Gene Demby explains the Overton Window
“[Trevor] Noah isn’t wrong that compromise and good-faith are necessary for functional politics. But. There’s this idea in media studies called the Overton Window. Basically, the MSM defines the universe of legitimacy in public discourse. The news media covers/gives voice to lay inside the realm of legitimacy; the stuff it downlplays/ignores is on the fringes/unacceptable.
People of all ideological stripes try to expand and move the Overton window; the Civil Rights Movement did this exceptionally well.
Illegitimate ideas–and noxious/dangerous ones–creep into the universe of legit via the language of controversy and debate. This is how a lot of the mainstreaming of the so-called “alt-right” is already happening:
“Let’s put these noxious ideas up for discussion!”
“Let’s debate them and smack down those janky ideas with superior facts and logic!”
And those ideas up for debate tend to be things like whether Muslims are inherently violent or Black people possess lower native intelligence.
And slowly, the Overton Window shifts. And suddenly, the humanity of entire groups is a subject of legitimate, mainstream debate. And then so do the policy ideas that correct the “problems” presented by those groups. It doesn’t happen all at once. And it starts small, like having people on your show to debate whether Islam = terrorism or BLM = The KKK. This is the problem presented by treating Tomi Lahren as a person whose views are worth fighting about/engaging. And more broadly, it’s the danger presented by supposed “alt-right” thinking given official legitimacy by the White House. These notions will become just another set of seemingly partisan positions to be argued about, pro/con style on CNN.”