Shifting the Overton-Window

Founding members of the pacifist German Green Party Petra Kelly & Gen. Bastian 1983

A comment by Ralph T. Niemeyer

One really doesn’t want to be put into German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s shoes these days. His credo had been not to have the Federal Republic in Germany become party of the NATO-war against Russia in Ukraine. Mr. Scholz was not meant to become chancellor, he only ended up in the chancellery because German establishment and mainstream media failed to carry Green party candidate for chancellor Annalena Baerbock over the threshold of votes that would enable her to lead the coalition with Social Democrats and Liberals.

Mainstream media had brainwashed voters over years in a way that actually opinion polls really suggested that Mrs. Baerbock and Mr. Habeck would only have to figure out among themselves who would take the pole position and then for the first time ever conquer the chancellery, but then Mrs. Baerbock bulldozered Mr. Habeck’s own ambitions by saying that he was having more experience with pigs, a reference to his years as minister for agriculture on state level in the northern German state of Schlewsig Holstein where more sheep than human beings are counted, while she herself was coming from “international people’s law” a subject she in fact only took a few courses in and never got a fully accredited diploma in.

Other deliberate inaccuracies in her CV tainted her image as a rather incompetent pretender who could not even speak proper high German.The autumn-2022 federal elections in which Chancellor Angela Merkel did not stand anymore, swept the scandal-ridden finance minister Olaf Scholz, a social democrat, who became an infamous labour minister who was going with a chainsaw through Germany’s social net that cushioned West-Germany’s post-WW II social-free-market capitalism, first under social democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and ever since was seen as an unexciting bureaucrat being free from any morale.

Now, Mr. Scholz is continuously being carried over any red tape by mainstream media who had hoped until the very last moment of endless long coalition talks that the social democrats would understand that the Zeitenwende (Change of Times, a metaphor for a ruthless breaking with the German post-WW II raison d’état of self restriction not to become a party in a military conflict) would rather best be carried out by the former pacifist Greens who in the early 1980ies had protested against NATO and the US’s Pershing and cruise missiles deployment in Ramstein and Mutlangen, West-Germany. In other words: the establishment and mainstream media in Germany had thought that the holy cows be better slaughtered by those who once fed them. The Greens with their icons Petra Karin Kelly and former Bundeswehr General Gert Bastian who converted to the ecologist-pacifist-movement back then where utterly called “Moscow’s fifth brigade”.

In 1999 Joseph Fischer, first ever Green Foreign Minister in Gerhard Schröder’s Red (social democratic) – Green coalition government which stood for a brutal crackdown of the pension – and social system by neo-liberal privatisations, for the first time after 1945 dispatched German soldiers in combat missions over Yugoslavia, bombing Serbia in order to illegally break away Kosovo by NATO force. But, how was it possible in the past four decades for the Greens to have sacrificed a lot of their initial founding ideals and by this becoming ever more popular?

Closer scrutiny reveals that it is not the politicians who actually break easily for positions, privileges or corrupt monetary incentives with their ideals, but a general mood in society that has shifted.It has to do with the mainstream media as well, but not only, it can also be that sensibility of the population has shifted, caused by many small factors such as for instance the economic givens, inflation, or social injustices, a subjective but collective perception that things aren’t handled well by the elite, or big events such as civil unrest leading to civil wars, international tensions and wars, or completely uncontrollable natural disasters, like earthquakes, Tsunamis and climate related issues such as droughts or flooding.

Then, the acting politicians have to shift the policy and thus remain popular. Suddenly, in reaction to such mood or supranatural happenings, before unthinkable solutions that had so far been deemed too radical, would get into the focus and become not only acceptable but will be demanded by the population making any politician who vows to implement such become immensely popular.

In the 20th century, mass media which didn’t require the distinction to be “mainstream” because there was no internet, understood how to push for certain agendas and impose the wishes of the owners of media outlets onto elected politicians who had to react to the news and shift their stance. That’s how media took over government without either being elected to do so not being held accountable for it.

Overton described a spectrum from “more free” to “less free” with regard to government intervention, oriented vertically on an axis, to avoid comparison with the left/right political spectrum. As the spectrum moves or expands, an idea at a given location may become more or less politically acceptable. After Overton’s death, his Mackinac Center for Public Policy colleague Joseph Lehman further developed the idea and named it after Overton.

Political commentator Joshua Treviño has postulated that the six degrees of acceptance of public ideas are roughly:

  • Unthinkable
  • Radical
  • Acceptable
  • Sensible
  • Popular
  • Policy

The Overton window is an approach to identifying the ideas that define the spectrum of acceptability of governmental policies. It says politicians can act only within the acceptable range. Shifting the Overton window involves proponents of policies outside the window persuading the public to expand the window. Proponents of current policies, or similar ones within the window, seek to convince people that policies outside it should be deemed unacceptable. According to Lehman, who coined the term, “The most common misconception is that lawmakers themselves are in the business of shifting the Overton window. That is absolutely false. Lawmakers are actually in the business of detecting where the window is, and then moving to be in accordance with it.”

According to Lehman, the concept is just a description of how ideas work, not advocacy of extreme policy proposals. In an interview with The New York Times, he said, “It just explains how ideas come in and out of fashion, the same way that gravity explains why something falls to the earth. I can use gravity to drop an anvil on your head, but that would be wrong. I could also use gravity to throw you a life preserver; that would be good.”

German Economics Minister & Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck (Greens) at “Ostfront” 2023

That explains why Green pacifists suddenly become war hawks. Poor Chancellor Scholz has no choice but to either play by the tunes or split the scene as otherwise he will be caught by his corrupt financial dealing and wheeling with German banks that engaged in billion fold fraudulent CUM-EX transactions.

The Overton-window for Mr. Scholz is being shifted by mainstream media by pushing him from sending only 5,000 helmets to Ukraine to “defensive” small firearms to heavy arms, Marder tanks, then Leopard I and finally Leopard II tanks, probably soon also German officers who do not only teach Ukrainian soldiers in Germany how to operate the tanks and last but not least fighter jets. The latter would ultimately end in direct military confrontation with Russia, 80 years after Stalingrad.

How can that be averted? Only, if a major event pushes the Overton window back to the initial position that only peace shall come from German soil. It is clear by now that the strong statements by all Germans after WWII “Frieden schaffen ohne Waffen” (Make peace without weapons) and “No more War!” have been turned into “No more War without us!” by mainstream media shifting the Overton-window into the neo-fascist direction and only the citizens by taking it to the streets by popular uprising and civil disobedience will manage to adjust the frames of the Overton window again, because all politicians have swam too far out already and can’t make it back to shore.

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