Network Propaganda and the Overton Window

We introduced this book here, where you can read it open access.

I finished reading the first hundred pages, so time for an update.

Why does the book look like a lava lamp?


This model shows one instance of asymmetric polarization drawn from the top 100 most-cited media sources. The blue represents left-leaning media outlets, green show centrist media outlets, and red are right-leaning outlets. (Diagram courtesy of the researchers.)

The colors. The scheme is designed to show a spectrum of political views. But it isn’t the spectrum I thought it was…

“The colors of the nodes reflect the partisanship of attention given to the media sources on Twitter. The partisanship is expressed in quintiles (five divisions): red for the right, pink for the center- right, green for the center, light blue for the center- left, and dark blue for the left.

The scores used to color the nodes reflect the share of that site’s stories tweeted by users who also retweeted either Hillary Clinton or Trump during the election.

These colors therefore reflect the attention patterns of audiences, not analysis of content of the sites, and are entirely based on user behavior rather than researcher judgment.

Dark blue sites draw attention in ratios of at least 4:1 from Clinton supporters; red sites 4:1 from Trump supporters. Green sites were retweeted more or less equally by supporters of each candidate. Light- blue sites draw 3:2 Clinton supporters, and pink draw 3:2 Trump supporters.”

Did you catch it? It might seem subtle at first… but it defines the parameters we are allowed to discuss. The color scheme isn’t a right-left political spectrum.

It’s a spectrum of Hillary <–> Donald

Here’s an illustration of what this means:


This entire discussion, in Network Propaganda, the spectrum is from Trump – who has no ideology, so is off the spectrum – to Hillary Clinton – who is a Centrist New Democrat, basically what we called a moderate Republican when I was a kid.

There is no left wing. Clinton’s ideology is not left wing. That’s purple.

This is The Left Wing.

Again, the Network Propaganda study: “These colors therefore reflect the attention patterns of audiences, not analysis of content of the sites, and are entirely based on user behavior rather than researcher judgment.”

These are not “left wing media.” Left wing media look like this:

World Socialist Web Site

Therefore, the viewpoints of other candidates are not relevant to this book because the FDR New Deal Democrat views Sanders endorses here are not on the

Hillary <–> Trump spectrum.

Instead, this study looks at an artificially narrowed spectrum determined by how often Twitter users read or click or share or comment – interact with content – from specific websites.

Dark red: Tweets Trumpet all the time

Light red: Tweets Trump most of the time 

Green: Stories are shared by both Trump and Hillary supporters

Light blue: Tweets Hillary most of the time

Dark Blue: Tweets HillBillary all the time

Why is this so important to realize?

The powers that be frame discussions in a box. On purpose. This box is framed by the Democratic and Republican parties.

If the box is framed by Donald Trump on one side and the Democrats in Congress on the other (as show in the diagram below from the the latest poll I could find), it shows less than half of Americans like their policies on everything.

Not sure how Pew defines what “Democrats in Congress” position is on a range of issues. The neoliberal leadership of Pelosi/ Schumer opposes the FDR New Deal Democrat policies of Bernie Sanders. So…


The point here is our society as a whole thinks inside this box they conveniently label “bipartisan” as if that’s all there is. Nobody likes their policies. You may identify with the blue team. You may identify with the red team. The point is, we all know on some level – though we may or may not be ready and able to admit it – these two parties do not represent our interests. Neither does. Not Trump. Not Hillary.

Medicare for All, a $15 per hour minimum wage and free college tuition; though favored by the majority of Americans, getting support for these policies “is like Sisyphus pushing a rock up a hill in the Democratic party.”


What I am saying is the Network of Propaganda developed and maintained by the mainstream media – which includes the Huffington Post and Fox News, folks, they have huge readership and viewership – do not represent the interests of the majority of the American people. If we define our discourse on a Clinton to Trump axis, then our discourse is skewed right.

