Skip to main content

It's a Big, Wide World

The Overton window is the range of policies politically acceptable to the mainstream population at a given time. It is also known as the window of discourse.
Writing on the internet -- or doing anything at all meaningful on the internet -- is challenging because there are roughly eight billion people on planet earth right now and you can't please all of the people all of the time. The Overton Window -- or window of discourse -- will vary from one group and one person to the next.

Exactly what is acceptable will depend on the details of the life of any given individual and the history of any given group. When posting online, you need to account for various Overton Windows at the same time in the same piece.

In the movie Patton, the main character slaps a soldier and this leads to him being demoted. Other sources suggest the decision to replace him had already been made and the slap was not the cause, but the slap -- in actual reality, he slapped two different soldiers -- got publicity for a lot of years as the reason for it and in the film there is a scene where their opponents are disbelieving, like "They can't seriously be removing their best man from command over this stupid, minor BS!"

There is also a scene oin the film where Patton gives a speech to women of a particular nationality -- I forget which one -- and says something complimentary to them, comparing them to women of another nationality. The press gets hold of it and frames it as him insulting the other nationality.

A global press was just beginning to emerge and by World War II, he was not a young man. My guess is that he did things in World War II that would have been FINE in a previous era in context in part because it wouldn't have made international news.

He was likely operating on social rubrics that had worked for him for much of his life and was caught off guard that these acts now were somehow a problem. And he seems like he was probably a bit slow on the uptake that protesting the reaction it got amounted to cutting his own throat. It didn't help his situation.

My feeling is that globalism has gone a bit too far and is actively causing problems at this point. I think we need to find some means to support cultural and logistical regionalism to stabilize our economy, among other things, but globalism is likely here to stay.

It's much, much harder to write for X audience knowing "outsiders" or "their enemies" will also be part of the audience. It seems to me that gone are the days when, say, a Black comedian could make jokes that made sense to Black people for a predominantly Black audience and not have a high chance of it coming back to bite them.

I think two practices are helpful in trying to navigate publishing anything online:
  • Write to try to avoid triggering the worst "crazies" out there in such a way that the "not crazies" will side with the "crazies" against you. (This is where knowing something about the Overton Window comes in handy.)
  • As a general rule of thumb, criticize bad behaviors rather than individuals per se.
Some of the people reading your work will be pretty mentally unstable and/or have significant baggage and/or have fairly radical views and opinions. You can COUNT on such people being a pain in the butt no matter what you do.

This is not, per se, a good reason to simply remain silent on a topic. But you need to be mindful of saying things such that MOST people will react to those fringe elements by going "Oh, well, yeah, THOSE PEOPLE would think that" and NOT "THOSE PEOPLE have a good point. OH. GOD."

And unless you feel strongly that a specific PERSON really deserves to be "cancelled" and you have sufficient evidence to back up this opinion, it's best to say "X BEHAVIOR of theirs is a PROBLEM and I want THIS SPECIFIC BEHAVIOR to stop GENERALLY, not JUST in them." It gives them room to modify their position, it is less likely to win you an entrenched enemy who wants your head on a platter and it's more generally defensible.

It's also wise to stay away from controversial or hot button topics if you aren't willing and able to really educate yourself on the matter in question. When in doubt, don't speak to X issue because you will likely do it badly and it will come back to bite you.

As an INDIVIDUAL, yes, you are absolutely entitled to have AN OPINION on any and every stupid thing on the planet, no matter how uninformed you are. But as someone posting on the WORLD WIDE WEB, it is in your best interest to not feel compelled to share every stupid, uninformed opinion you happen to have.

If it's controversial and it's NOT a hill you are prepared to die on, just know when to bite your tongue and shut your mouth.

If, like ME, you tend to just want to be included and talk with people, go talk with people about SOMETHING ELSE, NOT THIS. The internet is not a good place to assume everyone is your fwend, like you are four years old.

Popular posts from this blog

Pivoting a Website

The website Aberdeen Art and Music began as an effort to consolidate three older websites into a single website for purposes of trying to create a local walking tour as a tourist asset for this small town. It later took on a new purpose and I was tasked with updating the site to preserve and enhance the existing purpose while making room for new functions. The older websites were static sites that each corresponded to a printed brochure. The brochures and corresponding original websites were logically categorized by type of art: Murals, Critters and Urban Art (mostly sculpture). But much of this art can be found in close proximity in the downtown area, so I wanted to consolidate that information and enhance it to serve as an economic development tool for this small town. The intent was to support a walking tour via smartphone and begin phasing out the printed brochures while still supporting the existing brochures that were still out there and had the old URLs on them. In s

Local News and Information Online

I recentely read an online article with local news. Nowhere in the article does it actually name the state and the name of the publication is generic enough it doesn't give clues as to the location. I poked around the site and found a county name somewhere, maybe in the same article, maybe in a different article. I googled the city name and the spelling is unusual such that it might be a unique city name though there are definitely other cities with names that sound the same. If this article were printed in a physical newspaper bought locally, using just the city name would be fine. You would know from context exactly which city was intended. But when an article is posted online, people can potentially trip across it from anywhere in the world. You are no longer talking to just locals and even if the city name is unique, not everyone will automatically know that. Don't assume your audience will go digging for more info like I did to try to figure out exactly where

My Work

In the movie The Pickup Artist , Molly Ringwald's character utters my all-time favorite movie line: I'm too truthful to be good. I have apparently always been socially insightful. I was probably the bratty child yelling "The emperor has no clothes" and getting away with being rude, crude and socially unacceptable because I was cute as a button. When you are four, people laugh uncomfortably and don't explain to you why they are laughing. Being four, you stupidly think you are a talented comedian and then you spend your twenties and thirties baffled as to why everyone routinely gives you the death glare and wants your head on a pike instead of appreciating your witty insight and sense of humor. Me being me, I didn't stop being honest. I just tried to find ways to express myself that were less likely to have people wanting my head on a pike. This is a large part of why I blog. I still find social stuff very interesting, I see a need in the world for hig