Trump were involved in the Democratic Party’s 2016 email leaks, rather than the contents of those leaks.

They get people debating what the response should be to Russian interference in the election, rather than whether that interference took place at all, and whether it would really matter if it did.

They get people debating how much government support the poor should be allowed to have, rather than whether the rich should be allowed to keep what they’ve stolen from the poor.

They get people debating what kind of taxes billionaires should have to pay, rather than whether it makes sense for billionaires to exist at all.

They get people impotently debating the bad things other countries do, rather than the bad things their own country does which they can actually do something about.

They get people debating what should be done to prevent the rise of China, rather than whether a multipolar world might be beneficial.

They get people debating whether western cold war escalations against the Russian Federation are sufficient, rather than whether they want the horrors of the cold war to be resurrected in the first place.

They get people debating what extent cannabis should be decriminalized, rather than whether the government should be allowed to lock anyone up for deciding to put any substance whatsoever in their own body.

They get people debating whether or not US troops should be withdrawn from Afghanistan, rather than whether or not there should be any US troops outside of the US.

They get people debating whether or not Julian Assange is “a real journalist”, rather than whether or not they should set legal precedents that necessarily criminalize acts of journalism.

They get people debating the subtle details of bail protocol, political asylum, embassy cat hygiene and leaking rather than whether it should ever be legal to imprison a publisher for exposing government war crimes.

They get people debating what the punishment should be for whistleblowers, not what the punishment should be for those they blow the whistle on.

They get people debating whether Fox or MSNBC is the real “fake news”, rather than whether the entirety of mainstream media is oligarchic propaganda.

They get people debating about how the things everyone is freaking out over Trump doing were previously done by Obama, rather than discussing why all US presidents do the same evil things regardless of their parties or campaign platforms.

They get people debating what should be done with money, not whether the concept of money itself is in need of a complete overhaul.

They get people debating what should be done with government, not whether the concept of government itself is in need of a complete overhaul.

They get people debating whether the status quo should be reinforced or revised, rather than whether it should be flushed down the toilet where it belongs.

They get people angrily debating things they can’t change, rather than constructively working on the things that they can.

They get people shoving against each other in opposite directions, while they swiftly build a cage around us all.

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Caitlin Johnstone

Rogue journalist. Bogan socialist. Anarcho-psychonaut. Guerrilla poet. Utopia prepper.

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