The Overton Window has been shifted to the right of the political spectrum, such that left wing ideas are not discussed as policy. Here is an example:

Senate’s Military Spending Increase Is Enough to Make Public College Free

Yes. Just the amount of money the government gave the military AS A RAISE this year was enough to make public schools free AT THE COLLEGE LEVEL for American citizens.

Yes. Giving the Pentagon a raise for successfully bombing school buses in Yemen for Saudi terrorists is more important than whether or not actual GI Bill benefits paying for veterans to go to school get paid.

They are lying to us. All the time. YOU are too expensive. Killing people we don’t know and never met is ALWAYS more important. Think about that…

The big word for this concept is the Overton Window. The range of possibilities presented to Americans as practical, feasible, do-able, affordable, and common sensical is artificially shifted to the extreme right in America.

Until this changes, we’re fucked. That is the point. Both voters and politicians will pretend we have a choice. The illusion of choice. When really, neither party brings anything to the table that helps regular people in the slightest. This is not a coincidence.

An Introduction to the Overton Window of Political Possibilities


That’s the biggest concept a reader has to get from the first 100 pages of Network Propaganda. If you don’t, you may make conclusions based on assumptions that simply are not real.

In other words, make sure you get the part about the Radicalization of America being unipolar. It is not bipolar.

We’ll look at more of this book soon… happy reading!

4 thoughts on “Network Propaganda and the Overton Window

  1. Interesting- these issues always get bogged down in semantics, much of which are no doubt framed, as you say, by the very institutional powers the claim to protest. However, the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ seem to be used in a variety of ways- each has a fiscal dimension, and a cultural dimension- this to me is what always confuses this conversation so much. The unipolar radicalism in relation to fiscal matters, i.e. income inequality, new deal type policies, I would agree has moved to the right. But culturally- as far as ethics, boundaries are concerned, media and lifestyles have gotten much more liberal- especially to those who are traditional conservatives- whether its the broadcasting of intersectional demands on twitter, incessant insistence that equality of outcome and equality of opportunity are the same, the various policies and protections being constantly discussed concerning race, gender, sexual preference- ‘identity politics’- these things have usurped most of the present day clickbait, social media-to-news pipeline. And so there is this schism- people on the left say we’ve all moved to the right, and they’re correct- but also the people on the right say we’ve gotten more liberal- and they’re also correct, just in different ways. But no one seems to ever sort it out like this, so the conversation never moves anywhere, and the flames just keep getting higher.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Understood. Americans are filled to the gills with propaganda, which has made our vocabulary sloppy. Words are near useless in public discourse. So here are some proposed definitions:

    The Trump Republicans are Reactionaries who favor the status quo ante. As in Antebellum. Make America Great Again means returning to a time before the Civil War or at least the ’50s before the Civil Rights Movement and Hippies. We believe when the Founding Fathers said only white male property owners matter, they were Right.

    The Clinton/ Pelosi Democrats are Centrists who favor the status quo. We don’t care if 90% of people are broke. It isn’t us. A black person or woman in charge is great, as long as it distracts everyone from noticing they are broke and we are not. We love manners, being politically correct keeps folks from misbehaving, as in rioting and revolutions.

    The closest America has to a left wing is the Sanders Independents who are often called Progressives or Social Democrats. We don’t like the 1% or even the 10%. It’s time for a change with some redistribution of wealth. 5 people owning half the world’s wealth is not justifiable, we don’t much care if the 5 are black or white or gay or straight, they need to share the wealth.

    The terms Left & Right wing come from the French Revolution. The group which sat on the left was for the people, against the monarchy/ aristocrats. These were the revolutionaries. The group which sat on the right was for the aristocracy and monarchy. These favored the way things were and against change. .

    Left-wing / Right-wing is therefore rooted in class struggle. Despite what propaganda bullshit artists such as Rush Limbaugh tell us, class cannot be a non-economic parameter. Status. Money. Class. Privilege. This is the left/ axis. The needs of the many vs. the desires of the few.


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