On June 7, 2018, the Facebook page of an ultra-nationalist political party Georgian Idea published a post, titled “imposing homosexuality according to ‘the Overton theory’”. The post presents the so-called “Overton theory” as an instrument of manipulating public opinion and its efficiency is discussed based on the example of “public acceptance of homosexuality”.
In the Georgian online space, the "Overton window" conspiracies have been previously reviewed. This theory was examined with the examples of homosexuality and cannibalism in an article dated March 2, 2016 by "Saqartvelo da Msoflio" (Georgia and the World) entitled "Overton Window" - the technologies to change the morals of society, also on the web portal zneoba.ge, which mainly focuses on religious issues. On the website qadageba.ge the same issue is pondered upon in a sermon by the Orthodox clergyman Davit Isakadze.
When searching for information in Russian language about “Overton Window” on Google, we encounter mainly conspiracy theories, which talk about the American sociologist Joseph Overton developing his namesake theory to implement in conservative-orthodox communities ideas which might be disagreeable to them. Headers mainly use such terms as: "Destruction", "bestialisation", "legalisation of sin", "scouring of dirty ideas", "distortion", "implant", etc. In these materials homosexuality, pedophilia and cannibalism are put on the same level of distasteful offenses. Among the sources is the Russian online edition of Pravoslavie.ru(Православие.ru), which was created by the blessing of Alexei II, Patriarch of Russia, in 2000 and the chief editor of which is the head of the Sretensky monastery, Bishop Tikhon.
What is “Overton Window” theory?
The concept of the “Overton window” was developed by the former Vice President of Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Joseph Overtone in the 1990s. The current president of the Center Joseph Lehman explains that for Overton, any are of public policy is situated along a vertcal scale denominated by "more free", "less free", which can otherwise be presented as "less interference" and "more interference." Following Overton’s thought, we see that in certain fields of public policy, such as education,only a small amount of policy decision will be politically acceptable. The "Window" of politically acceptable alternatives is determined not by the choice of a politician, but by selecting the option that can gain him the most support to win the elections.
According to Lehman, politicians rarely change the "Window", as the public determines which policies are satisfactory, not the politician. Policy alternatives vary depending on how the ideas and attitudes of the society change.
Thus, the conspiracies created by Russian sources surrounding the theory of "Overton Window" is one of the methods of propaganda aimed to sow doubts and fears in public views.
About the Georgian Idea and Levan Chachua
Levan Chachua, leader of the Georgian Idea, took part, along with the Georgian March, in ultra-nationalist and homophobic demonstrations on 14-17 May. He was also actively involved in organising the so-called Georgian March in July 2017. Levan Chachua was a member of Orthodox Parents’ Union and was arrested in 2010 for extremist behavior in Kavkasia TV company when he, alongside other members of Orthodox Parents’ Union, burst into the studio during the live television broadcast and engaged in physical altercations. The Tbilisi City Court sentenced him to 4.5 years in prison. The newly elected parliament in 2012, released Levan Chachua with the status of political prisoner. On 16 December 2014, at a news conference held in the international press center of RIA Novosti in Tbilisi, the establishment of a new political party, Georgian Idea, was announced by the chairman of the party Levan Chachua. The political party ran for the 2016 parliamentary elections.