27th July 2020
Often, when you turn on your TV to catch up with the latest happenings around the world you might have come across debates and clips of political leaders making remarks which are controversial in nature. Clips featuring politicians of certain political parties, threatening religious groups for participating in inter-religious marriages, or criticizing people eating beef, have often been aired.
While a large part of the readers might be irked or disappointed, to be reminded how widespread such mentality is, these remarks and debates are in fact, very real.
In order to delve deeper into this matter we need to understand the term ‘Overton window’. Simply put, it is the range of policies that are considered politically acceptable by the general public at a given time. This window can lean towards any one side depending on several factors.
Let us look at this imaginary scale: on the right are issues which one wing gives precedence to and on the left, are those preferred by the others. The Overton window should then ideally lie in the middle of this scale as shown:
How it shifts: In order to shift this window to one direction, the ideas and beliefs held by the political bodies or influential individuals/groups, should lean towards one side. Overton states that in order to shift this window significantly, political groups suggest and encourage extreme ideas due to one very simple reason: that these ideas, due to their extreme nature, seem more acceptable to the public:
The effect is very real, and it can be clearly seen across several political settings including ours.
In our nation, some political activists have perfected the use of this approach, which is why extremist ideas are now being debated on, rather than being outright rejected by everyone.
By using extreme, smaller political leaders to make leading remarks, the highly influential politicians are able to make volatile candidates appear more appealing to the public.
An example: A popular political figure belonging to a right wing ruling party of a state, recently remarked that Nathuram Godse, the assassinator of Gandhi was ‘a true patriot’ while promoting separatism. The remark was criticised by the media and after a while condemned by the high-level leaders in the Parliament belonging to the same party. A trial was to be held regarding the same however no such thing happened and the event was soon lost among other happenings.
This strategy has two effects:
The role of the media:
By discussing serious matters such as secularism in India, or presenting the extreme views of a particular religious/social/political group, in the form of debates and panel discussions, what the media ends up doing, is subtly making the radical options seem possible.
News channels are quite popular, and frequently hold debates on such controversial topics, and because people see such content on daily TV, they naturally assume that these things are normal. This problem is worsened when these News channels and shows invite people to their debates and discussions on these fundamentalist issues.
While some of us might choose to ignore them, it can be in fact quite dangerous. Civil clashes, riots and hatred, they all find their roots, and spread extreme ideas in the society.
So, to conclude:
Indian politics and Media can be very toxic and can upset the balance and stability of our democratic system in the long term. It can be easy for common people to fall into this trap and behave unreasonably. Therefore, whatever you hear or see, be it political happenings or policies, remember to think carefully and analyse before quickly coming to a conclusion of accepting as a fact. Try avoiding toxicity and toxic content as much as you can. It is only by doing this that we can ensure that no major shift happens, and the political stability of our country is maintained.
(Credit- Mohak Mangal @thesochproject)