The public policy scholar Joseph Overton stated that an idea must fall within a certain range of acceptability to be politically viable. The Overton Window, as this concept has come to be known, describes the range of publicly palatable ideas at a given time, and it applies not only to politicians, but to the general public as well.
Recently, however, the rules have changed. Imagine that you’re throwing darts at a dartboard. You intend to hit certain sections and avoid others. You throw a bunch of darts and manage to hit your targets.
Now, suppose that some other people come along and shift the rules of the game, changing which sections earn and lose points. In fact, they specifically make sure that your score has changed, so that you lose points. Turns out that, under the new rules, you’re a bad dart player.
The Overton Window has become the Overton dartboard. Every day, people throw darts at a board — each tweet, post and public statement is aimed at hitting a mark. And each new moral fashion offers the opportunity to change their scores.
This piece was adapted from City Journal
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