When I read the news, I dawdle, I skip from one site to the other until I end up with funny gifs or cat videos. Rarely do I allow my brain to highlight connections. And that's not because I am scared or prone to panic attacks. No, it's because so far, I am not affected, we are not affected (if you exclude climate change which is kind of obvious but not yet dramatically so in our part of the world) and even if things progress as some wish and - heavens forbid - the ignorant right wing populists gain more influence, we will remain untouched provided we stay schtumm. Because we look and act the part in our quiet middle class neighbourhood, with just a mild touch of hippie eccentricity but a clean tax bill and no illegal asylum seekers hiding in the attic. We are way down the line of suspects. But of course, who knows, there are several dual nationalities in my family, dodgy visa stamps in our passports, strange foreign names in our lists of contacts. Enough material for a collection of short stories or a list of crimes against the state, depending on circumstance. And we can be stroppy and loud, to the point of getting evicted from a venue, when faced with a perceived injustice.
But just by looking at us, we should be safe for the time being.
Of course, I am getting carried away. And yet, metaphorically speaking, it seems that these days, politicians do not work for the people whose house is on fire or for the firefighters
who help to put the fire out, but for the angry spectators who gape from a safe distance cross the road.
If you have the time, listen to this before reading the rest of my post, while you do the dishes, while you cook a meal for someone you love, while you weed the garden, while you wait in line, a traffic jam, while you hoover the carpets, while you have a bath, while you are otherwise involved in whatever civil and somewhat boring occupation:
Apart from that magnificent (and prophetic) line from a poem by W.B. Yeats
There lurches past, his great eyes without thought
Under the shadow of stupid straw-pale locks,
That insolent fiend
This podcast mentions the Overton window. Which sent me on a long winded search.
It is a term from political science meaning the
acceptable range of political thought in a culture at a given moment, created by one Joseph Overton, a conservative think-tank intellectual from the US, now dead.
It's the idea that there is a certain amount views on
every sociopolitically relevant topic that society
broadly regards as acceptable which are found inside the Overton window. All views outside the Overton window are considered provocative, sensitive, radical etc. If
a politician - on the right or the left - deviates from the Overton window they may risk their chances to be elected.
But what's inside the Overton window can shift, slowly as well as intentionally, it seems.
According to wikipedia, the
Overton window theory recognises four factors that favour a
shift: facts and logic, moral appeals, emotional response and events,
errors or disinformation. And once a factor has been found to be particularly effective to promote a change in the desired direction, eg more to the right, politicians tend to go for the overkill. Example, the refugee situation where in Germany, right wing populists call for firing squads at the border (aiming at women, children, "the lot") and in the US, the construction of a gigantic border wall, neither of which will be feasible or - in the German scenario - constitutional. The purpose is not to actually shoot at the German border or build that wall, but to shift the window, to change the limits to what society tolerates, to normalise the previously unutterable.
(Disclaimer: This is not a genuine right-wing populist idea, but simply a
name for a strategy that has already been used in democracies, long
before it was called Overton window.)
But - to return to the podcast (which again, I urge everybody to listen to) - it's also a gigantic diversionary tactic. So, maybe populist right wing politicians, the insolent fiends with the straw hair (the obvious ones in the US and the UK and that one in The Netherlands), are toys thrown at us by those who really want to pull the strings, via life-time appointments of extremely conservative supreme court judges, brexit, border walls, Muslim conspiracy theories, the lot.
Who are they? Have a guess.
BTW: I seem to have a very avid reader of absolutely every single blog post incl. comments. For the past month, someone from the same US IP address/location has been - quite systematically - reading every day and throughout almost all day and night. R thinks I am done for. I tend to have a more benign explanation. So if you read this, who are you? Even if you are a robot.