Joseph Overton

Randall published this on January 1, 2019

What Is Dare Not Said


The Overton Window is a concept that some of you might be familiar with, but probably not in this context. Please allow me expand on it to encompass the theme of this site.

According to the authoritative source, "Joseph Overton observed that in a given public policy area, such as education, only a relatively narrow range of potential policies will be considered politically acceptable."1

In nearly every domain, there are alternatives ways of living or topics of discussion that a large majority of people deem to be too radical or off-the-wall to even entertain. And if they do, it's usually with a dismissive sneer. (I've also heard this referred to as the "third rail", a reference to the electrified rail on a subway system that provides an instant lethal jolt if touched. Stand clear!)

So what is forbidden to utter? What is clearly outside of Overton's Window? What is the third rail? Seemingly this:

It is absolutely unnecessary to keep up with current events. It is unnecessary to consume television news, the news that is reported in newspapers, and the news that appears on web sites. One can lead a perfectly happy and thriving life without any of it. In fact, one's vitality is diminished with every piece of news ingested. None of it is healthy.

There. I said it.

Am I the first person you've heard dare utter that sentence? Maybe. Have you ever seen that idea appear in the media? Nope. In a way I'm not surprised. One shouldn't expect those who make their living by pushing news push the one idea that would make them broke.

What's worse though is even the harshest of media critics that I can find don't say it. For example, people like Doug Rushkoff, Scott Adams, and even the godfather of "media is manipulation" Noam Chomsky himself. Perhaps they also fear the repercussion of an audience that suddenly declares "I'm outta here!" I hold them to a higher standard though, and I think they are doing the world a major disservice by not saying in clear terms to stop paying attention to news and get on with a meaningful life. Shame on them!

Whether you're a media critic with a large audience, or simply a low-key person with a handful of friends and acquaintances, I encourage you to smash Overton's Window and encourage everyone you know to dismiss the news forever.

All of it.


1. Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

(Image Credit: Sean McCormick.)

Add new comment

Must be a valid address. Won't be displayed.

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.

Be respectful. Discuss ideas, not people. Your comment will be deleted if it's hurtful, inappropriate or off-topic.