WHY They Say Such Outrageous Things

Jamison Foser writes in this week’s “Media Matters”,

In the midst of a torrent of comments about “femi-Nazis” and “bitches” and “hos,” these more subtle problems are rarely even noticed, and even more rarely discussed among the media elite and those who appear on their shows.
And that may be the most damaging effect of the kind of commentary that we routinely hear from the likes of Imus and Limbaugh and Coulter: Rhetoric that should be unacceptable becomes merely outrageous; that which should be outrageous becomes merely controversial; and that which should be controversial is barely noticed, if at all.

I gave a talk a few weeks ago to an organization that supports public education. My talk as titled We’re All In This Together. I began the talk by playing a video clip of Neil Boortz on Fox, saying that teachers unions are more dangerous to America than terrorists armed with nuclear weapons because a nuke could only wipe out 100,000 people but public schools are “destroying a generation.”
I talked about the terrible things right-wingers routinely say. Then I explained the Right’s Overton Window strategy of walking people’s thinking up a ladder that turns unthinkable ideas into acceptable and even reasonable-sounding.
After explaining the Overton Window I said,

NOW we can understand the role of people like the guy from the video clip. He is out at the extreme – on the right side of the see-saw. Anything LESS extreme sounds almost moderate by comparison – in the window of “thinkable.” THIS is why they say those outrageous things. They’re walking people up the ladder. It’s part of the long-term strategy.

If you’re interested, I have the whole thing posted over at the Commonweal Institute blog, along with links to reference materials.

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